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Playing games in class

Rory Cellan-Jones | 09:13 UK time, Thursday, 14 January 2010

It's enough to make an old-fashioned parent explode - in a school classroom a group of teenagers are gathered around an electronic whiteboard, not learning algebra, but playing a game on a Wii console. And they call that education?

Well yes they do and there's more at Lampton School in Hounslow to make traditionalist blood boil - pupils are running around with GPS devices to co-ordinate a treasure hunt, they're playing with the Nintendo DS and they're even shooting videos on mobile phones and then uploading them to YouTube.

But this is all an example of a new trend in the use of Information Communications Technology (ICT) in schools. It's called "Playful Learning", and its advocates believe it may make a far more effective contribution to education than big expensive projects which put a shiny new PC at every desk or give a laptop to each child.

I went to Lampton School to prepare a report about BETT, Europe's biggest educational technology event which takes place at London's Olympia this week.

I'd been slightly sceptical about the idea that games could make a useful contribution to education, but the teacher who's pioneered these techniques at the school put a convincing case.

As the pupils battled away at a brain training game, Juliette Heppell told me what this and the other "playful" activities were achieving:

"It's engaging the pupils, they're working together to resolve problems, to help one another - if you speak to any of these students they will talk with passion and pride about their work. What could be better?"

Ms Heppell also pointed out that they were using technology with which they were already familiar - and when it was their own mobile phones that was pretty inexpensive.

The pupils also showed me their winning entry in a Classroom of The Future competition.

Screenshot of Classroom of The Future design

Their vision was of an environmentally friendly room carpeted with astroturf, and equipped with laptops, a plasma screen and some handheld games consoles.

It was an impressive presentation which had required them to use a variety of software, some of which they'd discovered themselves online. They had been given a notional budget of £30,000, so could afford to think big.

But does massive investment in computers in schools really pay off?

I found it difficult to extract figures from the Department for Schools on annual spending on ICT, but they did tell me that between 1997 and 2007 the amount spent in English schools was £5bn.

Some teachers say that's not enough - others tell me that a lot is being wasted even now on fitting out schools with expensive systems that already look outdated in the age of cloud computing.

So I will be looking out at BETT for evidence of cost-effective ideas that can transform teaching without busting a school's budget. And the pupils from Lampton School will be there to share their expertise with the visitors.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    My passion for computers came from their capability to solve problems.

    Kids today see them as entertainment and presentation tools.

    The first is a productive endeavour, the second far less so.

    Kids don't need encouragement to use computers, they are drawn to them like a magnet.

    What they need is instruction on how to USE them to achieve things - solving maths problems with a spreadsheet or a programming language, building websites. These are real skills that are either omitted or lightly touched by the education system. We will rue this neglect as we muck about with video games.

    As a final note, my son wanted to learn to program in Flash so I looked up Flash programming courses for kids on the net: I found one, In India.

  • Comment number 2.

    mmm
    Does the 5billion include the amounts raised and spent by PTA's. During that time as a PTA member in two primary schools i helpd fund raise and equipe 2 ITC classrooms.

  • Comment number 3.

    There are two sides to the use of technology in schools. The first is learning with technology, the second is learning about technology.

    ICT (as they call it in schools and the government) is enabling teachers to do things they never dreamed of in the past. Interactive whiteboards, downloading video clips to support lessons, and using software to help the learning process are all good. Although as someone who works with IT in the private sector, the software used by schools always seems clunky and overpriced.

    Learning about technology doesn't really kick in until secondary school. My elder son has a weekly lesson called Infoliteracy during which the students learn about how to search, the usefulness (or otherwise) of internet sources, and about blogging, vlogging, social networks etc. However, I have to agree with #1 that learning about computers, how they work, how to program, etc is seriously lacking. Perhaps there's an no expectation that there will be any technology jobs in this country by the time the current students leave school. By ensuring our children don't get to learn these things, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm not sure I agree with StopFiddling; I am a computer programmer - I have worked on websites, desktop and mobile applications, as well as embedded devices, but I learnt none of this at school. I had a very good introduction and excellent training in the fundamentals of programming at University, but this was built on what I was taught at school - essentially the maths, but also building on subjects such as biology and chemistry in more research oriented areas.
    School, both primary and secondary, in my eyes is somewhere to develop core skills useful in life; maths, English, foreign language, communication etc. We live in an age where children as young as 6 may have a playstation in their room and entertainment can be found in the home, rather than going out with other children and playing.
    The technological advancements of the last 10 years mean that children can be fascinated by the ability of a tiny hand held device to zoom out from space and pinpoint their location, and we need to be able to harness this excitement for technology and use it as a means to teach.
    Rory mentions about using a GPS to aid in a treasure hunt - some might argue that map reading skills are more important, but really, someone using a GPS must have an understanding of visualising the environment around them and how they correspond to it; a skill that can be transferred to map reading with little effort.

