MirandaNet Newsletter, No 29  April 22, 2018 
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Prague Boat Ride: Image Credit;  Christina Preston
Welcome to the MirandaNet Newsletter

Dear MirandaNetters,
Damian Hinds, the new UK Secretary of State for education, made a good impression about his interest in edtech with his BETT19 speech. £84 million invested in a new Computing Centre may help as well. Nevertheless, we are short of more than 8,000 Computing teachers and a generation of pupils will be affected.

In this context, we hope that the learned societies like MirandaNet and ITTE will be consulted more than they have been since 2010. Indeed, we are keen to generate a debate between professional organisations and the policy makers in the DfE and OFSTED  about widening the Computing curriculum and increasing communication between the edtech companies who generate the products and services and the professionals who teach in schools, colleges and universities. The 32nd international conference programme, June 7/8th is designed to encourage this sharing of ideas and we hope as many members as possible will want to contribute. At the end we intend to produce a White Paper about the views expressed. You will find more news below.

We are also planning a similar event next year, March 5/6/7th, in Prague and information will be sent out as soon as the planning is complete. 

And onward to the future. Bozena and I will be consulting the members about your views about the future of edtech for our book: Computing, Women and the Ecology of Education. Totalitarism and Democracy through the lens of Education Futures. Meanwhile read the blog about the future of edtech that Lord Jim Knight has given us to reproduce below. 

I look forward to hearing from you. 
Professor Christina Preston, Founder MirandaNet


March 17th, Czech technical University Prague
25 years of the Czech Miranda

In Prague, Dr Bozena Mannova organised and chaired a seminar that was designed to showcase the coding projects completed by those we call the ‘Miranda’s Babies’. We were pleased to welcome Dr Mirka Cernochova, Charles University, and Zdenka Hamhalterova, retired head of Arabska School, who talked about how they have been involved with MirandaNet over the last 25 years.

We were most impressed by the presentations: some students were focused on helping others: those with diabetes and those with special needs. Others had developed robots that flew. The students said that the opportunity to develop their own ideas in coding rather than being given a topic had allowed them ‘freedom of thought'. They also thought that their Computing education had been seamless because they had moved from Arabska school straight to the Czech Technical University. Their talents were well known and could be developed without interruption.  ‘We were in the right place at the right time!”, they said, which is a tribute to their teachers.

Bozena had hired a boat afterwards and we the pleasure of a student guitar duo all evening.
There was a -7degree blizzard at the time but the boat was heated and the food and wine were excellent.

Here is the explanation of how Miranda's babies got their expertise and also some photographs of the event.

We hope you will come to the next seminar in Prague which is March 5/6/7th 2019. More information soon.


ITTE and MirandaNet have planned an exciting programme for the 32nd international annual conference in Winchester University 7/8th June 2018. The aim is to initiate a vibrant debate resulting in a White Paper looking at edtech and Computing from a variety of professional perspectives: research, policy, professional development, teacher education, schools, colleges and research.

Highlights are talks by DfE and OfSTED about their role under a new Secretary of State as well as two other debates about the relationship between the edtech industry and education professionals and the best models for edtech CPD. We also have a CPD workshop for the edtech industry sharing ideas about how to market to academics and teachers.
The Chartered College of Teachers is running a workshop about effective online teaching. There are opportunities as well for participants to offer presentations on their own work.

The authors of Enhancing Learning and Teaching with Technology UCL Publishing (2017: edited by Ros Luckin) have been invited to debate the issues in special What the Research Says opening session where the book is at a discount.

At the end of the conference is a Czech MirandaNet celebration about the book that Bozena Mannova and Christina Preston are writing, Computing, Women and the Ecology of Education Futures:Totalitarianism  and Democracy through the lens of Education Futures. 

We have special prices for students as well as publication opportunities and a workshop for early career academics. At the end of the conference we will be producing a white paper bringing together the views of the participants' about  Raising aspirations for digital education. We do hope you will help us define Education Futures. 
What's next for Edtech?

Rt Hon the Lord Knight of Weymouth, former Schools Minister and Patron of ITTE,  has given us permission to publish the transcript of the talk he gave recently at the Westminster Forum about the future of edtech from his point of view as Chief Education and External Officer of TES. In this role he enjoys an overview of the ways that more than one million teachers use the online resources the TES supplies.

