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All that glitters is not gold

By April 16, 20162 Comments

You know how it happens, you go on Twitter or you go to a Teachmeet; you get a new app or a new pedagogical idea for the classroom. You hear about or read a great blog post about a new pedagogical technique and know they would work a treat. You LOVE it. The children love it too. It has impact on learning. All is good in the hood, so to speak. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I worry though about this fast-paced social-media teacher-sharing world however if we are a bit too magpie-like. Flitting from one amazing new pedagogical idea to another.

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I see the effect of lots of different choices in tech use in lots of different schools too. Some schools opt for a one workflow rule, some others give teachers freedom in their choice of tools. I visited a school once and in that school across different classrooms children were using Edmodo, Google Drive, Dropbox, Seesaw, iTunes U, Google Classroom, Office 365 / One Note and Showbie. It is one thing to have multiple workflow options across different teachers in a Primary school, but it’s a different prospect when you think about teachers in a Secondary environment. I can see how giving teachers the freedom to choose what works best for them can be helpful, but in my thinking I do try to put myself in the place of the student. If you take a GCSE student for example… they will most likely be studying upwards of ten different subjects and if they’re lucky they’ll have just one teacher for each of those different subjects. Imagine if they have a different technological workflow to remember for each of those different teachers. It sounds a bit crazy I know, but I have seen it. Children have enough to remember, learn and embed without having to remember a different workflow for each of their teachers.

The same can be true with the pedagogical tools and technological tools we use to support learning. Just like I mentioned in my recent post ‘The secret to successful use of technology in the classroom‘, it’s important to keep it simple, keep it real and make it count, irrespective of whether it’s a technological tool or one related to teaching and learning.

@ICTEvangelist’s Golden Rules for IT in the Classroom

Of course, keeping students on their toes and engaging them in their learning is certainly helpful and important but is spending a significant portion of your lesson explaining how to use that latest app or latest questioning / afl / marking / whatever tool is, useful? Would your time be better spent in focussing on what already works in your teaching toolkit with your classes?

I’m not sitting here dictating what you should or shouldn’t do in your school; that would be arrogant. I’m not advocating that you don’t innovate either. Disruption and shaking things up can sometimes make for a great improvement in your classroom. I just urge you to, whilst ‘loco parentis’, put yourself in ‘loco filiorum’ and think about the impact the latest fad, rubric, app or whatever has on the children in your classroom. Is it worth the time? Does it bring a learning return that your existing teaching and learning toolkit can’t or won’t?

Managing change in the classroom is something we should take really seriously. Just like we need to manage change in organisations, we need to take it into account in our own classrooms when we choose to bring in new developments. If we don’t we can clearly see below some of the impacts that might occur and where the learning of our students/pupils are concerned, we would be remiss to not bear it in consideration.

I recently tweeted a slide from one of my recent keynotes about change management:

An example of a new app in the classroom that is creating a bit of a buzz is the new app from the makers of Swivl – @RecapThat – a tool where children can be posed questions on any given topic and send video feedback to their teacher. It’s really slick. My good friend and fellow ADE @Steve_Bambury contacted me about it yesterday:

He’s written about it here too. I’m with him in my thinking that it is a great tool with lots of potential uses in the classroom – as he says, it’s a great app! My concern though is linked to my discussion above. It goes in some ways to the old adage, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

I’m not suggesting that Steve is wrong to try it, to use it to enhance learning, to use it to support children’s progress in the class – not at all; Steve is one of the most innovative educators I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Not everyone however is Steve – and it’s so very important, I feel, to give children a consistent set of tools to work with in the classroom. Think carefully about the impact changes in the classroom can make and whether you have all the ingredients for change correct before you go bringing in new app after new app after new app… After all, teaching and learning with technology is too important (and expensive) to leave to chance.

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson, @ICTEvangelist. Click here to learn more.


  • Caroline says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more Mark. Just because something is new and great doesn’t mean you have to use it. As you said ‘if it isn’t broke don’t fix it.’ The question you need to ask yourself as a teacher is ‘Will this improve the learning for my students?’ If it is only going to do it differently then it isn’t worth the disruption to learning to change it.

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