Guest posts

#threequestions on technology with @JosePicardoSHS

By August 9, 2014 4 Comments

This post in the #threequestions series comes from Surbiton High School’s José Picardo. You can find José on Twitter here and check out his blog here:


A bit about yourself:

José Picardo is Assistant Principal in charge of Digital Strategy at Surbiton High School. He has taught languages for over ten years and regularly speaks at learning, technologies and foreign languages themed conferences and training events, both nationally and internationally. In addition, José has advised other schools, government bodies and other organisations on the use of new and emerging technologies to support teaching and learning.

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

Technology is hugely important in all areas of society. Essential in many cases. Education is no different, in my view.

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

To me it’s not a tool as such, but rather the social aspect of the internet, which has revolutionised the way we communicate. Hidden amongst all the sensationalist headlines decrying how alone we are in a sea of constant, inane chatter is the fact that we are writing, reading and communicating with each other on previously unprecedented scales. This presents us with both opportunities and challenges. Opportunities because we can now use these communication tools to enable teachers to network and learn from others wherever they may be in the world in previously impossible ways; to support teachers in passing on their subject knowledge to learners; and to add a new dimension to the process of feeding back to enable learning to progress. But also challenges, as bullying and other kinds of inappropriate behaviour are released from the confines of the school corridors onto our social networks, which to this day mostly remain a no-go area in most schools for this reason. These concerns are reasonable. However, I think that a problem has arisen when many schools have confused controlling access to social networks with total disengagement, thus depriving their students of models of appropriate behaviour, so children only have each other as models. The problem is compounded by the fact that many of the adults involved in education simply lack the experience and skills to be appropriate role models in the use of social media. This is why a greater, more concerted and more constructive involvement of schools in the digital lives of their students is necessary if we want our students to acquire the best possible education. Simply ignoring this other dimension of pupil behaviour seems to me to be grossly irresponsible.

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

Mobiles devices have been clandestine presences in our classrooms for years now. As we get round to accepting, albeit reluctantly in many cases, that there might be some potential and benefit in exploring the use of tablets to support teaching and learning, we have begun to accept that, perhaps, some of the fears were unfounded and that some others had nothing to do with technology and all to do with behaviour management and high expectations. It is to my mind undeniable that tablets are a formidable teaching, learning and communication tool. Their ability to be preloaded with and allow instant access to engaging, interactive and multimedia content is indeed one of their main attractions. However, as well as means for content consumption, tablets incorporate software, cameras, microphones and other sensors that allow teachers and students to create and instantly share their own media-rich content, all the while helping to keep compelling records of learning and progress. I really feel that technology works best when it helps us achieve things that we would not have been able to achieve without it. As such, I envisage that tablets will be used, not instead of other resources, but, rather, as well as, when their use is justified by outcomes that would have been otherwise inconceivable and only when teaching and learning would benefit from their use.


Many thanks to José for his responses. I hope you found them as insightful as I did. If you’d like to have your say, then please do by visiting here and filling out the form.


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  • Hi Jose,

    I think Mark’s three questions exercise is so good that I am trying to get some discussion going. Here are my reactions/questions in response to your answers.

    1. I don’t think you answer the question here. You say that technology should be important in education because it is important in every other sector of our society. But the reason why it is important in every other sector is that it is useful in those sectors. The question must surely be, how is it useful in education? If it comes down to improving learning, the evidence of this happening to date is very thin indeed.

    2. You seem to say that its all about social media, which breaks down into the following points:

    a. Social media is useful for teachers’ CPD. But what do you say to the likes of Tom Bennett, who argues in Teacher Proof that many of the educational theories popular among teachers are simply wrong?

    b. You say that social media is problematic for children, so that they need to be taught to use it responsibly – I agree, though I don’t see this as a top priority for education, when compared to reading, writing, analytical & creative skills. More of a PHSE issue alongside sex education.

    Neither of these arguments is about using technology to improve the learning of children, except indirectly through its use to support the learning of teachers. Is it the case that you think adults can learn *with* technology but that as far as children are concerned, the priority should be to teach them *about* technology?

    3. In this answer you suggest that technology can be used to teach children through sharing compelling, media rich content and keeping records of progress. Broadly speaking, I agree that this represents the potential. Why then do you think it hasn’t really happened yet and how do you think it can be encouraged to happen?

  • Hi Crispin,

    Thanks for your contribution to this debate. And apologies for the late response, it’s turning out to be not quite the summer ‘break’ I had expected. I’ll try to deal with your points in turn:

    1) Upon a second read, I should say that I agree that it is probably not a very satisfactory answer to the question. It even reads a little bit flippant, which readers will hopefully understand was not my intention. So I’ll have another go. I think technology’s place in education is essential as it demonstrably facilitates and often improves on the processes involved in teaching and learning: from lesson planning to report writing, from content delivery to giving feedback. Can all of this be done without technology? Yes, of course it can. That is not a very good question though, because one can swim across the English Channel, but I’d rather take the ferry.