    In my personal opinion, the use of technology in school is a great thing; pupils can come into a classroom excited about what gadget they are going to use, and while not every lesson would be a GPS treasure hunt, or creating an animation on a touchscreen PC, the boredom level would be much lower.

  • Comment number 5.

    The opposition to this initiative is based on the idea that children are in school for education, a misunderstanding made easier by the type of language used by the schools to describe it, eg 'playful learning'. The vast majority of children are in school so that their parents can go out to work, in the same way that the vast majority of students are at university to keep them off the unemployment register. I think that the term 'teacher' should really be replaced by 'carer' or 'children's entertainer' to avoid such confusion in the future.

  • Comment number 6.

    Also, technology is not the only area that is lacking in this country; doctors, nurses etc are all needed, but we don't start force feeding people lessons on the workings of the heart from the age of 10. If people have a passion for something, they will try to get into that field; the most we can do is provide a means for people to be interested in a subject, and point them in a useful direction.
    Allowing people from the local community into the schools to do lunchtime or after school clubs based on programming, biology, accounting or whatever there may be interest for means that lessons can focus on core skills that are required, and extra curricular activities can enhance a pupils knowledge.

  • Comment number 7.

    People learn best when they are interested in the subject they are learning - fact.

    If it takes games consoles and YouTube to engage young minds then so be it.

    Technology is innovating fast and teachers need to embrace this, yet many aren't.

  • Comment number 8.

    It's funny that the government advice that it's not safe for under 12s to use mobile phones has vanished.
    They used to insist a leaflet was given to every parent buying a phone for their child.
    Suspiciously this happened at the same time they sold the 3G contracts for billions.
    I'm sure there's no connection...

  • Comment number 9.

    Kids today pick up technology very easily and yes use it for fun, games and social networking etc.
    At school though, i believe technology should be used constructively - to solve, investigate, achieve a solution in various areas - it, art, science, etc. Concentrating on games and fun things is good but should not take precedence over what ICT should be used for because we would be losing out in the bigger picture and not equipping our children with the core foundation knowledge.
    In most third world countries, ICT is used for just that and these kids are very very knowledgeable in this area - very much like no 1 comment

  • Comment number 10.

    @jassiah You can't honestly believe that, can you? Yes there are some kids in school who just won't learn anything for one reason or another but the parents of most of those kids aren't in work anyway. Also I can't think of many people who would seek to give themselves a £20k+ debt just to stay off the unemployment register for a few years.

  • Comment number 11.

    The classrooms in which my children learn have many similarities to my days in school. However, the growth of lessons which are delivered using technology, such as interactive whiteboards and computers, is large.

    Much of this is being carried out because of the change in the publishing world where educational publishers are adapting their traditional print model to the digital demands of the market where the costs of producing, publishing and distributing printed textbooks is prohibitive.

    Furthermore, teachers can now make their lessons far more compelling through the use of videos, podcasts, slide shows and quizzes to keep the children's attention and help them to learn.

    But, it still relies on good teachers to understand how to best educate their classes.

    If you visit the BETT show, you will just how dramatically classrooms have changed in the last ten years.

  • Comment number 12.


