Wading through custard (motivating lazy teens at A level)

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons CC. Nevit see information here.

I have a good size post-16 Photography group this year of 16 students, a good gender balance with some highly motivated individuals. Unfortunately, I also have an unmotivated procrastinator in there who has approached the exam preparation with all the enthusiasm of wading through custard. This reflective blog post is about my efforts to  motivate him; what I have tried and what has and hasn’t worked so far.

What is In It For Me?

Extrinsic motivation is about outside demands; authoritarian processes and threats to involve year managers, parents and even heads of Post 16 all reinforce the only extrinsic goal and that is to achieve a decent AS grade (we do non-linear A levels so students have to sit an Advanced Subsidiary qualification in the first year). Intrinsic motivation is about personal satisfaction; why choose Photography (or any other A level)? There must have been an end goal in the mind of the student when he did his option sheet.

For this individual I think the intrinsic goal was ‘unfinished business’. He opted to do a short course in Photography at High School but then was taken out to do extra maths to ensure his pass grade in that subject. This is the cultural capital element; where he wanted to show his peers that he was equally adept at technology. Second, when he started he expressed an interest in Photoshop and knew it would feature in the course. He didn’t expect it to be difficult though. Third, romantic interest – a girl in the group who he started dating in the holidays before joining sixth form. Do you separate them? They gravitate back together or worse sulk like lovestruck puppies.

Well, he seemed glad to be there at the start and although not a model student he was keen to fulfil requirements, deadlines and even stay after hours to practice with cameras and have a bit more tutorial in Photoshop. The girlfriend stayed too, so everybody happy? Interest in Photoshop wained as the simple tutorials were developed into more sophisticated ones. I tried to put him on to DVD-based work throughs from magazines like Photoshop Creative but after a few weeks got a response along the lines of “I’ll do it on my afternoon frees” and “I’m going studying around at girlfriend‘s house where I can concentrate (sic)”. Yeah, right. Where next?

Josh Shipp (a youth empowerment expert and teen whisperer) says:

You have to do what you have to do so you can do what you want to do.”

This is a helpful in this scenario because it is true in many areas of life. Sometimes we do boring and onerous tasks for no other reason than it needs to be done. Helping stubborn teenagers see meaningless tasks as part of life’s greater goals is a valuable message to pass on.

Let Them Learn From Failure

As the first term came to an end, I had tried to enthuse and inspire mainly through humour but also regular reminders about opportunities open to him to study more. Of the six mini-projects I had set, the first four were done quite well but I could tell they were slackening off in effort, quality and quantity. Incidentally, these photography tasks were based on genres within the subject; portraits, editorial, landscapes, moving images, commercial and documentary/street themes. I had designed them to appeal to individual taste so I knew that some might just bomb out. What I didn’t expect was that with this particular student his interest would decline chronologically. So I let him fail… I set a deadline and expected him to keep to it – nothing wrong in that. I could have tried some different interventions before the deadline and maybe that would’ve been a more sensible option. Instead, I gave him a mark and feedback for his last two assignments that reflected his lack of effort and poor attainment.

This is where the extrinsic motivators move back in due to centre tracking of student performance. Heads of centre, year managers and then parents were informed and my poorly motivated student limped back to class with his proverbial tail between his legs and a thousand apologies for ‘letting me down’. Of course, I said he hadn’t let me down only himself in terms of motivation and things had better change next term. Six weeks later, this change in behaviour I can see was short term to keep ‘the man’ off his back and he is back to his old ways. I won’t be letting him fail without a fight again though. It just didn’t work as a motivator.

Make It Achievable

Some tasks can’t be linked to a larger outcome in a way that motivates a procrastinator. For someone who lacks confidence and/or natural ability, the motivation to do better in certain subjects can be very hard to find. Like a lovelorn puppy, my student goes through the motions on the easy tasks and avoids those that don’t motivate him, choosing instead to stare across the art studio at the ‘love of his life’. (Is wishing she would dump him bad? The girlfriend is doing well, has developed more fluent skill and trying to the best of her ability. What would the effect be on him though?).

So I created a timeline with suggested activities and deadlines, including assessment points so the students could see what should be done as a minimum. By breaking down (chunking) into smaller tasks they seem less overpowering and a bit more achievable within the timeframe. I thought that maybe he struggled with self-organisation and his some of his peers didn’t and this was a demotivating factor? I have considered incentives within the timescale too; meet the deadline, stay for an after hours studio session and choose from tub of sweets… the ‘star chart’ was rejected as too childish by the group and I got less staying behind than before. Not motivated by sweeties then. I have done the postcards home incentives but my target student isn’t bothered by that either. I intend to give him the responsibility of coming up with an incentive, something that would encourage the competitive but not discourage anyone else.

Mentors

Apart from the systematic take down our academic tracking provides for the under-performer, there are quite a few responsible adults involved. Initially, the class teacher, the register/tutorial group leader, a year manager, finally a head of centre. Not to mention peers and parents. I am six weeks in to this term and now need to utilise the valuable agents of change to mentor my target student. Perhaps by sharing the cheerleading/coaching duties with others he might get to eat the elephant¹ instead of reacting like the boiled frog². I will update progress in six weeks and review which aspects may have worked.