    2) For now, one of most useful and effective affordances of technology – and this is only my view, which is what Mark invited – is improved communication between teacher and learner.

    a) When it comes to education, as far as I know there is not a unified theory of learning. There are many education theories which are all as right or as wrong as the next one. Tom Bennet’s opinion is just that, an opinion – though probably better informed and more politicised than the average. A better question than “is a theory right or wrong?” might be this “how are the different learning theories being applied to the classroom environment and what effect are they having?” However, since most of the research in education is non-replicable by nature, a great deal of professional judgement needs to be added to the mix in order to interpret the evidence base so that our desired educational outcomes can be achieved – and these will vary across schools.

    b) I’m glad you agree. I disagree though with your assessment that behaviour is not a priority in education. Behaviour is key, both offline and online. As regards reading, writing and the other skills you mention, I’m not interested in reducing this debate to binaries. It’s not a question of this OR that. We need the lot.

    3) Again, I’m pleased you broadly agree. We may disagree, however, in that I think this is happening already in many places, especially where mobile devices have been successfully integrated into a fruitful and successful learning environment. I think we can encourage this to happen even more by starting to look at the impact that technology has through a different lens. Research and analysis of the evidence base regarding the use of technology in education has generally tried to measure technology as an intervention, as far as I can see – put a few computers in a classroom and see what the impact is. Hattie and Yates and the Education Endowment Foundation – just to name two of the most cited sources of “evidence” in this field – have found the impact of technology to be a little underwhelming, perhaps unsurprisingly. Other aspects, such as feedback or quality of learning, were found to be much more important. Both Hattie and Yate’s meta-analysis and the EFF research findings have essentially pitted technology against feedback or teacher quality, as if one thing precluded the other. This is, in my humble opinion, nonsense and it must stop if we are to accurately measure the value technology adds to all aspect of our lives, including education.

  • Hi Jose,

    Likewise, thanks very much for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully. The reason I have been slow to respond to your response is because, as you know, I have been responding to you at great length elsewhere!

    I very strongly agree with two points you make in particular:

    1. That one of the key benefits of ed-tech is to improve communication between the teacher and learner. But I think it is interesting to unpack this a little more. What is the difficulty with communication without technology? In mainstream education, it is not distance (a problem solved by the telephone and by distance learning). Nor is it the need for reproduction (the problem solved by the LP, cassette tape and media download) because we do not believe that the essence of teaching is the lecture or demonstration, which is blind to the student’s response. Given that the problem is neither of these, then nor is it likely to be a matter of quality of reproduction (hi-fi, hi-res, 3D) – nothing can be more hi-fi that the real thing.

    I suggest that the problem with communication that ed-tech can solve is one of structural complexity. The teacher has to communicate the right response to the right student at the right time and to decide on this response with reference to the history of the student’s activity over time – and this requires the sort of data-driven assistance that I am advocating.

    Tell me if you disagree – and if you do, what you think is the problem with communication that technology can help solve.

    2. I also strongly agree with the point you make when you say that “one can swim across the English Channel, but I’d rather take the ferry”. In this respect, technology often improves things. Only rarely does it enable us to do things, like land on the moon, that we really could not do at all before. In education, the problem as I see it is one of scale. We can all sit down with a single child and give them excellent, targetted feedback. It is giving such attention to a hundred children that is the problem. Which is why I think technology will help us democratise the very good education that has always been available to the elite.

    Pedagogically speaking, I sympathise with the group of writers who I think of as revisionists: Tom Bennett, Daisy Christodoulou, Rob Peal, Andrew Old – maybe you could add Michael Gove to the list. My caution comes when some of them say that it is all very simple, we just have to return to the craft of the teacher in the classroom. In my view, that is not going to work, principally because of the problem of scale. So I think we have to show how technology, appropriately applied, can deliver education as understood by the traditionalists better than traditional, craft-based technologies.

    There are some other things in your answer that I don’t quite agree with – but they are all minor. I would be really interested in your thoughts on the main two points which I perceive (one can never be sure) to be points of agreement – and of significance.

    Points of minor disagreement.

    1. I don’t agree that “theories which are all as right or as wrong as the next one”. I define “right” as “effective” – and “effectiveness” has to be judged relative to a particular objective. So, given that we can agree on the objective of education, then it should be possible to compare objectively which theory of learning is more useful. Of course, this will also depend on context and although I agree that there is some variability in context, I do not think the variability is quite as large or disruptive to education research as is sometimes suggested.

    2. I don’t agree that much research is non-replicable by nature. Most research is not replicated because most education researchers are very bad at their job. That might sound like a sweeping and arrogant generalisation but I am convinced that it is true – see my comments on the Tooley Report at, whose findings seem to be echoed by the much more recent American Study at I would also recomment Rob Peal’s excellent review of the recent history of education theory, Progressively Worse at Educational academia is mostly dysfunction, with some notable exceptions.

    3. I agree that behaviour in the classroom is critical to learning and behaviour generally – moral education, if you like – and that this is also an important objective of school education. But I don’t think that the latter is taught in a traditional classroom context – it is rather absorbed through the pores. That is why I think the teachable content with reference to how to behave online is more of the sort of thing that one might do in PHSE, rather than something fundamental that permeates the whole curriculum.

    4. I am not sure I understand the point you are making in your final paragraph. I do not see why the influence of technology cannot be measured, given the right sort of quantitative data, even if it is dependent on other factors being present (e.g. a good teacher). What is the effect of having technology *in addition to* good teaching and what is the effect of having a good teacher *in addition to* the technology? I agree with you that the relationship between the two is critical but do not see why this presents such a problem for quantitative research, given sufficient data. You can isolate different variables statistically, even if you cannot isolate them experimentally.

    Best, Crispin.

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