BectaX – Liveblogging

I’m here at BectaX and we’re underway, and I’ll be taking notes during the day.  Perhaps it won’t be my usual minute-by-minute liveblogging, but I want to capture a lot of the ideas being discussed.  There’s no power in the auditorium so my opportunity to keep up with this is going to be limited.  But I’ll do what I can.

10:00am Tony Richardson is talking about the background of the event and the opportunities for developing technologies for improving education in the UK.

10:15am Katz Kiely takes to the stage to talk about Just-b and the need for the kinds of events that run in order to collaborate effectively on deployment of technologies with the operations and content – an ecosystem of entrepreneurs, artists, technologists and organisations.

Katz notes that the #BectaX event has had some unique challenges in getting operational, partly perhaps because of the unique differences between the priorities of the digital community, policy developers and educationalists.  Katz asked hundreds of people who to bring along to #Bectax in order to share ideas and to come up with pragmatic solutions.

Katz goes through the panel formats and notes most of the discussions will be driven by online – so if there are questions and ideas that need to be asked, then please tweet these with the #bectax hashtag.

After panels we’ll be doing speed networking and workshops. (I’m running an industry workshop this afternoon.)  Schools are also participating today.  Bizarrely one of the 14 schools that was going to be involved can’t do so because they’ve been snowed out in Scotland, but we have a lucky 13 schools left.

Cool.  The kids are up on screen and waving madly from the schools that are using games and social media technologies as part of their learning experiences.

10:25am Sonia Livingstone is now up as the one and only keynote of the day.  She wants to deliver some cautionary tales in the use of technology in delivery of education.  She notes there is a difference between digital children and children growing up in a digital world.

Livingstone says that there’s a danger in some of the hype around digital batives.  In her interviews if children in schools and homes, in their use of digital technologies, she notes that children are aware that being digitally native doesn’t means they have understanding of the content they are engaging with.  There is still a need to develop the skills for critical analysis and to judge what is authentic and reliable information from the digital stream.  Children are expressing disillusion about the use of technologies in learning.

Livingstone says as they struggle with technologies they still have to work out how to use technologies effectively.  Many children are reverting to big media brands (eg: BBC) and there is not the implicit joy in technology that many advocates have assumed.  There are also difficulties in ensuring that all students are getting sufficient feedback from games and technology-mediated learning experiences to allow them to enjoy and benefit from use of the media.

Livingstone also recounts tales where the people around a child as well as accidental misuse of the technologies themselves can both complicate and reduce the opportunities for accessing learning content.

[JJ’s comment: A question arises – are these frustrated efforts of use of technologies teaching something anyway?  Are these experiences equally life skills?]

Livingstone asks if we are exacerbating learning through introducing poor technologically mediated learning experiences.  She notes that we should be thinking about  what it is that digital learning should be for.  But just as Livingstone is worrying about the need for greater digital literacies, policy is moving more towards digital participation.  She asks: digital participation in what, and for what purpose?

Livingstone notes that the rhetoric of participation is problematic; that children in fact doubt the legitimacy of teachers’ and policy-makers’ capacity to listen to young people or indeed respond to their suggestions.

[JJ’s comment: this is crucial: if the curriculum fails to be flexible enough to be either dramatically reformed or dumped then there is no way whatsoever that a more collaborative experience in education reform can be realised.  Further, if teachers are stuck in school every day and don’t see anything of industrial contexts and even contribute to events such as these, then surely the whole process is a charade?]

10:45 Livingstone has completed and we’re moving on to partnerships and platforms and Ewan McIntosh brings his fellow panellists – Katie Bell, Annette France, and Adrian Hon are looking at questions on platforms.

[JJ: I’m going to have to find a powerpoint to continue.]

[JJ: Found one.  Am up the back and listening from the top.]

The panellists are speaking about the sense associated with red light regulation (filters and rules on tech use) when kids have the internet in their pockets anyway.  Hon says that there are difficulties in development of educationally productive games because there will always be a need for commercial gaming developers to make profit from gaming.

