Category Archives: teachers guide

6 Myths of Digital Technology

I cannot take credit for these 6 myths of digital technology – I’m lifting them straight from what I thought was a well known and received investigation in to the impact of digital technology on education. It would appear that a lot of the research however is not well known and in an attempt to do for others as I do for my students in terms of making the implicit explicit; this marks the first of a series of posts which will look in to the evidence behind digital technology and its links to learning. In this post I will be looking at an investigation undertaken by Professor Steven Higgins, ZhiMin Xiao and Maria Katsipataki from the School of Education at Durham University, published for the Education Endowment Foundation.

To summarise their findings, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s not about technology, it’s about pedagogy. They also state very clearly that  “the use of technology needs to be informed by context and research“. Hear hear.

They state: “it is clear technology alone does not make a difference to learning. Rather, how well the technology is used to support teaching and learning is the key determinant of its impact. There is no doubt that technology engages and motivates young people. However, this benefit is only an advantage for learning if the activity is effectively aligned with clear learning objectives.

This is absolutely true and why shouldn’t it be? Technology isn’t a panacea for everything, is it? Do you think it is?

Not to take anything away from the summary – it is excellent. Like a York notes of great advice for technology projects. Read it.


So getting back to the title and the excellent postscript of the executive summary on this report; the six myths:

Myth 1: New technologies are being developed all the time, the past history of the impact of technology is irrelevant to what we have now or will be available tomorrow. After more than fifty years of digital technology use in education this argument is now wearing a bit thin. We need a clear rationale for why we think the introduction of (yet another) new technology will be more effective than the last one. The introduction of technology has consistently been shown to improve learning, the trouble is most things improve learning in schools when they are introduced, and technology is consistently just a little bit less effective than the average intervention.

“The introduction of technology has consistently been shown to improve learning” – hasn’t it just! However, as they correctly highlight – tech introduction is consistently just that little bit less effective than the average intervention. What can we do therefore to ensure that the intervention and use of technology can improve learning more than other interventions?

Myth 2: Today’s children are digital natives and the ‘net’ generation – they learn differently from older people. There are two issues with this myth. First, there is no evidence the human brain has evolved in the last 50 years, so our learning capacity remains as it was before digital technologies became so prevalent. It may be that young people have learned to focus their attention differently, but their cognitive capabilities are fundamentally the same as 30 years ago. Second, just because young people have grown up with technology it does not mean they are experts in its use for their own learning. Being an expert at playing Halo 5 requires different skills and knowledge from having an active Facebook account. Most young people are fluent in their use of some technologies, but none are expert at all of them.

Just like any thing – gaining mastery of it takes time, effort, grit and determination. How else do you think oldies like me are able to do the things we do? Was I born with this ability? No! Time needs to be given to the training of staff, young people and where required, their parents/carers in the systems we put in place to support their learning and progress.

Myth 3: Learning has changed now we have access to knowledge through the internet, today’s children don’t need to know stuff, they just need to know where to find it. The web has certainly changed access to information, but it this only becomes knowledge when it is used for a purpose. When this requires understanding and judgement, information alone is insufficient. Googling is great for answers to a pub quiz, but would you trust your doctor if she was only using Wikipedia? To be an expert in a field you also need experience of using the information and knowledge, so that you understand where to focus your attention and where new information will help you in making decisions and judgements. It is important to recognise the relevance or importance of different pieces of information. Easy access to information can help, but it is no substitute for experience, understanding and expertise.

Absolutely. I think Ian Gilbert’s book – “Why Do I Need A Teacher When I’ve Got Google” has some relevant commentary here!

Myth 4: Students are motivated by technology so they must learn better when they use it. It is certainly true that most young people do enjoy using technology in schools to support their learning. However, the assumption that any increased motivation and engagement will automatically lead to better learning is false. It is possible that increased engagement or motivation may help increase the time learners spend on learning activities, or the intensity with which they concentrate or their commitment and determination to complete a task. However, it is only when this engagement can be harnessed for learning that there will be any academic benefit. There is another caveat here as the motivation in school may be partly because using technology is either novel in school, or simply a change from what they usually experience. It may not be the case that this motivation will be sustained over time.

There’s nothing quite like a sweeping generalisation, is there? As with the other myths there is sound advice here to take on board too.

