The objective has to be learning, not just getting the technology out there

A school in Maine deployed iPads:

“classes using iPads … outperformed the ones without them in every literacy metric used.”

“The objective has to be learning, not just getting the technology out there”

“We are paying attention to app selection and focused on continuous improvement — we aren’t just handing equipment to teachers.”

“many educational institutions have not put in enough effort.”

It has never been about the “new and shiny” though detractors of 1:1 computing programmes have always used this as a defence against the investment in learning. This isn’t about putting Angry Birds into the hands of students or distracting them from their studies with FaceBook but rather adopting a permissive approach to technology. When you permit students to use technology in learning, they use technology in learning. Obviously. There’s no need to compete with FaceBook or BBM for attention if the materials and delivery are engaging.

Note that none of the quotes put the responsibility on teachers. But in the end it is the teachers who have to be engaged with the process before the students can be engaged. We’ve been thinking how the Department of Education in Northern Ireland (DENI) and the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) can help in this without just funding cheap iPads (which is not the desired end result). And it obviously has to be in the development of the curriculum and assessment of students.

In the interests of being pro-active, Momentum and Digital Circle are supporting the next TeachMEET in Belfast (because ICT pervades every teaching subject), have published a position paper on 1:1 computing (and the need to accelerate development of resources) and support the removal of ICT in its current for at GCSE and A-level (as it has become the 21st Century equivalent of Typing Class). We are also in the process of creating a new collaborative network for educational content and technology where we hope to bring together local industry, sectoral bodies, academic research and primary/post-primary education to attempt to resolve the big issues we see before us. From what we can see, we’ve inherited decades of legacy and centuries of process, something has to change.

Of course I’m interested, I’m a parent.

Steal the Future; Change the World

My friends Rory and Anita at The Creativity Hub are pretty much the nicest people I know. That’s not entirely surprising considering the work they do in creativity and conflict resolution. I know Rory from a few years ago when he was working in the rehabilitation of prisoners (from our unique political ‘situation’) and I was very glad to re-acquaint myself with him not long after the start of this job – both for work and socially.

Rory introduced me to the concept of “Advanced Civilisation” (which he said is also available on the Internet as Beachhead). It’s something I had used for my creative writing but I had not really considered using it for work-related purposes. I do find now that I use it a lot – that imagination figures heavily in how I want to enact change in the world around me. The secret to achieving things lies in the discovery of great people, not in the funding programmes that are available.

This weekend we will complete the proposal document for StartVI year two and we will be looking for 6 great start-up ideas. We have a much more cohesive programme planned for the 2011 intake, more mentors and a better idea of what can be achieved now that we’ve shown it can work.

I’m also proposing the founding of a new co-working, research based technology centre in Belfast. And a solution to improving the quality of software engineering in Northern Ireland – comprising of a industry-tailored education programme and a community focused technology freeschool. Of course I alone am not qualified to do all of this. That’s why I’ve been looking for great people to help change the world; to steal the future; to get there earlier.

All of this to create a hub of 21st Century Enlightenment.

#TIC, #KTN, #Science, #Technology, #Innovation

I wrote my first business plan for a co-working space in about 2006 – in response to some encouragement from an ex-colleague who was in Investment Belfast. It helped crystallise some ideas I had with regards to not only co-working, but skills, inclusion, business incubation and innovation.

Over the last two-and-a-bit years I’ve been included on snippets of longer conversations regarding the ‘need’ for a Digital Hub in Belfast. It’s something that inspired us to create StartVI, among other things. I’ve been part of these attempts and also witnessed them being opposed by people who should be helping.

But while CoWorking spaces are generally places to “work” and by that I mean write, create spreadsheets, lay out books, edit images, create software and network online. They provide desks, light, heat, WiFi, coffee, armchairs, water coolers and toasters.

is there a way to have a coworking (or co-researching) facility for freelance scientists?

and this article continues:

A coworking space has three important components: the physical space, the technological infrastructure, and the people. A Science Hostel that accommodates people who need more than armchairs and wifi, would need to be topical – rooms designed as labs of a particular kind, common equipment that will be used by most people there, all the people being in roughly the same field who use roughly the same tools.

