Why should other teachers get their hands on all that lovely ed tech? You can't tell them not to use it, but here are 11 tried and tested ways to make them not really wish to.

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  1. 11 ways to deter colleagues from using education technology
  2. Digital Education: what's in the latest issue?
  3. Formative assessment vs Summative assessment
  4. Books erratum
  5. Copyright conundrum
  6. More Recent Articles

11 ways to deter colleagues from using education technology

You could put this up on the doors of your computer labs! Photo by Terry Freedman 2017

You could put this up on the doors of your computer labs! Photo by Terry Freedman 2017

It can be so annoying when colleagues wish to use education technology. Here's how to minimise the likelihood that they would want to.

  • Make it hard to access, eg keep computer labs locked, don’t make the rooms easily bookable from anywhere, give the responsibility for equipment loans to someone who works part-time. 
  • Make the tech hard to use, eg make sure there are no instructions, manuals or quick-start guides.
  • As an extension to the preceding point, offer no training sessions whatsoever. 
  • Make it hard to report faulty equipment. For instance, don't have any reporting 'system' at all: ask people to catch you or the technician at random, in corridors. If you must have a more formal system than that, make sure that reporting has to be done on paper, using long forms that take at least ten minutes to fill out, with questions that are hard to answer, and put a batch of these forms in the least accessible part of the school (a 'temporary' hut is quite useful here, especially if it's kept locked most of the time).
  • Take a long time to respond to fault reports. If the headteacher or principal insists that you respond within, say, 24 hours, ask for faults to be reported by email, and create an autoresponse system so that people receive a response within a few seconds. You can then safely ignore the message altogether.
  • Do not replace faulty equipment immediately with something that works, but take it away for repair. This approach works very well when the item is a printer.
  • Take a long time to have it repaired. If you take long enough, people will forget that it ever existed.
  • Make the equipment uninviting to use, eg filthy keyboards, digital cameras not fully charged, computers taking several minutes to start up, tablets taking half an hour to connect to the wi-fi.
  • Only allow access if the intended use meets with your approval. As it happens, this is a very good approach if staff are allowing kids to do what they like on computers as a way of keeping them quiet. But you can extend the principle by asking every teacher to justify every intended use, in advance. Ask for at least a week's notice, and for a long form to be filled out.
  • Make the rooms uninviting, eg untidy, printer paper all over the floor.
  • Do not keep equipment maintained, including keeping antivirus software up to date. In fact, that second one is very good, as it should cause everyone with a computer at home to not wish to risk sending or taking home infected files.

Needless to say, I hope, this article is tongue-in-cheek, and if you take any notice of it at all it should be with a view to doing the exact opposite of what I've recommended.

Sadly, all of these suggestions have been made on the basis of practice I've seen.

I hope you have found this article interesting and useful. If so, you may wish to subscribe to my newsletter, Digital Education:

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Digital Education: what's in the latest issue?

The Editor at work

The Editor at work

My intention to cut down the length of Digital Education is starting to be honoured more in the breach than the observance. Here's what happened in a recent editorial meeting:

Me: OK, that news item is not absolutely vital, so bin it.

Editor: Hang on, it could be of interest to some people. People like to know about the brains behind the newsletter. Well, they want to know who's behind it anyway.

Me: It's about High Street Kensington tube for goodness' sake, and where I sweated over a hot text book in my teens.

Editor: Exactly. It's the human interest angle. OK, what else have we got?

Me: Well, there's this article by Derek ---

Editor: Bin it.

Me: --- Blunt. Why?

Editor: We can't afford a libel suite.

Me: OK, what about this assessment piece?

Editor: Definitely. And we'll also have some news about the Bett show, the London Book Fair, e-safety, classroom apps, Ofsted, research, book reviews ---

Me: Wait! I thought we were going to keep it short? You're the editor. Editors are supposed to edit, ie cut stuff.

Editor: Hmm. Maybe next time.

So, dear reader, you can't say I haven't tried. The latest issue of Digital Education is not too overwhelming, but it's not a one pager either. To read it, and avail yourself of various free resources and past issues, sign up here: 

It's free, and we use a double opt-in system, and we don't do spam.

 

 

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Formative assessment vs Summative assessment

I quite like this graphic (below) showing the difference between formative and summative assessment. There's more to it than this, but it's a nice starting point I think.

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Books erratum

Terry Freedman's Books

Whether this matters to anyone apart from myself is a moot point, but a few days ago I wrote an article in which I said:

Managing ICT ... was my first 'proper' published book -- I'd written one for a company, and self-published a few books.

That is not what I meant at all, not least because it isn't true! I'd also had published the books you can see in the photo, which were on the market several years before Managing ICT.

However, Managing ICT was the one that had the most impact, both for myself and the ICT Co-ordinators and Heads of ICT & Computing who bought it. (I know that because of the number of people who even now tell me the book really helped them.)

Most of the other books were how-to manuals for software, rather than books for teachers. Managing ICT was a book for teachers in charge of ICT.