    Im at 18 and have been to an all tech school in Switzerland (I’m English citizen) and now at University. This school was a private International school where we spoke English. Last year, the school gave every student (450) in the upper school a tablet computer(one that you write on the screen).
    From my experience it was more of a distraction, instead of learning, I played games off my portable hard drive. Most of the year in Biology, I was playing Age of Empires II. I constantly looked up to interact with the teacher, but when I looked around only 1 other person was paying attention. Everyone’s eyes were fixed to their screen, some never looked up.
    As we had to charge our computers at home sometimes people came in with dead computers as they forgot to charge them, this meant that they could not take full part in the lesson as the teacher would provide digital notes ect. Often I also forgot my pen (to write on the screen) so I couldn’t take notes in class, as often I had to draw graphs for classes such as Economics. And amazingly no-one ever had any paper! So I missed out on notes.
    The one and only useful thing about personal computers is that they can keep you organized. I still have all my notes from last year on my new Laptop. We used a program called OneNote from Windows Office, where you can make digital notebooks. You are able to import files and documents from other places and organize it. As well as make your own notes. Being Dyslexic, I’m very bad at organization the previous year I had 200 handouts in my bag all mixed together. So it took me half the class to find what I was looking for. The computer allowed me to find them in seconds.
    The teachers had Smartboards (digital whiteboards) to teach us with instead of a whiteboard. This meant that the notes they took on the board they could save after class and upload it for us. Saving us to take notes, but there’s a problem that makes me lazy so I won’t take my own notes, but i learn best when i write it myself.
    The only program teachers had to control us with was some wireless connection program (forgot the name). The teacher made us all connect to him, this meant he could bring up individual screens onto the Smartboard and show the rest of the class, your answers ect. For the students this meant we could get caught messing online. But luckily for us most of the teachers didn’t know how to use it or they just didn’t want to use it. This program allowed the teacher to also block our internet, so we couldn’t do what we wanted.
    Overall conclusion, you will work better without electronics, but electronics help keep you organized.
    P.s Sorry if some of this doesn’t make sense I rushed as I need to go out

  • Comment number 13.

    @StopFiddling: I have to disagree. The point here is that videogames aren't supposed to be a way to solve problems, but that they present the children with problems to solve amongst themselves. Given a choice between having a maths problem given to them on paper or displayed interactively on a TV screen, the best option is clearly the one they will get the most joy and fulfillment out of. The more they enjoy the problem solving, the more they will remember and learn.

    Education can be entertaining too, and actually marrying the two together is highly beneficial both for actual learning, and for child wellbeing.

  • Comment number 14.

    Sounds like common purpose may have had some influence on this school. Think about it, if Governments really wanted a well informed, highly educated free thinking population do you think we'd have been on this downward slide all these years? Take all the electronic gadgets out of schools and teach them to read properly, write properly, speak properly, do mathematics, grow food, cook, make clothes and above all, teach them to respect their freedom and to be ever vigilant against the dark forces that are always there under the surface creating opportunities to take it away from them even when it may look like 'fun'. Did I mention common purpose?

  • Comment number 15.

    The issue of mobile phones and games affecting children’s education is one thing. The far more important issue is whether the mobile are harming their health. More and more studies are showing that radiation from mobile phones causes harmful biological effects and that children are the most susceptible. So much so that Governments around the world are starting to limit children’s used of this technology by law. I find it staggering that the BBC would condone this debate without even mentioning this. At the very least mobiles must be kept out of the classroom.

  • Comment number 16.

    Use of a car sat nav does not make one a navigator nor the uploading of video to websites make one a film director. Learning is the understanding of processes and actions within particular contexts, why and how, questioning not just accepting, that is education. Technology outwardly appears clever and sophisticated and moulds and massages our egos. Selective use of technology is vital to discern what is truly beneficial and what is merely a toy. I am concerned that the push to ever more technology use will do little more than enslave a new consumer generation to a life of targeted marketing. I read a proverb the other day, 'the more you know, the less you need', I believe this to be true.

  • Comment number 17.

    I use computers every day, at work and home. We would be lost without them now for communication, information and learning. However in the learning environment there must be balance and priority given to teaching our children in a structured way that ensures they understand core subject material.
    Unless there are carefully prepared follow up evaluation exercises to determine what knowledge has been gained by pupils the concept of using IT focused materials to engage them in lessons can simply become an easy way out for teachers using externally prepared programmes. I would certainly question encouraging the use of You Tube and similar sites that contain significant amounts of unsuitable material that we as parents wish to prevent our children accessing!
    Visual and interactive IT materials can make subjects more interesting and encourage learning, but please only if at the same time we can ensure all pupils are competent in basic maths, can spell and string a sentence together and understand the words they will hopefully be reading (even on this web site)!