Myth 5: The Everest Fallacy: we must use technology because it is there! We should use some of the wide range of digital technologies that are available to us to support learning and teaching in schools, but this should be where they improve aspects of teaching and learning and help to prepare children and young people for their lives after school. The curriculum and the way in which pupils work and are assessed should reflect the society and culture they are preparing pupils to be a part of when they leave formal education. However the challenge is knowing which technology is the best to choose for use in schools and for what purposes and learning outcomes they should be employed.

Absolutely not. That is why I believe so vehemently in using frameworks such as SAMR and TPACK to ensure the best use of technology in the classroom so that it best supports the learning going on; so that use can be transformational, not substitutional. The trick with all of it though is as the summary says, “knowing which technology is the best to choose”, and this often comes down to a cost vs benefit analysis and if you’re making decisions about technology on that basis – perhaps you should be looking at other interventions?

Myth 6: The “More is Better” Fallacy. Enthusiasts assume that if a little technology is a good thing then a lot will be much better. The evidence does not support this assumption, for two reasons. First, large-scale international studies indicated very high use of technology – e.g. pupils using the internet more than four hours per day – is not linked with better learning. Second, the effect of technology and length of interventions indicate that more is clearly not always better. This suggests that there is an optimum level of technology which can support learning, too little and you don’t see the benefit, too much and the gains decline. A better notion might be the Goldilocks effect: it is about getting the amount of technology, and learners’ access to it “just right”“.

The ability to hit the ‘break-even’ point or having Goldilocks-ability is a hard thing to get right. I doubt I ever have got it just right. Like anything in my classroom, I try and mix and match a healthy dose of analogue and digital so that students get a balance of it all. As we move forward in time though, are we more or less likely to see more of our resource, more of our learning, more of our activity move in to online spaces? Not if Myth 5 is to be believed…

As with all of these things and the research we see everything needs to be taken with a pinch of salt and should be tempered next to your knowledge and understanding of your pupils, in your local area, with your teachers, in your school.

For the FULL picture, please read the FULL report with all references, links and research in the appendices. It’s well worth an hour of your time having a read!



Sir Ken Robinson On What Makes An Effective School

Sir Ken Robinson, an English author and adviser to governments on education, spoke with CBS on Tuesday about how schools can be more effective for students.

“If you engage children’s imaginations, their curiosity, you get them working on teams, you get them doing practical work — it’s a very different dynamic in schools,” Robinson said.

Robinson has been working in education for three decades in the United Kingdom and United States. He gave a TED Talk in 2006 titled “How Schools Kill Creativity” which has been viewed more than 32 million times. A book he wrote with Lou Aronica, Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education, on the innovative ways schools are handling lessons, was published this year.

“The culture of education literally is all about standardizing,” Robinson told CBS. “It’s alienating teachers, it’s alienating kids, and it’s not doing the job.”

Schools need to make education more personalized, Robinson said. Because everyone is different, they learn in ways that need to be individually addressed. He said there are ways to do this, even in large classrooms, by motivating students creatively.

Robinson pointed to the Boston Arts Academy, which he discusses further in his book, an inner-city school that has been successful while focusing on music, theater and dance. Two factors that lead to this success are a broad curriculum and flexibility in teaching. Both encourage students with a variety of learning techniques.

“Teachers are there to engage and motivate and inspire people,” Robinson said. “Great teachers do that.”


Tablets in schools: coding, creativity and the importance of teachers

From September, coding will be part of the primary and secondary education curriculum in the UK, as part of wider changes designed to boost computer literacy alongside reading, writing and maths skills for British children.

Some independent schools are already providing a glimpse at the potential. Which is why I recently found myself in Cambridge, watching a classroom of Year 5 girls – 9-10 year-olds – practising their programming skills on iPad apps like Hopscotch, Move the Turtle and Kodable. Continue reading Tablets in schools: coding, creativity and the importance of teachers

Education, Media & Technology Collection

Routledge would like to present the most read articles published in the last two years, from our Education, Media and Technology cluster. This collection will be free to access until 31st August 2015.

Read more at:


100’s of Android App Recommendations for Teaching and Learning


We’ve combed and curated the Web to find collections of the best apps for students and for teaching and learning, specifically for Android-based tablets and smartphones. Following are hundreds of recommendations from respected sources!

The 50 Best Education Apps For Android from TeachThought:

Best Android Apps for Kids from CommonSenseMedia

11 best Android learning apps from Android Authority Continue reading 100’s of Android App Recommendations for Teaching and Learning

U.S. Department of Education: The future of education includes video games in classrooms

A lot of modern students spend as much time playing video games as they do attending school, according to research by University of Indiana.

