MirandaNet Newsletter No 23, July 2nd, 2017
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The future belongs to those who can hear it coming  - bowie - slide
Image Credit; Gerd Leonhard, CC BY
This month's title images is a slide by Gerd Leonhard.. Check out Gerd's full set on technology, humanity and the future here on Flickr. MirandaNetters may find some they can share, use or build on, all CC BY SA
Compromising the democratic process
Portrait Christina PrestonThe political changes in EdTech in schools when the UK Coalition government took over in 2010 have had a significant impact on our profession. Until that time members of MirandaNet along with members of ITTE had published research for Becta, the government agency and were responsible for other sources of information like the Teachers' Resource Bank. But in the first week of the new regime all the government agency websites were taken down on the grounds that the upkeep was too expensive: it was like burning the books without the smell - millions of pounds worth of research funded by the tax payers that was no longer available. This is why we are working so hard with ITTE, MESHGuides and other organisations to ensure that the information we are assembling since 2010 is held independently and internationally so that the work of academics can never be destroyed again by the next regime.

Meanwhile Ben Williamson has posted a long but riveting article, Coding for What?, about how much the multinationals have been behind the politicians’ eagerness to throw out Information and Communications Technology in preference for Computing Science. The article explains a lot about the powers that were behind the sudden change from ICT to Computing. Over the last weekend of drafting the new curriculum, with no reference to the authoring team, one section was struck out: the ‘impacts’ of technology on individuals and society, and ‘implications’ for ‘rights, responsibilities and freedoms.’ Ben has the evidence that this part of the draft curriculum was rewritten, emphasizing instead the study of algorithms, Boolean logic, and data manipulation. Despite being a consultative curriculum drafting process, in the end the new programmes of study were the product of just two senior executives responding to the demands of the minister and her special adviser to emphasize academic Computer Science. 

The democratic process appears to have been flouted and this year Sarah Younie and I have published articles in the Times Education Supplement and Education Executive summarising the impact of politics in edtech since 2010 and the teacher recruitment problems this has caused. In fact, after interfering in topics they did not understand politicians lost interest altogether: there was no mention of edtech at all in the manifestos now they have dug up the pitch.

We suggest in our articles that the best way for professionals to overcome the challenges is to work in collaboration in our professional organisations: ITTE and Naace were started in the 1980s, MirandaNet in the early 1990s and MESHGuides in 2008. As communities of practice we are all longer lasting than political parties and their policy fashions and enthusiasms. We should stick together!!
Professor Christina Preston

Note: Becta research has been reassembled on the MirandaNet website here.

BESA highlights a serious funding gap in schools
Caroline Wright
The MirandaNet Fellowship has always worked closely with the British Education Suppliers Association (BESA) who started the BETT shows in London and the Education Show in Birmingham. Several of our members are judges of the Awards for example.  BESA’s latest news will interest MirandaNet members because they have launched a new campaign to highlight the impact of the sharp drop in resources expenditure in UK schools over the past two years.

The initiative, which has already attracted support from the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and numerous subject associations, comes following procurement research published by BESA that shows that primary schools are spending 3.7 per cent less on resources than last year, and secondary schools are spending 5.7 per cent less. ICT in secondary schools is being hit the hardest, with a year-on-year decline in expenditure of 7.5 per cent.  The research, undertaken with a representative sample of 906 school leaders by the National Education Research Panel (NERP), reveals that 53 per cent of primary schools and 52 per cent of secondary schools say their school isn’t adequately funded to provide a suitable teaching and learning environment. Looking ahead to the next year, 79 per cent of primary leaders and 92 per cent of secondary leaders say they are not optimistic about funding for their schools. 

Announcing the launch of the campaign, Caroline Wright (above) , Director General of BESA, said: “It is vital that pupils have access to high quality classroom resources. The unprecedented and continued pressure on school budgets over recent years is now having a real and lasting damaging impact on the quality of our children’s education. Politicians must act to stop the cuts now.”

EyeGaze research
eyegaze in actionThis month's Special Children magazine featured the research undertaken by MirandaNet and Nether Hall School in Leicester around the EyeGaze eye-tracking technology for students with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD).

The article looks at how the school used the technology to assess where pupils were paying the most attention on-screen during learning experiences. This helped in determining motivations, interests and ability in the contexts of different tasks, overturning the assumptions of what teachers thought children were seeing  when looking at the computer screen: "Teachers used to put students in front of Disney films and were shocked to realise that the children could not understand what was going on... They had thought that lots of movement, colour and animation would involve the children and keep them happy, but this was not the case"

The article also provided practical advice based on the findings of the report, focusing on the differing needs of students with PMLD. "We are confident in our baseline data and know how best to work with these children" - Christina Preston.  Download the article and magazine here. Image courtesy Optimus-Education.

New Associates

Danny Young and Alastair Cameron from Just2easy have just joined the MirandaNet Fellowship as associates. Their software designers have been creating educational software since 1994, winning many well deserved BETT awards. The staff are passionate about bringing the best technology into education in a way that is easy yet powerful. Their aim is to produce flexible software tools that allows children to be truly creative whilst they learn as well as enabling teachers to focus on teaching and learning.