In particular, Jim considers how artificial intelligence might be used to meet the teacher shortage that is emerging as the bulge from the primary schools goes into the secondary schools. He estimates that 50,000 more  teachers will be needed in the next 8 years. He also sees technology being central to a rethinking of assessment.  Jim draws our attention to the role for technology  in upskilling the workforce. A key point he makes, while thinking about keeping children’s data safe is that we need to think, also, about ‘digital detox’ and the mental health challenges that currently are faced by children and adults in schools. He asks, ”How we provide reflection time, away from some of the digital inputs and the constant noise and chatter of digital, to properly reflect. “
You can read the full blog here

The DFE invited us to send evidence based on international examples managed by MirandaNet 5.0 members where online learning has been successful.

The context of the debate
MirandaNet 5.0 were pleased to debate this question in reply to a question for information from the DfE. Although most of our experience of professional learning is with teachers we indicated that some of our evidence is transferable to adult learning in general. We have run many programmes across the world with an online element largely about using edtech to make teaching and learning more effective or about using digital tools to enhance subject teaching. Some of those programmes have included adults who are not teachers because we maintain that change is most effective if  it is owned by the whole community. In school that includes teacher assistants and, sometimes, parents.

Although we have significant shared experience of online learning our major contention is that adult learning will always be  most effective face-to-face although remote training, online learning or a pre-recorded talk can be very effective in the mix.  There are many reasons for the need for face to face contact including the quality of feedback and engagement, and the opportunity to better understand local needs and requirements.  However, we do find that face to face on a conferencing system can be nearly as effective - the human exchange is the key.

However well used, there are many advantages in online elements of adult training, not least because adults with home responsibilities or disabilities can be significantly involved and geographical distance is not an issue. The economics of online learning are also very appealing to the funders - but this kind of adult training is not cheaper than face to face if it does not work. If adult learners are not motivated by their tutors and a community of partners in learning many of them will not complete the course.
You can read the rest of the report here.

MirandaNet has worked with the edtech industry on research with teachers for many years. As a result Christina Presti=on has been invited to be a tutor on the EDUCATE programme directed by Rose Luckin, that has been developed to work with edtech startups. 

EDUCATE is a unique collaboration, based at UCL’s Knowledge Lab, that helps and supports entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs working in EdTech. It forges links between the developers and educators, mentors and researchers who will guide them in their work. This collaboration between six leading institutions – UCL Institute of Education, UCL Engineering, F6S, BESA and Nesta - aims to create a ‘golden triangle’ between teachers and learners, EdTech start-ups and researchers in EdTech to design and develop technology that will have a real and positive impact on learning.

The £4.5 million project, partly funded through the EU’s European Regional Development Fund and matched by the partners, enrols cohorts of entrepreneurs from business, research and education.
You can read more here


This is the first of an occasional series about all the great things online that can really enhance learning and are absolutely free. They are not magic bullets nor do they cover a whole chunk of the curriculum but they do add value.

First up is You could use this to tell a story by moving around a map and clicking on, possibly numbered, markers. (You can do this in Google maps too.) You can add text, images, video and sound. Use it to track historical events or visit the places where some work of fiction is based. There are lots of ways this could be used to demonstrate learning in many subjects. Here is an example: Unfortunately it only has one marker on it but if you click on it you will see how it can work. There is also a short video that outlines a little more about Scribblemaps here .

This leads to another favourite, The webcams placed at locations in reserves in South East Africa allow you to watch the comings and goings of the wildlife with background sound. Animals do not perform on cue so you can register for alerts or you can just leave it running on your IWB. If you do get a sighting it is possible to take still images but it needs a little practice. If you intend to let children watch it is as well to go to the site before they arrive as you will get an advert first if you are not adblocking. They’re only the sort you see on commercial TV but better safe than sorry.
Rob Ellis; Senior MirandaNet Fellow


Why the continuing focus on the technology – and not the ecosystem and culture?
In a recent Mirandalink Debate; Mal Lee writes;  

“After years of researching school’s teaching and learning with the technology I’m still bemused as to why schools, governments, technology corporations and indeed educational researchers are still preoccupied with the technology and not the learning environment, culture, and ecosystem the young learn within”

