Guest posts

#threequestions on technology with @chrishildrew

By August 12, 2014 6 Comments
Three Question marks on white background

The series continues today with a response from Chris Hildrew. You can find him on Twitter @ChrisHildrew and his blog is here: – my thanks to him and everyone else who has been contributing to the series.

A bit about yourself:

I am Deputy Head of a comprehensive school near Bristol, and an English and Media Studies teacher. My particular interests are in curriculum, creativity, and data in education. I am part of the Excellence and Growth network and working hard to promote a growth mindset in education!

1. What place, if any, has technology got in education?

Technology certainly has its place in education! It seems to me that there are three distinct roles. Firstly, there is technology as the servant of learning. By this I mean edtech tools that enhance the learning experience by making it more visible, tangible, experiential or accessible to the learners. This sometimes gets lost in the whizz-bang of exciting new edtech tools, where “every child with an iPad” is taken up as an enthusiastic cry without enough thought being devoted to what those children are actually going to do with those iPads when they have them in English, French, Geography or Drama. However, where the learning is best achieved using technology – then I’m all for it!

Secondly, there is education about technology itself. In media, for example, much of my stock-in-trade is teaching about cameras, editing software and online sharing tools with a view to making the best possible productions. More broadly, our students (and teachers!) are wired in to tech most of their waking lives, so education about using these tools efficiently, safely, productively and healthily is absolutely critical.

Finally, for me, there’s the staffroom-side use of edtech to share best practice, collaborate and bridge geographical barriers. Through online work I have made connections with teachers all over the world and worked with them on shared projects in real time – this would not have been possible when I started my career in the mid-1990s!

2. What’s your favourite edtech tool for learning and why?

This is a tough one. I love the collaborative co-construction enabled by things like Google Docs, WordPress and PreziEdu, which enable multiple authors to work on presentations, documents, blog, websites and materials at the same time from anywhere. I take this for granted now, but when I stop to think, it’s truly revolutionary. However, for learning I come back to the visualiser. I first bought AverVision visualisers for my English Department as a HoD in about 2006, I think, and they were in constant use. Now, of course, you can use Apple TV or equivalent to broadcast straight from your phone or tablet camera to the projector, and that makes a separate visualiser unnecessary. However, the principle of sharing exemplar student work instantly with the class is still incredibly powerful. The same effect can be achieved for on-screen work using broadcasts in network software like Impero – another really powerful tool.

3. What are your thoughts on students using mobile devices in the classroom?

This is a tricky one. I was all for it a few years ago, but I’m coming away from it now. When I want to get a piece of important work done these days, I put my phone in a separate room so I can focus on the task in hand, and my concern with mobile devices in the classroom is that they can be more of a distraction than a help. I’m not saying never – where there is a relevant application for using mobile devices in the lesson (for example, where it would be really helpful for every student to have a camera) then I’d say yes. However, we have a clear line in our school that we don’t want to see mobile devices in students’ hands when they are in school which makes it really easy to police – and learning doesn’t seem to have suffered as a result! So, on balance, I’d ask “is a mobile device really essential to secure the learning here?” If the answer is yes, then okay – if it’s a whizz-bang attention-grabber only then I’d say find an alternative!


Many thanks to Chris for his contribution. If you’d like to have your say, then please do by visiting here and filling out the form.



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  • Hi Chris,

    I am going around commenting on other people’s answers because I think this is a really useful exercise that Mark has started, especially if it can be taken forwards into a discussion. My own answer is at

    1. Your analysis of the place of technology is similar to mine (1. teaching tech & 2. using tech), except that you add 3. tech for CPD. In my comment, I express scepticism about the value of the social networks in education – and I have also spoken out against the pedagogy of MOOCs on the same grounds. My argument is that social networks a. are often based on inexpert opinion and b. encourage premature consensus and supress divergent opinion and contested debate. Problem a. does not affect CPD, though problem b. does to some degree. Even in the case of b., I think the problem is less acute at CPD level, as professionals have (or ought to have) developed the intellectual capability to think for themselves. So I agree with you – while at the same time believing that we need networking media that encourage constructive disagreement (like this one) and discourage herding behaviours.

    2. It is interesting that your favourite tools are ones that deliver a particular pedagogical mode (collaborative working). In my view, collaboration (though it has its place) is problematic – not least facing problems of free riders, distraction, and the working out of playground rivalries. Which is why I think we need ed-specific tools which track individual contributions to the group, to mitigate these issues.

    The pedagogical principles with which I think ed-tech will really help are a. maximising feedback, and b. managing sequencing and progression of activity.

    But there is a general point here – that whatever we think about the role of ed-tech (which addresses the *using* tech requirement), will reflect our views of what constitutes good pedagogy. And this is an area which is very contentious at the moment. Mostly, ed-tech over the last 20 years has been predicated on independent learning, which is coming under increasing attack.

    3. I fully agree with your answer here and am interested how many teachers express doubts or change of attitude about BYOD. I see the future as being with dedicated, locked devices which are under the control of the teacher: super-clickers, if you like.

  • Thanks for taking the time! I understand all of your arguments here, and I do agree with the need for constructive disagreement (a great term by the way!). I completely recognise the limitations of social networks in education, and I have my own frustrations with them. However, my response to Mark’s three questions was based on my own experience; I have found that edtech has enabled collaborative working in a way which was simply impossible without it, and this has been really beneficial to my practice by increasing efficiency, engagement and involvement with other professionals. However, the most beneficial experiences have been the face-to-face meetings I’ve arranged following social media contact, where the constructive disagreement has sharpened and refined my thinking more than any number of hours on twitter could.
    I also agree re: feedback via edtech and the link between edtech and interpretations of pedagogy – you’re definitely on to something there.
    Thanks again for reading and for taking the time to write such a detailed and thoughtful comment!

    • Thank you Chris. And I agree with the value of social networking – if done in a considered way – and am interested in the potential to “can” the sort of interactions that independent-minded professionals can maintain and transfer them into the classroom. Thanks for your reply and hope to meet at some event soon.

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