  • Comment number 18.

    As someone who spent 6 years working in over 150 UK schools doing IT support I can say for sure that it's primarily a complete waste of money.

    The problem isn't that the concept is bad, but the issue is that in practice the vast majority of teachers just have no interest in learning about computers to a level where they can properly use them as a teaching tool. Some even attempt to avoid them altogether, or when told to by their head, just act to sabotage the idea by intentionally breaking things or even going as far as doing things as bloody minded as searching for things on the internet which are bound to bring up inappropriate material just so they can tell the head "I told you this was a bad idea" to justify their lack of will to make use of computers in learning.

    Until the government backs up IT investment with a proper policy on what level of computing ability teachers must have and how computers must be used in the classroom the situation is a farce and a complete waste of money. Some teachers do a great job of course, but those that don't? They need to be told to get with the program or get lost and hence be forced to try and find jobs elsewhere. There is no point having IT investment when there are so many teachers who refuse to deal with change and refuse to learn to teach outside of how they have always taught, sometimes even using teaching methods dating back 40 years or more from when they first started out.

    Until a proper teaching methodology involving computing has been worked out and enforced across the country, the government should just stop throwing money down the drain.

  • Comment number 19.

    These days a phone does so much it's so much more than something you can sneakily text with, they have calculators, Internet access etc plus several useful educational tools. YouTube is also a very useful site to be able to use particularly in subjects like history or media studies or even languages if you don't fancy using the incomprehensible 20 year old tape the school gives the teacher.

  • Comment number 20.

    The use of Digital Media and game playing to improve the learning process is just a continuation of what good teachers have been doing since the dawn of time.

    Fundamentally, students must be interested in and relate to what they are doing if they are going to learn. So, that means teaching a language by putting a travel website up on the board and guiding students through booking flights, hotels and theatre tickets. Far more engaging than going through a textbook.

    Some posters have said that Digital Media is a distraction from basic skills, but I would point out that mastery of Digital Media is basic skill. If you can't use this technology you're as much use to the economy as those who can't read or write.

  • Comment number 21.

    1 - I am interested in ICT relating to "when should we learn, and when should we develop?" I have taught a child of 5 to drive their electric wheelchair independently, (I am qualified to do this). They understood key concepts of how the chair works, how to avoid accidents or pedestrians, how to cross the road on their own. They have the same abilities as an able bodied child the same age, yet there are concerns a child could drive a wheelchair into the road. Similarly, there are risks on the internet which a child could find - in fact, they will misbehave and find. How can schools/families prepare children to use internet in an educational way, and avoid possibly accidents? What stages should there be? I believe if we provide something, we are responsible for the consequences until the receiver can demonstrate understanding of their responsibilities - How do schools do this, and when.

    2 - Using your own equipment in school is strange. I had a school uniform so that all children were given equal opportunity to learn, and that no status was given because no-one was richer/poorer/better equipped etc. Are schools going to specify which model of phone and Nintendo are to be included in the school uniform/kit!

  • Comment number 22.

    1) Cross-reference two recent BBC stories, “Schools must embrace technology” and “Students 'only have 10-minute attention span'”: I wonder whether the first is a response to the second, without considering that the technology of the first is probably the cause of the second; fixing the second would be rather more valuable.

    2)The Education sector, like most of the young people that it serves, is dazzled by the shiney-shiney things that the vendors are telling them, and too often buys an outfit because the Emperor has it. The Great (interactive) White (board) Hope of the late ‘90s has proved that “edutainment” will work for a while but the novelty of the technology wears off quite quickly, where as good teaching does not.

    3)There are games which are very educational and in fact invaluable in an environment that frowns upon any kind of practical exercise that might be likely to raise a student’s adrenaline level (e.g. chemistry experiments that smell or make a noise, or testing bridges to collapse using heavy weights). I’m not aware that these are common allocations on a Wii or Playstation.

  • Comment number 23.

    Agree with #1 entirely. Although it is important to have some "computer games" in education; it's also important that they're educational and not just the lastest first-person shooter. Interactive learning is key. Kids learn better by "doing", than by just writing stuff out. There should be far more practicals in science lessons for the same reason. (no doubt banned by health and safety, though!)

