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José Picardo on how to get the best out of technology in teaching – PP105


José Picardo joined us this week to talk about technology in the classroom.

José is Assistant Principal at Surbiton High School which is an independent school for girls. He teaches Spanish and German but was originally in the logistics industry, deciding to become a teacher more than 15 years ago.

José is also in charge of Digital Strategy at Surbiton High despite not having a background in technology. He sees this as an advantage because he thinks that knowing what happens in the classroom is important rather than just coming from a technological point of view. The position became available when the school invested in mobile technology a few years ago.

How do you get the best out of technology?

Technology should be invisible. It should be something you expect to work. You don’t bring candles into your classroom in case the electricity doesn’t work.

José believes that technology should always be there in the background – it should be enabling and you shouldn’t have to plan your lessons to cope if the technology doesn’t work. His aim is to have technology available and reliable in his school so there has been a lot of investment in the wifi connection, projector-less Interactive Whiteboards and the quality of the internet connection.

On top of this, the school has also concentrated on improving teaching and learning more generally – with and without technology.

We haven’t bought tablets and expected magic to happen.

The school has done a lot of research into how tablets can enhance teaching and learning – the school trains its staff to be better teachers and introduces technology to, for example, help them give better feedback or help their students be better organised or collaborate better. It’s all about how technology can fit into the picture of what makes great teaching.

Technology in language teaching

Old-fashioned language labs were removed from Surbiton High several years ago. José says this typifies how technology in learning has changed. Teachers used to plan a lesson for the language lab and take their classes to the technology. Now, however, tablets ‘are’ the language lab so teachers just plan lessons and use the technology where it is useful.

Children can record themselves, do peer assessment, visit language websites and do a wide variety of other activities with the tablets without leaving their classroom. The focus is on the learning, not on the technology.

José stresses that the technology is never used for random web access, social media or any of the other activities detractors claim will distract and disrupt lessons. If there is any use for ‘off-topic’ activity it is managed by teachers just like any other behaviour problem. For him and his school it’s not a big deal.

Where’s the evidence?

José acknowledges that there is little evidence to say that technology has a big impact on learning. However, he points out that a lot of the studies which show no or very little impact were carried out on an outmoded model. Computers in these studies were often used to take the place of teachers, for example to teach a skill away from the classroom. José would rather look at how technology improves:

  • Giving feedback
  • Self-organisation
  • Collaboration

Bring your own device…or not?

José says that BYOD brings its own set of advantages and disadvantages. When a school gives devices to children they will be chosen deliberately to run the applications invested in by the school. They are monitored and managed by the school.

If you integrate BYOD into this situation, there is a mixed economy where different devices are in use by different students. This means there is inconsistency so a particular activity might not work on some devices. Detailed in one of his books, José found that, where each student has a device (1-1), the use of the technology tends to be reduced to the lowest common denominator – for example low level internet research. There is very little of the transactional workflow that is seen when everyone is using the same device – including teachers.

So it’s a lot easier to all have the same type of device but José thinks there is still a place for BYOD – and in same cases it may be unavoidable.

José also covers flawed/false dichotomies in education, girls/boys using technology and marking! Do listen right to the end of the episode!

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