Like I said, it is of little consequence to the world at large, which I daresay will keep on revolving, but I like to set the record straight!

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Copyright conundrum

The London Book Fair 2017

The London Book Fair 2017

I attended the London Book Fair again today, and one of the sessions I attended was a talk (or series of talks, to be precise) under the heading 'Copyright Under Threat?'

I've been aware for some time of rumblings about looking at the status of the copyright provisions for educational materials both in the UK and abroad. To summarise the situation (and in so doing to grossly oversimplify it), some people and governments think that all educational stuff should be free to use by teachers, schools, and other educational bodies.

I don't think it takes a genius to figure out what the result might be, although the Canadian government went ahead anyway. More about that in a moment.

It's always dangerous to take a single case, such as oneself, and extrapolate that to the entire population, but I'm going to do it anyway. If I was suddenly told that anything I produce could be used, or at least copied and distributed, completely free of charge by teachers and schools, I'd stop producing it. I'd channel my writing skills and knowledge into a genre in which I'd be paid when someone wants to 'borrow' bits of it. I think anyone who says they wouldn't must either not understand the situation fully, be extremely magnanimous or have other means, like a salary.

Now Canada provides a good case study. I don't know the full details, but in 2012 the Canadian government decided to include educational materials in its Fair Dealing clause. This is a clause that, in a nutshell, provides exceptions to the need to obtain permission to use extracts and distribute copies of materials. In the UK, we have a different set of exceptions known as Fair Use, which allows you to use an extract in certain situations as long as it's not a substantial extract. (What 'substantial' means is something to argue about on a case by case basis though.)

Anyway, the effects of the Canadian law change was pretty dreadful from what the speaker Sarah Faulder, was saying. For example, author income from licensing and borrowing plummeted to zero within two years, and the supply of educational materials from Canadian authors and publishers has virtually dried up. Meanwhile, schools are either having to buy imported materials, which isn't a great position to be in if you're forced to be in it, or rely on teacher-created materials. As if teachers don't have enough to do. 

Other countries are considering similar changes, but so far the UK and, I believe, the EU have decided against them. But everything is up in the air.

I should say that I'm not an expert in copyright law, or international copyright laws, so don't take my word for any of this. Whenever I need to clarify a copyright issue I ask the Society of Authors, of which I'm a member (and a member of its Educational Writers Group Committee).

The conundrum to which I alluded in the title of this article is simple: teachers want stuff as cheaply as possible, and preferably free for two main reasons.

First, there are the seemingly never-ending cuts in school budgets.

Secondly -- and again I'm using myself as an example from when I was a teacher and then Head of Department -- it's a point of pride I think to get as much as possible for as little as possible without resorting to anything as tawdry as stealing. For example, I once persuaded a company to give me 30 computers for nothing, because they were going to sell them for pennies when they upgraded their systems. I persuaded another company from which I bought a class set of computers to throw in all the software free of charge. This was in the days before free software and Creative Commons.

So from that point of view, good luck to teachers for trying to get as many resources for their pupils as possible, without eating into the funds they need for other things.

But on the other hand, wearing my writer's hat, I know how much work it takes to produce something of value. And I have to eat. So from both a principle and a practical perspective, I don't see why people should use my stuff, and make copies of it, without paying me for my effort and time. If I choose to make my stuff available free of charge, or usable under a Creative Commons licence, that should be my decision, not a blanket condition imposed on me from on high.

Also, I don't think it's right that there is an expectation that people don't have to pay for something. To my mind there is something morally suspect in taking the view that what's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine.

Where I think useful changes could  be made is in dealing with some academic and educational publishers' approach to granting permission to use their materials, or extracts from them. I try to do the right thing, but when I sought permission to include a variation of a diagram I came across in a book, I ran into two difficulties.

First, the publisher seemed to have no idea what a variation of something is. There seemed to be no provision for adapting the diagram, as you can do under some Creative Commons licences.

Secondly, they insisted on knowing how many copies there would be. Well, I was using print on demand, and I'm not a fortune teller. How could I know whether zero copies would be sold, or millions, or something in between?

So my solution has been to just stick a link in the book, and not include my variation of the diagram. So everyone loses out: the reader, by not having my variation to consider, me, by not having the opportunity to show my suggestions, and the publisher and author of the diagram because some readers won't bother to go and look at them. In another case I almost changed the text to avoid using an extract or indeed making any reference to it, because it was proving so hard to get permission to use it, although I decided to simply include a link in the end. No wonder publishing contracts often have a clause stating that the author is responsible for the effort and cost of obtaining permissions.

It would be great if the copyright laws included a statement to the effect that publishers (and authors) shouldn't make it impossible for people to use extracts from their work because of a mindset that believes that the year is 1967 rather than 2017, especially when they're more than happy to pay for its use.

Getting back to the bigger picture, I've always found the UK's Fair Use copyright exceptions to be reasonable, both as a consumer and producer of  creative works. So my hope is that it won't be changed any time soon.

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