    Oh, and I highly recommend that all courses/lessons should have online, multiple choice mock exams, automatically graded. It's amasing how useful these are - they provide a boost to the students confidence if they do well, or show how much revision is needed if they do badly!

    And yes, IT lessons in schools are completely dismal in this country. They're unlikely to even have half-way usable internet access in school, as every useful site gets blocked by over-protective net nanny software. It's rare that kids are provided with things like Flash, or programmers development kits. By-and-large, it's Office software and that's it. Visit your local university's computing buildings to see the software that SHOULD be there. Kids can't learn to use this stuff if they don't even have access to it.

    Oh, and #15, you're confusing "harmful radiation" with "phone signal". And the evidence that it's dangerous is almost non-existant when you consider how many people have multiple phones and how long they've been using them.
    Oh, and in case you havn't noticed, governments know nothing at all about technology. (see sensitive data lost on trains, failed multimillion/billion£ databases, etc)

  • Comment number 24.

    classrooms today have moved on, they make very good use of technology. The BETT show will show you that.
    Although people learn best or quicker when they are interested in a subject, i don't believe using game consoles or you tube is effective at all to achieve this. Unfortunately not everything in life is interesting, but that doesn't mean we cannot learn or understand it or even excel in it.
    I don't see how you tube and game consoles can help solve a maths equation or chemical formula.
    the basics have to be learnt because technology is only as useful as the person using it, kids have to be taught how to do the basics and fundamentals and then the same concepts can easily be applied in other areas using technology available now and in the future - maths for example and not depend on a cellphone pc or internet to calculate a solution. Technology can certainly be used to enhance and speed up processes etc but someone wrote those pieces of code because they understood the fundamentals

  • Comment number 25.

    Firstly, let's dump the term "ICT". It's not in keeping with the times. As someone who has been closely involved with educational technology since the 1970s, I'm of the view that the iPhone, the PC "tablet" (look out for Apple's upcoming iSlate) and even devices like the XBox and Nintendo Wii are all technologies that are there to be used to their best advantage. They can enable educators to inspire learners to want to discover more or to try out new ways of doing things. Isn't good education about being inspired to learn more?

    Wireless communication, social networking, so-called "cloud computing" and the whole gamut of digital communication are at the very heart of learning and discovery these days, like or not.

    But let's do away with terms like "IT" and "ICT". They seem only to be confined to schools these days anyhow and they're past it.

    When young children is exploring Flash-based puzzles on the CBeebies website they're not "doing ICT", they're having fun and - unwittingly - having fun, exploring and learning. When teenagers are uploading mobile phone images and video clips to YouTube or Facebook they're doing exactly that. Thy're not thinking about what they're doing they're just doing it.

    That's the future. What do I think of the potential for the iPhone (and similar devices)? We haven't even begun to realise the possibilities so let's embrace them now.

  • Comment number 26.

    @16 - good point, but kids these days really should know how to record, edit and publish a video online (and thus understand that not everything on the internet is the truth, and could have been put there by anyone). This is basic stuff in ICT, but you'd be forgiven for thinking that most schools havn't heard of it.

    @22, people have ALWAYS had short attention spans. Think otherwise and you've obviously forgotten what it's like to be bored in a classroom as the teacher goes onnn and onnnn and oonnnnn for an entire hour. This is another reason why it helps to break up science lessons with practicals half-way through; enough with the theory, let's see it in practice!

    Interactive whiteboards have their uses. Keep in mind that bringing them in was as much to do away with the old-fashioned overhead projectors as anything else. While these may still appear in schools, they now look SERIOUSLY old-hat.

  • Comment number 27.

    I would think a lot of that 5bn is wasted. I distinctly remember Exeter College when I was 19 in our web development class.

    We were using underpowered computers and told the college couldn't afford Adobe Dreamweaver licenses and then within the same week, Exeter College launched a new website spending (from memory) over 20,000 on Google Search Appliances to sit behind the scenes etc. For the amount of searchable content on Exeter College it is barely worth having.

    That said I do think the right mobile devices such as an iPhone could benefit learning.