Some may view that as a shocking affirmation that video games are eroding the education of an entire generation, but the U.S. Department of Education sees it as an opportunity; a chance to reinvent education in a way that makes it more relevant to today’s student. Continue reading U.S. Department of Education: The future of education includes video games in classrooms

Every Teacher’s Must Have Guide to Facebook

Want to connect with your students in and out of the classroom? Consider bringing Facebook into your class as a collaborative tool. We all know that most kids, or at least those in the pre-teen and up category, are locked into many forms of social media. Instead of fighting it, why not meet them where they are, and use the benefits of Facebook to communicate and increase involvement?

We’ve identified a number of resources for you to use as you determine why and how to make Facebook work in your classroom.

Image from Flickr via Neeraj Kumar

Why Use Facebook In the Classroom?

Although students (and to be honest, teachers too) may sneak onto Facebook during the school day to read or post updates, is there a reason to encourage this behavior?  Let’s take a look at why Facebook could be a great addition to your daily classroom routine.

Quicker response to class updates. Many teachers see the benefits of using Facebook for sharing information with students and parents about homework, tests, projects, and class activities. Since many students 13 years old and over (in accordance with Facebook rules) check their Facebook accounts often, they may be more attentive to class news.

Create a hub for classroom resources. By sharing links to lesson resources, you can create a place where students can easily find the information they need, no matter where they are.

Introduce information from outside sources. You can select any number of educational resources to follow so your students can see their updates. Tag the Facebook pages of the Smithsonian Institution, the White House, your local congressional official, National Geographic, or any organization that may tie into your lessons.

Teach students to use social media responsibly. Recent Pew Research reports reveal that 93% of teens aged 12-17 go online and that 73% of teens use Facebook. But are they using them wisely? With issues of cyber bullying, sexting, badmouthing others, and general over sharing of private information, students could use a little help learning how to use social media appropriately. By providing guidance in a structured environment, kids may better understand how to respect others while maintaining a safe and healthy social media profile.

For more thoughts on why setting up a Facebook page for your class is a good thing, check out 50 Reasons to Invite Facebook Into Your Classroom.

Setting Up the Facebook Page

Privacy. It’s a valid concern, especially if you already have a Facebook page. Do you have to friend your students? How can you keep them from reading about your personal life? How can you keep their updates from showing in your stream?

Many teachers have solved this by creating a classroom page, separate from their personal one. One school named their page after a project, P.E. Kids Going Global (Postcard Swapping) while another class named the page after the teacher: Mr. Edelman’s Teacher Page. Other teachers create closed groups so student members can be invited and monitored. If you’d like to get to know your students in a different way, The Edublogger offers some ways to determine how much each of you can share.

For some specific tips on how to set up Facebook for teachers, consider Bernadette Rego’s guide, as well as Facebook’s own advice.

General Rules for Teachers Using Facebook in the Classroom

Keep your posts professional. Sure, conversations in Facebook are by nature casual, and although you can (and should) keep a sense of humor, make sure the comments you make—and that students add, are ones your principal and your student’s parents would be comfortable seeing.

“Like” pages thoughtfully. Remember that posts from pages you “like” will show in your stream, so be sure those pages are education related.

Monitor the page frequently. Check the page often to ensure comments others may have made are appropriate.

Integrate the use of Facebook in your teaching. Use it often as just one tool that increases interaction. Post homework on your page and encourage students to comment if they have questions. Encourage them to post examples of palindromes or arachnids after you’ve just completed a unit on them in class. When you go on a field trip, have students take photos, then upload them to the page and add a caption.

In Sum

By respecting the challenges and opportunities that Facebook offers, you can use it to increase information, education, fun and interaction in your class.


Online Safety: A Teacher’s Guide to Dealing with Cyberbullying, Sexting, and Student Privacy

Social media and text messages have blurred the lines between students’ school lives and private lives. While most schools take clear steps to protect students at school, more schools are beginning to consider the need to set policies that apply to students’ activities outside of school.

When it comes to questionable online activities like cyberbullying and sexting, kids sometimes feel pressured to follow the crowd. Teachers can play a crucial role in setting high expectations for online behavior. Schools can open conversations about online safety so that students learn to set personal boundaries and feel more comfortable reporting incidents like bullying and harassment. Continue reading Online Safety: A Teacher’s Guide to Dealing with Cyberbullying, Sexting, and Student Privacy