[JJ’s comment: How is this different? Anyone who has ever published a text book will tell you that guaranteed sales for publications through working with the curriculum is massively profitable.]

Ewan says that teaching people to use technologies safely might become a new life skill like teaching people to swim.  Head teacher says that there is a need, but there is a need to focus on content and be aware that as time passes this is something learned both in and out of the school. Teachers need more training.

Students are talking about their use of Moodle and Google docs for their learning experiences and conducting their learning ‘in the cloud’.

[JJ’s comment: Moodle – AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE!  But is this cloud-based learning or just assignment management?]

Kids also saying “Stop blocking our website access!” What’s the point of having access to one of the greatest spaces for knowledge access and participation if in the name of censorship of undesirable content, a swathe of useful information is also blocked?

Westfield kids are making a distinction between Facebook and twitter, saying that ‘Facebook is more social’.  Ewan also notes that there is a change in the way in which students are concealing (or not concealing) their consumption of entertaining content.  This seems to be a concern over the ‘legitimacy’ of specific channels.

[JJ’s comment: I’m extremely disturbed by what’s happening online here with teachers saying publicly in the twitter stream that they want to prevent kids from talking to their mates.  What kind of teacher thinks that producing a vacuum for content is actually useful?]

The panel discusses the problems with use of tools such as wikipedia that are ‘unreliable’ sources.  The point is made that content in libraries are out of date.

We’re coming up to question time here in the panel session.  There’s been a lively debate on both twitter and in the chat room for #BectaX, so we’re resorting to old fashioned comments from the audience.  Ewan starts by setting the challenge of engaging parents in the learning process.

[JJ’s comment: how about engaging parents in location based games and getting the family to work together in a treasure hunt as part of the learning experience.  Parents should be able to have some kind of leave from work in order to participate in these collaborative experiences.]

Ewan notes that it’s not just FB, twitter and YouTube – lots of other tools out there.  There’s lots of talk about the opportunities, but noting that there are more opportunities that capacity to deliver things effectively.

[JJ’s comment: We’re getting close to the speend-networking and the break now, so I’m going to sign off for the moment and return in the next session in the afternoon to continue the discussions!]

We’re back at the Bridging the Gap panel session with Josie Fraser, Tom Barratt, Mark Sutton, and Ray Maguire.  Josie notes she wants to be addressing the issues of how industry can best work with the education to deliver effective learning experiences.  Need also to work out how to make the most of what is going on as a means of enhancing traditional learning in this session.

Mark sayst there has been a lost opportunity to use mobiles in learning.  So much of a focus on problematic use of the technologies that we’ve lost the opportunity for thinking about ways we can make content compelling.

Ray notes that Sony starts with the consumer and thinking about how to make the experience compelling rather than delivery of specific content.  Thus the PSP – a very expensive produce to design – is focused on the end experience.  If you want to focus on the education then the content need sot be improved and the teachers need better training in the technologies themselves.

Ray says there needs to be a structure where products can be placed online.  Teachers need to be able to share best practice and tools. Also need to look where the content comes from and stop worrying about blocking content and instead enable means of sorting good content from poor content.  Commercial spaces need to be established to ensure value for commercial developers.

Tom Barratt says we need to encourage online spaces to get teachers to understand how best to use tools in a fit-for-purpose fashion.

[JJ’s comment: isn’t the problem that the best teachers are sharing their ideas via TeachMeet but the teachers who most need to access this aren’t turning up to those spaces and events?]

Ray Maguire is doubtful whether mobiles are in fact the best devices for engaging.  His feeling is that consoles and netbooks are more effective utilities.

[JJ’s comment: there’s some hilarity in the seats in front as teachers express outrage at the Sony guy promoting his own device.]

Mark says truth is that more students have access to phones than consoles and netbooks.  Ray responds saying people will look after the tech they have and be able to use the infrastructure that’s in the devices.