    Made me furious.. Complete waste of money, the old site was better and still is.

    Anthony

  • Comment number 28.

    I used to teach ICT in schools for many years. Children are not taught to programme or how a computer works any longer because the time to do this has been cut so drastically that the only time left is for teaching the majority how to use a computer as a tool to carry out a task (search for info, help produce a presentation etc.) because after all that what most people will use it for. We don't teach everyone to be a mathematician or a linguist we give them some skills to use, it is no different with ICT.
    Letting children 'play' with Wii, GPS, video is a great fun way to learn but what is sadly lacking is children's ability to read instructions and determine fact from fiction on the web.

  • Comment number 29.

    £5 billion would go a lot further today with Open source software and before you decry it have you tried it recently?

    The biggest obstacle to improving skills in understanding technology (not just using it) is the lack of understanding and enthusiasm in teachers.

    'Twas ever thus.

  • Comment number 30.

    Bill: What would you suggest the term(s) be replaced with?

    IT - Information Technology
    ICT - Information and Communications Technology

    What's wrong with the terms, especially when it meshes with the terminology given to other departments in school, e.g. Design & Technology, Food Technology.

    It's better named than some qualifications in the subject, e.g. Edexcel's *iDA (Award/Certificate/Diploma in Digital Applications for IT Users).

    And what's wrong with using "Edutainment" software (yes, I know it's a dreadful portmanteau) to introduce skills? As long as the skills learned are then applied to different contexts, if it makes learning accessible and enjoyable, then go ahead.

    Think of the skills used in making a short video for YouTube - project planning, storyboarding, script creation and editing, rehearsing the script, filming, uploading to the computer, video editing, choosing appropriate (preferably public domain!) images and music, acknowledging sources used (full website name, not "Google Images") and copyright, getting feedback on the video from others, making any necessary amendments, getting more feedback etc, and finally uploading to YouTube and using an appropriate title, description and tags.

    Then with a bit of luck, if all the guidance has been followed, they may end up with something that will attract a few hits, look planned & prepared, and possibly even be marginally less cheesy than the average corporate video...

    -oOo-

    There are two main approaches to teaching ICT in schools - Subject-based ICT and Cross-curricular ICT.

    Subject ICT is the teaching of ICT skills through dedicated lessons, Cross-curricular ICT through the medium of other subjects.

    Ideally, skills would be introduced in Subject ICT then reinforced, in different contexts, through Cross-curricular ICT.

    But perhaps more imagination is needed on the content and contexts of the curriculum. In Key Stages 3 and 4, there is a heavy emphasis on using Office software, particularly spreadsheets and databases. Quite often, the contexts / tasks the pupils are required to do are set by external bodies, so you end up with spreadsheets to compare mobile phone tariffs or work out how well they're doing towards achieving their "5 a day" target.

    Is it any wonder many pupils view spreadsheets and databases as "hard" and "boring", and some will seek to silently play up by trying to bypass the school internet filters (usually to access Bebo and other social networking websites), bypass the classroom management software (so they can unlock their screen and access the internet during teacher demonstrations) or play Flash games (Linerider was popular a few years ago)?

    (In case you hadn't guessed, until a few years ago I was a school IT technician)

  • Comment number 31.

    The comments of Jonathan (#12), iwinter (#18) and jamesinpiter (#20) sum things up really: ICT is a tool that, in the hands of good, imaginative, open-minded teachers, can make education interesting for kids. In the hands of poor teachers, it's a complete waste of time, or a distraction at best. Prior to ICT being available in school, those same good teachers used their imagination to deliver the curriculum in other engaging ways, using the resources available at the time. (The poor teachers did what they have always done, and continue to do: worksheets, dictation, drone on!)

    During my pre-ICT education I had some fabulous teachers (the kind whose lessons were often less-than-conventional, but amazingly memorable and effective all the same - the kind who are sadly lacking in today's league-table, result obsessed school system) who would have relished having today's video-making, GPS-tracking, blog-writing, wiki-editing world - they would have grabbed these technologies and run with them. I also recall some awful teachers who would have hated the very same technologies, principally because they didn't have the imagination or passion to do any more than spew out the same old dull lessons, year-on-year.

