Mimanifesto – Jaye’s weblog

Posts Tagged ‘creative subversion

Its very often the case in education that we stumble across things by accident. And as educators, we often get to thinking – “hey, I could use that with my classes”. It’s very often not the way the thing we stumble across was meant to be used, but you know, actually, it could work with students in an education setting if we get creative with our thinking.  I guess this is a kind of  creative subversion (a term first used by Debra Myler back in the dim and distant last decade) and if we look at the Windows 8 tiles, a couple of examples jumped out at me recently. I’m sure I’m not the first to have thought about these, so I apologise in advance if I’m about to steal someone’s thunder.

The first is the Bing Health and Fitness tile. If you swipe through this, loads of teaching and learning opportunities jump out at you. bing health1There are the workouts for different times and places. Great for PE, obviously, but also for the life sciences as well. I mean why would you have a different work out when you are in a hotel to  the one you might use at your desk or even in bed? There are some fab fitness workout and individual exercise video clips too. Then consider the opportunities for cross curricular project work; the exercise, health and diet tracking tools are a really cool way to engage youngsters with really important health and well-being life skills.There’s shed-loads of useful info about healthy foods, additives and nutrition as well.

Continue swiping and you come to a section

bing health 3which allows you to explore every part of the human body in 3D,and in incredible detail (some schools and colleges pay big bucks for software which does this – but this app comes free with Windows 8 …  happy days! ) as well as pretty detailed information on some common diseases and medical conditions.

The second example is the Bing Travel tile. Swiping through this opens up the world right in front of your students without having to leave the classroom! Not only do you get a huge list of destinations, but  wonderful 360 degree ‘panoramas’ of the chosen location to explore.

bing travel1 For each destination, you get loads of useful information including up to the minute weather reports, historical information, useful guides and even currency exchange rates. used in conjunction with Bing maps, this is surely a fantastic free resource for schools? Have your class plan trips around the world, compiling their itineraries in One Note workbooks and with more detailed research about each stop on the way like local flora and fauna, customs and traditions, national dress and foods. Plot the changing weather conditions on an Excel spreadsheet and graph the data, working out averages, means and other statistical measures like distance travelled and flight times. What about the cost of the trip,and currency conversion calculations? Get them working on group presentations as slideshows or even movies with narration and soundtracks relevant to each stop along the way. bing travel 2

I’m pretty sure there are loads more things that could be done with each tile. And I’m pretty sure the developers had more than a sneaking suspicion that their apps would find their respective places in the classroom.

Creative subversion is a term I’ve liked to use for many years to describe what we do as teachers and educators every day. Here it is with with Microsoft Windows 8 in action! And how many other ways might there be? I’m off now to carry on exploring….

(Images are, of course, from Microsoft’s Bing apps )

This is a long post – you have been warned !!

Having been using GLOW in some form or other for over a year now and for seven months in teaching and learning with my classes I felt that it was time to reflect a little on where we might be going with it, and perhaps more importantly, the form this direction might or should take.

Since January, I’ve been doing some work under the ‘sponsorship’ of the GTCS teacher researcher programme. Using the title of ‘Will the lights stay on?-embedding ICT into secondary school subject curricula’  I have been researching the recent history of ICT-initiatives such as GLOW in schools and the reasons behind the general failure of these initiatives to produce the transformative effect on teaching and learning expected by educational policy-makers and governments. It is certainly a controversial subject, but fascinating and depressing at the same time particularly when examining the plethora of literature wearing the ‘hats’ of both a classroom teacher and a researcher. Perhaps one of the main barriers to the more widespread adoption of ICT into teaching and learning, according to teachers anyway, is the that there is not enough time scheduled or planned for them to really get to grips with using which ever particular system or platform is being introduced, and that training is rushed and too technology focused rather than on pedagogy. There are of course many other factors to consider in winning the hearts and minds of teachers and getting them to engage with ICT and in this case, with GLOW.

This opens up a wider debate on just how to do this. Is the fact that well-planned use of ICT will raise attainment  enough to convince teachers? or does it come down to having the investment in time and in the training? We now have GLOW mentors in most schools who have been trained on how to use GLOW itself, but are they being trained in how to use GLOW to enhance teaching and learning in the classroom. In other words, is their training technologically or pedagogically focused? because whatever it is will trickle down through a school as the mentors do their work with staff. Now that the mentors have been trained would each local authority, rather than having expensive central GLOW teams be better off investing the cost of these teams in paying for time in individual schools to work on how they want GLOW to be used in their particular and sometimes unique circumstances. Andrew Brown has blogged recently about this choice over the direction in which GLOW evolves in schools and nationally. Here is a link to his post on this.. 


Do we really need centrally-produced GLOW pages where the text sings and dances it’s way across the page in twenty different colours and languages? Will the corporate banner headings and specialised design features really persuade more teachers of the benefits of using GLOW? Or will it be the quality of the materials and debate within different GLOW groups which makes them indispensable teaching and learning tools in the classroom and beyond for pupils and teachers? Will the possibility of top-down management structures being imposed by local authority GLOW teams be a disincentive to teachers with vision, drive and a willingness to make GLOW and ICT work for their pupils in their schools and classrooms? I’m certainly on record as having warned against this particular developmental pathway, and indeed, my authority GLOW team used my thoughts on top-down management of GLOW as a quote in their presentation at the recent SLC curriculum conference for head-teachers. My experiences and observations during a recent study visit to Finland convinced me that this centralised control is unhealthy and unnecessary.

Is it now time to allow GLOW to develop organically, and in different directions according to an individual school’s particular identified needs and for schools to ask for help from other schools using GLOW effectively in their classrooms without the heavy hand of centralised control acting as ‘big brother’ on this exchange of ideas ? Is an army of ‘development officers’ in each authority across the country servicing a need or could it actually become an unnecessary drain on resources which could be better used by individual schools to develop their own GLOW direction and buy in their own training from outwith their own authority where they choose to…?   Real creative subversion (a term of which I am very, very fond) in action…but real leadership  with a vision for outcomes is needed in every individual school if this approach is to succeed

The answers to these questions will probably evolve as the months go by, particularly in the ‘early-adopter’ authorities who by now have much useful experience in setting up and using GLOW. My own research (or at least the 1st phase of it) will be published shortly and the project is continuing through to June 2009 to allow me to collect longer-term data on pupil attainment to standard grade through using GLOW/ICT. I will be presenting my findings so far at a national conference in the autumn later this year, showing how I have measured significant attainment gains achieved by pupils using GLOW. But will raising attainment alone be enough to drive forward wider use of GLOW/ICT ? Probably not. I suspect that this task will be a long drawn out affair indeed. But I for one am convinced that if we stick with it, if we keep the faith, GLOW will change the face of Scottish education irreversibly, and for the better.

April 2014
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