This produced some excellent critical responses that reflected on the changes since the early days of educational technology in the 1990s through to today. Some touched on the role of Government strategies and the bodies such as NCET/Becta and how their approaches were sometimes at odds. The speed of technological progress and the ability to keep abreast was highlighted  Other contributors looked at the relationship between technology and pedagogy, or the focus of  ICT as cross curricular tool and/or as a discrete subject.  Many agreed that this was as much a cultural (mindsets) as a technological issue.
Read the contributions here

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New MirandaNet Initiatives
Social Media formats
MirandaNet is currently MirandaNet is experimenting with two new social media initiatives to increase engagement with our organisation.

Firstly there’s The MirandaNet Daily where curated links are presented in an online ‘newspaper’ format. Please be aware that this is still an experiment but it gives us the chance to bring to a new audience the work and thoughts of people this organisation admires and follows on Twitter. 

We are also now publishing on Medium, a highly attractive and popular blog platform that is being increasingly used by educators to share ideas their writing and ideas. Please come and visit our Medium Blog and feel free to comment.
 Black and Blue: The Invisible Men and the Masque of Blackness,
Image Credit:  Theo Kuechel; CC BY
This a sculptural installation by Trinidadian artist Zak Ove, comprising of 80, two meter high graphite figures. The impact of the totemic figures is powerful and and is amplified through their repeated forms, as they face forward to confront the viewer. Currently set in the 18th century landscaped gardens of the Yorkshire Sculpture park the African influenced figures are highly relevant at this time of the Black Lives Matter protest movement and the current Windrush scandal.

Enhancing Learning and Teaching with Technology: What the research says
Rose Luckin
Reviewed by David Longman, 4th Feb 2018

This book begins well, setting out some clear aims and, interestingly, it lays out useful pedagogical intentions designed to engage a wider audience of interested readers. The focus is on the communication of research findings through a well-structured and “accessible” exposition:

“ [to]…provide good quality, accessible research summaries to everyone interested in how technology can be designed and used for learning and teaching to best effect.” (loc. 467)

The book is organised into six parts with chapters grouped by themes more than by content: learning, applied educational technology, learner engagement, maximising potential learner benefits, adult learning, and how technology can support teaching. Some similar educational technology topics appear in different parts of the book (e.g. games and gamification, or tutorial systems) providing different framing for the content and common themes appear across chapters (e.g. assessment or pedagogy)

This is an interesting and topical book that can, and should, provoke some lively discussion. But it must be read critically, as I assume the editor and authors intend.  It is in the spirit of Freedman’s Rule that readers who are concerned to ground their understanding in research must keep asking “Who says that?”, “Where?”, “Is that right?”, I’d better check that?”. And so on. The mission to promote a critical reading of research and to encourage questions about the meaning, validity and relevance of research is a crucial element in building knowledge on scientific foundations.
Read the full review here

Enhancing Learning with Technology: Research Themes
Editors: Erik Duval, Mike Sharples, Rosamund Sutherland
Publisher: Springer, Date: May 2017
Reviewed by David Longman: 18th Feb 2018

One of the more challenging publishing genres is surely the book of collected research-focussed chapters aiming to provide a well explained overview of the current state of research in a specialised field. This book, ‘Technology Enhanced Learning: Research Themes’ rises to that challenge.  Derived from work by members of the STELLAR project, a European funded, strategically focussed ‘network of excellence’, the book is well edited, the chapters are clearly written, the explicit and detailed approach to providing references to research is thorough, and the particular structural idea in the book is to build each chapter theme around four selected key sources. This is a good idea and works quite well. The key sources are clearly referenced in the chapters and are listed separately at the end of the book. These provide a very useful core list for any reader wanting to take their investigations further.

Throughout the book, in every chapter, there is the bright undercurrent of optimism; TEL is regarded, almost without question, as a force for improvement and the release of human potential. It is a belief in progress. This may or may not be the case. From here on TEL research must take account of itself and provide more robust evidence, data and arguments that technology enhanced learning could really be achieved by these kinds of cognitive engineering methods and while also reducing socio-political risks.
Read the full review here.