    I'm presently an IT teacher (used to be a software engineer) and I try to incorporate today's technology into my lessons whenever possible: YouTube, Facebook, WikiSpaces, Twitter, Moodle, et al appear in my classroom as and when I feel they will be useful in helping deliver a lesson. But at other times, pencil and paper are the only technologies that you'll find there. Whatever works best at the time. The tool is not the lesson! I certainly don't use ICT as some kind of carrot to try and keep my students engaged - they're engaged (most of the time!) because the subject-matter is interesting - the means of delivery is relatively irrelevant.

    A great blog that has a take on ICT use in lessons that echos my own views (read it from the first post): http://pencilintegration.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 32.

    OK I feel fortified now.

    If you let kids loose using computers for video games you get kids that are great at video games.

    If you want to get kids to USE computers you have to teach them real world applications: yes, relational databases, procedural languages, all that stuff, its just as important as many topics in an A-level maths or science course IMO. You can do more fun stuff like websites, animation etc. But you don't learn anything twittering. Kids need to know that not everything has a 10 minute payback time.

    At a recent secondary school open evening the IT people just looked at me with their mouths open. Duh.

  • Comment number 33.

    Simon densley states - "The far more important issue is whether the mobile are harming their health. More and more studies are showing that radiation from mobile phones causes harmful biological effects and that children are the most susceptible".

    This is absolute nonsense. In fact there have been no studies showing any harmful biological effects and all the most recent studies have shown no links to brain cancer etc. I really wish that people would stop peddling this tiresome myth.

  • Comment number 34.

    Simon densley is absolutely right. I don't know where SaneScientist goes to find his/her science but it obviously isn't in scientific journals. Just search PubMed and you will find a very long list of scientific studies demonstrating damage from mobile phones. Several recent studies have found increased risk of brain tumours on the same side of the head as mobile phone use after 10 years. Using mobile phone technology damages male fertility. This has been reported in at least 10 separate studies. So mobiles may be fun in the classroom, but we have to ask whether we should be forcing young people or teachers to use something that could give them a tumour, decrease their fertility or damage sperm DNA (healthy babies need healthy DNA!). Yes, this year scientists in Australia found that mobile phones can damage sperm DNA - published in PLoS One 4(7)e6446, De Iuliis et al. Check out Fertil Steril 89, 124; Fertil Steril 92, 1318; Archives of Med Res 37, 840; .....there are so many more.... And I'm not even mentioning damage to cognition, foetal development, the immune system or nerve cell death...

  • Comment number 35.

    Go on. Invest everything. And while they are throwing money into a black hole, India and China, who spend about half, will overtake them, because of the simple fact those children are accustomed to be ultra-competitive from birth because of their population.

    A quick calculation will show that India gives the best return on money spent in education. India? Yeah, before the conquerors came on, India was one of the richest countries in the world. And those conquerors overcame a centuries old civilisation, because, guess what, their hunger for wealth was greater than the natives' concern to defend their country. The sticking point is hunger. What you seek hardest, you get.

    I'm trying hard not to be derogatory, but it's hard to believe that the current British generation are the descendants of the people who built the greatest empire on earth.

    So my point is, if you mollycoddle the children like this, you will have a generation that will whine at every opportunity. Activity-based education is fine, but scholarly learning requires hard mental discipline to seek the elusive. Instant gratification through computer is plain waste.

  • Comment number 36.

    The public will want compensation when they realise that their health has been damaged by mobile phones and wireless toys. They will want to know why those who should have known better didn't warn them or protect them. The Emperor isn't wearing any clothes.

  • Comment number 37.

    As a lecture in a further education college I find ICT usefull in presenting my lessons to my students. I have in the pasted used youtube in order to show videos and ideas to my student and I will countinue to do so in the future, as it a medium which they are farmilier with. However, I do not belive that ICT should be the main tool used to educate students. A lot of my exercises are done with good exercise books, writing and reading.

  • Comment number 38.

    Trying to keep things on topic...

    @StopFiddling...

    "But you don't learn anything twittering."

    This is like saying you don't learn anything by writing with a pen. It all rather depends upon what you're writing about and why. If a student is using Twitter to share a link to a website connected with the topic that her class is studying, how is that not educationally useful? ICT is not a means to an end, it's just another tool in the education toolbox.