Tom doesn’t think it’s about the devices but about whatever tool that is useful for a specific task.  Joise asks how staff can best support learners for the use of a variety of tools.  Tom says teachers need to face their fears about technologies and develop ways and means of distilling the information that is available on best practice in education delivery, and to actively engage in that teaching development.

Mark says access needs to be so easy that it is intuitive.  Barriers to participation need to be overcome.

[JJ’s comment: there’s a tirade coming from the children watching this panel – they feel they are not being included.  Ironic, really.]

Tom responds to my question about the need for teacher training, saying that training is needed and it’s not about waiting around for a tech platform provider to create compelling content, but about appropriation of new technologies for educational goals.


14:20 Ewan is back and is going through the afternoon’s activities – the quickfire sessions followed by the workshops later this afternoon.

John Newbiggin is summarising the issues arising from this morning, and he’s using the questions from students to feedback to students.  First question is with mobioles in learning.  Feedback is that mobiles aren’t phones – just comms devices and handheld computers.  Also can use location-based games for mobile.

Student asked that more lessons should be using tech rather than just IT.  General agreement.  Should be using available technologies.

Some students and teachers worried about use of keyboards and loss of handwriting skills.

[JJ’s comment: you have GOT to be kidding me.  Where in any industry does ANYONE write by hand????]

Now on to quick fire sessions…..

Andrew Davis is talking about how sites like Facebook can be used in curriculum.  He wanted to improve course results using social media.  They looked at how these tools could be used to assess, listen and inspire creativity.  Did massively improve results in English and school adopted as part of the improvement plan.

[JJ’s comment: Davis is talking about the approach he has used, but he doesn’t actually tell us what he did.]

Davis identifies 6 areas that the course covered, from blogging to bookmarking to platforms, etc.  Apparently he used 4 classes in 4 weeks to cover these 6 topics.

[JJ’s comment: Maybe they were just skills in using the tools?]

Next is Vicki Brophy from Wonky, who is talking about a new type of experience using a mobile phone.  She goes through the use of the iPAQ travel companion as a means of teaching environmentalism and uses GPS more effective.  People want content and communication.

[JJ’s comment – nice fly-thru from Vicki]

Next is  Tom O’Leary from UK Parliament.  He is speaking about the MP for a week game as well as other initiatives.  He notes that the work he is doing is to inspire engagement both in voting and active citizenship.

[JJ’s comment: nice little tasks and output of the game. Although it’s getting some flack from the students… interesting]

Stewart Townsend is up talking about The Alternative School.  The idea is to empower and inspire.  Seems to be using Maslow’s hierarchy as a means of creating and shaping curriculum.

[JJ’s comment: should I mention that Maslow’s hierarchy has been debunked?]

Nicola McNee is up talking about storytelling.  Sje notes that the amazing things that inspire creativity and social learning are happening outside of school rather than inside school.  McNee has curated a series of existing resources for students to inspire collaborative learning.

[JJ’s comment: Nicola this is FANTASTIC!]

McNee goes on to talk about the barriers to adoption of technologies and content.  Despite the barriers they get the idea and have responded very well and intend to continue to use them.

Radiowaves guy, Cliff Manning is up now,  talking about the use of 21st century learning skills for supporting learning.  The radiowaves technology looks a bit like facebook but is designed to assist in developing podcasting and video content.  They celebrate the best work of students and teachers to showcase how communities are coming together.  The advantage is that it’s not just about music or IT but is using the technologies to cover any topic.

[JJ’s comment – nice tech.]

Anna is up, talking about the work she is doing with Fairfield High School and Watershed Foundation.  She has a day a week with Watershed and this gives her a chance to understand industry perceptions of young people as well as more deeply integrate opportunities from partnerships beyond the classroom.

[JJ’s comment: this is great – nice to see a school supporting this kind of development of transferable skills]

Anna notes that there are challenges but the advantages of placement massively improves the quality and popularity of the media programme thanks to the opportunities she is offering students.

Okay we’re heading on to workshops now soI need to shut down.  Thanks for joining me and I’ll sum up the workshops this evening!

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