Three New MirandaNet Fellows
However, Danny and Alastair are also aware that primary teachers have few opportunities for professional development in edtech these days and they want to help: teachers as well as learn from them.  So they have funded a practice based research partnership with the MirandaNet Fellowship in which teachers become co-researchers. The first three computing leaders are working with Christina Preston to reflect on their practice as well as learning from each other about how to use the same package to underpin the primary pupils' learning journey. Highlights are progressing through the complexities of coding each year in computing, using blogging across the curriculum to promote digital literacy and addressing e-safety issues in developing websites.

We are awarding Dr Ben Williams, Robyn Suthayalai and Steve Gillan with Fellowships as they have each offered studies that give teachers more ideas about how to use digital tools across the curriculum. 

Read their individual commentaries on Just2easy

Children using mikeybot
Image courtesy ComputingFirst

MirandaNet fellow Leon Cych alerts us to theMikeybot, a cheap wireless robot for families and schools controlled using block programming from any computer. Leon has been involved with ComputingFirst who have developed the robot which covers robot covers a lot of the coding and computing curriculum and works wirelessly from any comp is designed to "be accurately coded using block based programs on an iPad, Android, PC, Mac, Chromebook or even an IT suite of desktops connected to a WiFi network." You can learn more and support the development of the robot here on Kickstarter.

TES manifesto image

Prompted by the recent election, and Rob Ellis's question" "Can it be that EdTech in schools really does not matter anymore? a very interesting debate about Educational Technology in Schools  has been developing on the Mirandalink list.  Rob wrote; "Christina Preston and I are keen to report evidence about the need for EdTech in schools. Do you have any anecdotal evidence about how funding and lack of interest from the policy makers is impacting on students' life skills in a digital age.

Allison Allen kicked off the discussion after checking the various parties manifesto's for references by asking, "how do we communicate the value of ed tech and the need for technological skills to our current MPs and how on earth do we get it to be adopted as priority?"
Chris Yapp (quoted from his linked blog); "As IT becomes more and more pervasive in society and the economy, whether we like it or not, it will raise more and more political issues.

Margaret Cox highlighted a "paucity of STEM politicians is exacerbated by the trend of career politicians resulting in a very narrow expertise level in the House of Commons compared with the spread across professions 50 years ago."

Chris Yapp responded: "In the aftermath of the election the best place is to go to the Think Tanks, not the politicians. It is to them that the politicians will turn when they need ideas" 

Echoing this Theo Kuechel didn't think it was "realistic to expect (all) MPs, Ministers to necessarily to have STEM, qualifications or a background in edtech. What is essential, is that they listen to and take advice from the those that have expertise in these fields, and are prepared to develop policies that reflect and build on that expertise."
You can continue this discussion by sending your stories to MirandaLink. We will develop a report from your evidence for policy makers.

Future Prospects for Higher Education’.
NCUP delegates collage
Lord Inglewood recently addressed 60 guests at a NCUP luncheon in the Cholmondeley Room at the House of Lords. His subject was, ‘Future Prospects for Higher Education’.
He placed his address not simply within the future, but based his expectations upon a brief review of the history of higher education from the earliest ‘Socratic tradition’, which provided the groundwork for Western systems of logic and philosophy.

Following Lord Inglewood’s address, questions were taken from the guests.  The first concerned the payment of student fees, with the consequent risk of missing able students from poorer families, because of their fear of debt and the consequent likely loss of bright students from the national ‘Pool of Ability’.  Cicero (106 - 43 BC) was quoted in this context as one of the earliest known examples of an individual who was the first of his family to achieve Roman office.  

Lord Inglewood believes national achievements through higher education are still gaining momentum, particularly in research.   Further, within ‘Future Prospects’, the sheer number of graduates may increase but perhaps, more importantly, the quality, the need and purpose of the output of future students will become even more relevant to society.
In summary, Lord Inglewood saw the overall prospects for higher education in a positive and constructive way.  He saw consolidation and development through time of the many points that he had made.  In consequence, his audience felt indebted to him and left the lunch with a ‘feel good’ impression for the future of UK Universities.

We thanked Lord Inglewood for a most interesting and amusing presentation and for answering the varied questions with the greatest of aplomb.
Professor Terence Davis OBE
Vice President

Future EdTech conference - Open Learning
Last week at the Future EdTech conference in London I was invited onto a panel expressing views about open learning in higher education. I was drawing on MirandaNet Fellowship experiences of learning online since 1999 when we started working with Oracle on, a version of FaceBook for pupils in schools.

We’ve learnt a lot too from setting up Moodle environments for teachers in projects such as Elapa in South Africa and Bohdi in India. For designing the EU project, HandsOn ICT with five other countries, we started with the Moodle platform and finished with Canvas - the result was HandsOn a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) across Europe that is free to any students who want to learn how to use computers in classrooms. 