Grammar schools in England: a new analysis of social segregation and academic outcomes

With the UK Government planning an increase in state funded grammars schools, this article from the School of Education, Durham University;  suggests that such a proposal is potentially dangerous for society and that that grammars are no better or worse than non-selective state schools in terms of their pupils’ progress in attainment. 

Access the report here

UK can lead the way on ethical AI, says Lords Committee 
A Lords committee report suggests that: “The UK has a unique opportunity to shape AI positively for the public’s benefit and to lead the international community in AI’s ethical development, rather than passively accept its consequence

It also includes an AI ethical code (Asimov’s laws of Robotics?) and highlights issues such as the requirement for lifelong learning, retraining. The wish list including... data.... is positive but how much can be realised we’ll have to wait and see, but one would think it would require a government that is digitally aware and competent  to make sure such proposals are implemented. 
Read the Lords' blog on the report  or download the full report here 

MIT Technology Review
Each Year MIT selects 10 technologies, or collection of technologies, that they predict will have a profound effect on our lives. The 2018 list includes  AI for all, Babelfish earbuds, neural networks and smart cities.

Scratch 3.0
A new release of Scratch online  - Scratch v3.0  set  to replace v 2.0 is set for an August 2018 release. There is an Alpha release (January 2018) that anyone  can try out here. Scratch 3.0 will be written in HTML5, which is a general term for the latest HTML.

How to Save Old Computer files   
The significant advances and developments in computing and digital technologies over the past 25 years have meant that data stored on, now obsolete, systems and computers is becoming harder, if not impossible to to access. One way of tackling this digital obsolence - where the data is no longer readable because of an archaic format, degrading physical media, or hardware that  the software requires to run and is no longer available is to use emulators.
Source Atlas Obscura

The downside of ‘free stuff’ 
Two recent developments in the world of free tools and services one must be very careful when commiting to using them, at scale, in education. 
Storify, enables users to create ‘stories’ by curating  social media posts on twitter and facebook. It  is closing down for good in May 2018 . In 2013, the company was purchased by the digital marketing company Livefyre subsequently bought by Adobe and there's no place for Storify in Adobe’s plans.
Padlet - an online tool for creating a ‘bulletin board’ for sharing links, images and media recently announced a new pricing structure which restricts the number of Padlets’ (boards) a user can create to 3 if they are using the ‘free’ plan. Previously there was no limit on the number of boards and this has upset many teachers used to a ‘free’ service. 

Speak and Spell
Speak & Spell line was a hand-held child computers that consisted of... a speech synthesizer, a keyboard,. The first Speak & Spell was introduced .... in June 1978, making it one of the earliest handheld electronic devices with a visual display to use interchangeable game cartridges.  Wikipedia
You can now play Speak and Spell online at the Internet Archive through an emulator.

School wins British Library award  
Vittoria Primary School in Islington has just won an award from the British Library. project is to collect and share traditional tales from around the world and creative work by current pupils through workshops, the production of a book, school assemblies, readings and performances. The The illustrations for the project are drawn from the British Library’s Flickr collection which are displayed alongside pupils’ artwork.

Phone tricks 
This film from the BBC News site looks at the psychological effect of how FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is purposely designed into online games and apps. The result is often compulsive checking for updates.  This film concentrates on the ‘phone’ but it is also applicable across a range of devices and smart technologies. There is an interesting reference near the end of the film on how such techniques alongside AI can be used positively  - in medicine but unfortunately no detailed example is provided. 

Saul Bass and  the Art of Cinema titles

In recent years there has been much, (justified), criticism of the ‘design a ... poster... book/CD cover’... type lesson. This is due to the fact many such lessons have been  ‘time filler’ activities with no teacher input, about the history of, and skills involved in visual design. This leaves students to flounder and  often results in aimless work. This film about the work of Saul Bass illustrates the thought and creativity processes required to create meaningful visual artefacts. It also suggest creative ways to remix and create new content..”

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FOR YOUR DIARYEducation Show. 15-27 March 2018:. NEC, Birmingham

We are always keen to review books, videos, blogs or podcasts by members. Let us know if you have anything in progress. We would also like to extend our panel of reviewers. Please get in touch with me if you would like to be a reviewer:

Our previous book reviews are here:

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