    "you have to teach them real world applications: yes, relational databases, procedural languages, all that stuff"

    Good grief! Heaven help us if we don't churn out well-trained, office-ready, IT-workers! The number of people in employment who actually *need* to understand relational DBs and programming languages is tiny. There really is no need to expose younger students to highly technical, dry topics such as those. Post-16 education is the place for them, if a student choses that particular route, and there are plenty of great A-Level and degree-level courses available.

    But that's not to say that the *use* of databases as part of a child's KS1-KS4 education (e.g. to collect and analyse data in Science, or the *use* of visual programming tools such as Scratch ([Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]) to create games (and in doing so, introduce programming skills) aren't useful and beneficial. Those things I can agree with since you are using ICT as a *tool* to teach a variety of *ideas* and *skills*.

    If the use of ICT tools in school inspires a student to later take courses where they become a DB admin or a programmer, that's great. But for the other 99% of the students, they've become adept at using ICT, DBs, programming concepts, etc. without being bored to tears by having to learn how to get a relational DB into 3rd Normal Form.

    "At a recent secondary school open evening the IT people just looked at me with their mouths open."

    Quite frankly, I'm really not surprised.

  • Comment number 39.

    There are two purposes to teaching about computers - the first is to teach people who will be working extensively with computers in the future (eg designing computers, programming them etc). There are no school courses (except possibly A level 'computing' (not 'ICT', which is useless)) which are suitable for these people.

    The second purpose is for those who will be working generally with computers (pretty much everyone else who will go into a professional or office job). This should not be taught in secondary school as 'ICT' at all. This sort of work should be taught in other classes - eg using Excel to log & generate charts on science experiments, or using the Internet to find out information in history lessons and so on.

    Primary school 'ICT' is as far as most people will need to be formally taught about computers. Secondary school ICT courses fill a gap which doesn't exist, and are actually no use to anyone. Unfortunately the secondary school "ICT" curriculum teaches students lots of (boring) things they don't need to know, and almost nothing they do need to know.

    Things like computer programming SHOULD be taught more at school, but, to be honest, most people don't need to know how to do it, and most people just won't get it. Heck, most 'computer programmers' don't know what they are doing! So, it should be optional.

    You don't need to teach kids how to use a mobile phone, or Youtube or a GPS - just give them a group of 3 or 4 kids one for 10 minutes and they'll have worked it out. Teaching it in classes is just a waste of time. (Using a GPS in a geography class is useful, but teaching it in ICT isn't)

  • Comment number 40.

    The use of computers should be taught through integration with other subjects where relevant. So using Excel in a science class to create graphs of results or Word to write essays and reports. In fact, it could be argued that learning these skills in secondary schools is leaving it too late. 'ICT' should not really be a separate subject except for those genuinely interested in programming etc. Using Youtube is fine as a means to an end is probably quite useful (Youtube is free!) but it should never become the subject of a class from an ICT perspective. As an argument over freedom of speech is a different matter. As for using games, well unless the game actually teaches you things, you'll probably find that the kids will just become really good at the game. Encouraging teamwork? Just play Team Fortress 2!!!

  • Comment number 41.

    The curriculum for UK School IT seems dull and boring and frankly bears little relationship to the actual skill and ease with which children use computers and the internet at home.
    There are lots of possibilities for using games on the internet to educate children. Indeed I can confirm that our own game Trigon Puzzles is being used to teach arithmetical logic to children in various High School Districts in the United States.We dont make any money out of it but it makes you proud to be British.

  • Comment number 42.

    Sadly playful learning doesn't seem to have improved their ability to spell, or indeed to proof read.

    "google Skecthup" isn't a program I'm familiar with. You would have thought that a competition entry would have been checked before submission.

  • Comment number 43.

    This blogpost reminds me of a time I was caught in a lecture playing a game of bingo. While this is certainly not the ideal way to bide one's own time in a mathematics lesson, I believe that the combination of bingo and the academic element greatly enhanced my understanding of the subject matter. All too often we are quick to dismiss notions of combining education and entertainment. But in my personal bingo blog I've often alluded to the benefits of such a union. The combination of bingo-room gaming and class-room education can make for an interesting idea.

 

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