If you want to know more about what I said about open learning on the panel the detail is on the blog. I also asked Fellows John Cuthell and Chris Yapp for ideas. In addition, my fellow panellist, Professor Grainne Conole, who we are delighted to welcome to MirandaNet, has also written from her perspective here

ITTE Conference Hull
Jim Knight and Bob Harrison
The ITTE Conference was held at the University of Hull, on June 21st. The need for face to face teaching and learning despite the online offerings was stressed by Bob Harrison , our own edtech guru, in his ITTE keynote. You can download his slides here. Lord Jim Knight's entertaining talk called Defeating Dystopia was about the impact of increased life spans and social mobility  on the jobs that will be available in the future and the kind of skills we need to learn to be employable.
Christina Preston

Tackling radicalism and child sexual exploitation
An outstanding seminar was given by Jane Reeves, Professor of Teaching, Learning and Innovation in Child Protection,  University of Kent; at the Innovations in Education Conference. The Digital Classroom was compelling was the way in which the designers had developed scenarios in applications like Facebook so that the pupils and students went through the simulated process of being groomed in order to see how it was done and analyse the processes in groups. I thought this was a powerful tool to combat these cruel strategies.
Christina Preston
Teaching Machines

Skinners Learning Machine Collage
In keeping with this issue's theme of EdTech we feature  a collage of B F Skinner's famous teaching machine,

"Skinner advocated the use of teaching machines for a broad range of students (e.g., preschool aged to adult) and instructional purposes (e.g., reading and music). The instructional potential of the teaching machine stemmed from several factors: it provided automatic, immediate and regular reinforcement without the use of aversive control; the material presented was coherent, yet varied and novel; the pace of learning could be adjusted to suit the individual. As a result, students were interested, attentive, and learned efficiently by producing the desired behavior, "learning by doing" Wikipedia
For more  on Teaching Machines have a look at Audrey Watters Timeline of Teaching Machines.
Back to contents


Picademy group portrait

Picademy was some of the best CPD I have ever attended, with its emphasis on immersive learning through play, and on celebrating successes but accepting failures as learning opportunities too. It was fantastic to spend two days with a bunch of super-enthusiastic and imaginative people who are all passionate about computing, and I was reminded how exhilarating project-based learning can be. Along with the many new skills and new friends, the two days refreshed my ideas about what good learning looks and feels like. I am resolved to keep my computing sessions full of tinkering and teamwork.

Helen Caldwell
Raspberry pi logo
Raspberry Pi
Read more here, on the MirandaNet blog

India's school system is failing its pupils
An article in the Economist suggest that although more Indian children are attending school than ever before, they are not learning much. Reasons given include teacher absence, lack of teacher training in class management, low funding and rich parents opting out of state education. Thanks to Pratham Books, a publisher that may be of interest to Mirandanetters. 

Michael Palin donates 22 years' of notebooks to British Library
The Guardian reports that Michael Palin has  generously donated an archive of his notes and writings to the British Library. The 50 notebooks include the original ideas for  sketches and characters from Monty Python. They will be available for the public to view in the British Library reading rooms from spring 2018.

Fire Safety in Schools
In the wake of  the Grenfell Tower disaster, The Guardian reports that  the proposed controversial government proposals to relax fire safety standards for new school buildings are to be dropped.  One suspects they had little choice. 
Glastonbury Fayre
It's that time of year again. Directed by Nicolas Roeg and produced by David Puttnam; Glaston Bury fayre film captures the 2nd Glastonbury in 1971. Fun, frolics and idealism with the Likes of Melanie, Fairport Convention. Interesting to see how the festival has evolved into the worlds biggest music 

Geocoded Art
Geogoded Art screenshot

Geocoded Art is a nice online tool where you can search for a landscape painting by region, place or artist. The images are linked to live Google Map.
It's a good start but a lot more could be done. Whilst the images are in the Public Domain, they are small and there is no download option or link to a better source for the image. Hopefully the developer may take these points onboard at some point.

Atlas of Hillforts
Hillfort screenshot

The British Isles are dotted with a huge number hillforts, earthworks commonly sited on summits. Many of these date back to the first millennium B.C. and were established by Bronze and Iron Age Britons. The Atlas of Hillforts project lists over 4,000 of these structures that can be found all across Britain providing location and information as a zoomable interactive map.

Finally...coming soon?... to toyshop near you....
Talky Tina

Talky Tina - Wikimedia
Sophos Labs  alert us to a doll that can read kids’ emotions including  surprise and happiness. Fitted with a camera and an artificial intelligence (AI) chip. An ethical minefield, the doll is one of a host of devices equipped with computer vision described in a paper titled Eyes of Things from a team at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, in Ciudad Real, Spain. Perhaps Talky Tina was trying to tell us something all those years ago in 1963?
See the MirandaNet Calendar for forthcoming events.  If you are organising, or know of any events you think would be of interest to MirandaNet members please let us know.

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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