But in the modern world, there can be more of those. There will be vast differences in size, type and economics. Some will be built and funded by large, rich institutions. Others will be cooperative projects. Some will be free, but by invitation only. Others will be open, but charging for space and use of the facilities.

We don’t have the resources in Northern Ireland to create a vast Fraunhofer-style network of collaborative research institutes so we have to be clever. £200m will be spent on this network of elite technology centres and despite our low population, the strength of our two local universities will mean we can expect to get >£10m of this, which would build 2-3 such centres. I would be disappointed if they were just carbon copies of what had gone before or worse, they just extended the duration of stuff that wasn’t working particularly well in the first place.

One of these in Belfast, using the Technology and Innovation Centre model, could provide access to shared facilities and useful knowledge which would help make up for the small population we have in Northern Ireland. The initial candidate areas of energy & resource efficiency, transport systems, healthcare, ICT and electronics, and photonics & electrical systems all require a significant ICT resource, resource which could be shared and which could take advantage of ‘traditional’ co-working models – bringing in our local experts in software engineering, user interface design and content. Just as a co-working centre contained writers, designers, software engineers, journalists, teachers and life-coaches, so a co-research centre could contain biologists, chemists, physicists and other disciplines – harnessing relationships with the universities for particularly specialised equipment but only containing individuals dedicated to the future of scientific progress.

It’s only thorough these collaborations that create “some of the luck and coincidences that gave us huge leaps in science and technology.

Who’s interested?

Education and Technology

Sophia Li writes for the Chronicle of Higher Education

The most popular tools cited by professors were e-textbooks and online documents, with faculty members reporting far less enthusiasm for other electronic tools. Under a quarter of faculty members surveyed use wikis or blogs in their teaching, and only 31 percent of professors surveyed considered online collaboration tools “essential” to today’s classroom, compared with 72 percent of over 300 IT employees surveyed.

I’m probably going to say some things to annoy some educators so please understand I’m dealing in archtypes here.

I think this evidence supports my own hypothesis that ‘older-style’ educators prefer instructive methods where ‘progressive-style’ educators use collaborative methods. From my own talking to teachers and lecturers there are several gaps to be filled before a balance can be achieved.

The Technology Gap
Most educators are simply not familiar with technology. The transition to e-textbooks is easy enough but the adoption of wikis, forums and instant messaging is going to be a whole new world to learn. Whether you’re moving from markup to emoticons – it’s all new stuff to learn.

The Education Gap
Are the types of education entirely applicable for instructive or collaborative education? There’s a difference of proportions depending on whether the lesson is skills-based or theory-based. It’s not simply that ‘progressive’ collaborative-style education is better – it’s whether the questions have been asked about what can be done, what should be done and what the results may be.

The Personality Gap
My education was very instructive. I was lucky, however, to have some exceptionally good teachers* during my time at Rathmore. All of these teachers encouraged as well as educated and supported a explorative/collaborative educational approach. We didn’t have technology in any of these classes and maybe they would have been intimidated by it, maybe not. There was only one teacher, during my secondary education, who relied entirely on instructive education and who was obviously intimidated/frustrated by students simply asking questions.

The Confidence Gap
Some educators are simply not going to be confident enough to put together a wiki or forum where the possibility of anonymity might lead students to be outspoken, or worse, overfamiliar. Some of them like the position of respect I’m sure but there is a happy medium in carving out a presence online with personal-level communication with students.

I am not qualified to say whether any particular approach is better – but it’s worth exploring what is the appropriate response to technology in the classroom.

*these teachers were:
Sister Mary-Jo, Religious Education (pre-GCSE)
Miss Lowe, Domestic Science (pre-GCSE)
Mr Neeson, English Lit/Lang (GCSE)
Mrs Hilditch, Biology GCSE
Dr Rogan, Biology A-Level
Mrs Hunt, Chemistry A-Level