 


Stupid Fables referenced above

¹How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time… via Beth Buelow

²How do you boil a frog? In very slow increments… via Forbes

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Developing Photography students

This post is a reflection on how recent technology has seemed to have impacted on photography students at key stage 4 or Post-16. My thoughts centre on ease-of-use, quality and ‘quick fix’ or shortcuts.

My photography teaching started in the mid-1990s; these were pre-consumer digital camera days so it was essential to have a darkroom and chemicals and rely on a bit of hit-and-miss in terms of quality. I had a GNVQ Intermediate group (level 2 GCSE equivalent) who were largely left unsupervised in the classroom as I disappeared into the cupboard (converted darkroom) with three others of the class. This would be a safeguarding issue today but much more shocking derelictions of duty took place in those days. Without a technician, every step had to be watched, managed and dealt with; fainting kids (hot in there in Summer), smelly chemicals and dripping papers… My point is, this was a kind of alchemy, a complete mystery to all but a few who may have read the book in the library. With the time allowed and cost of materials, the students could only hope to produce something… something for portfolio to evidence they had a go until they made it to college and could explore further.

Casio digital camera 1995
Casio QV-10

Next stage, late 1990s, was the first affordable Casio and Kodak digital cameras. Our first one was a Casio QV10 from Dixons with a tiny 1.8″ screen and I think a 1/4 megapixel sensor. It saved to internal memory and cost an arm and a leg but revolutionised the idea of quick capture for developing art work. Not a truly photographic tool, unless you compared it to a pinhole camera.

My next step was to focus on Photoshop. Any crappy image could be post-produced and our usual ragtag of inept camera output could be cropped, liquified and gaussian-blurred without exception. I didn’t know anyone who owned a DSLR at this stage.

Nikon DSLR
Nikon D40

Around the mid-2000s a slew of 6mp DSLRs became very affordable for a select group of Post-16 students. The impact was incredible; these were the first quality to compare with analogue means of production. The interface was simple, meaningful settings (compared with SLR) and no reliance on pre-built in filters and ‘features’ (yack). At last, we could viably run a digital darkroom! My school at the time got so excited they bought green gloss paint for the skirting boards and matching green plastic chairs! Classroom of the future or what?! With Post-16 funding being what it was at the time, my class of 22 students enabled me to buy 15 Nikon D40 kits.

iPhone 8 screen
iPhone 8 Studio lighting mode

In the last few years the technology has been miniaturised to fit in smartphones and tablets/iPads. Without the controls, settings and understanding but with an incredible ease-of-use. There are apps that simulate SLR use (VSCO or Manual for instance) but there isn’t the thrill of getting it wrong like on a real camera. The point here is, they are easy to use and have great quality output and with apps like Snapseed, superb end-user quick fixes that you don’t need Photoshop for. But because they skim the surface of the subject, the user has no real understanding of either the technical reasons or the aesthetics of their photography. You see it all the time on Instagram – ‘pretty’ snaps, devoid of cognitive depth. Otherwise there is a proliferation of shitpics. I am not just being snobby about it here! I have recently had students say they prefer to use their phones for assignments as they are more reliable than a DSLR camera. Why take the risk of it not going to plan? This is emphatically the case for portrait mode on iPhone 7+ and on the latest models (iPhone 8 and X), portrait lighting mode (currently Beta). We seem to have gone back a leap in photography terms. I am not dissing the photographic quality; just the usefulness – the phone camera is merely a quick capture tool in the hands of the students albeit with exceptional results. The photographic process is not being explored or learned and the photographer reduced to an idiot-savant¹.


¹ Defintion at http://www.dictionary.com/browse/idiot-savant.

A month of plastic-lite living

In June the Marine Conservation Society encouraged us to take up a “plastic challenge”, asking us to give up single-use plastic for a day, a week or even the whole month. See their website here. This blog post explores the challenge a little further with some solutions to the issues that arose.

My family and I attempted the plastic challenge for the whole month buying only packaged goods in HDPE, PP or some PET plastic that my local curb-side recycling will take! Our five supermarket shops during the month took place at different stores and we pledged not to buy rather than compromise from the very start. The rationale is that consumers can insist on packaging that is widely recycled, then big corporations can be forced to adapt to our (and our planet’s) needs. In addition, in preparation is the end of May, we replaced our plastic shopping bags with jute (natural materials) and our own paper grocery bags for loose items.

Why cut down on plastic?

Plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats facing our oceans. Up to 12 million tonnes of plastic is entering the oceans every year. This is affecting sea life – one in 3 turtles and 90% of seabirds are now estimated to have ingested plastic. Plastic is even ending up in the seafood on your plates. Coca-Cola produces an estimated 100 billion throwaway plastic bottles every year – and billions of these will end up on beaches, in landfill and in the sea. Send Coca-Cola’s CEO an email here.

A single plastic bottle takes hundreds of years to break down in the ocean, which is dangerous to wildlife. It could be swallowed by a whale or a shark, while its bottle top might be picked up by a seabird who then feeds it to its young. If it’s not swallowed whole, the bottle will break into smaller and smaller pieces, which can then can be ingested by creatures ranging from zooplankton to whales, which mistake it for food. Slowly but surely it will turn the ocean into a kind of toxic plastic soup. — Greenpeace Connect, Summer 2017

#plasticchallenge

The five supermarkets we went to during June were: Asda, Lidl, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s. All are guilty of over-packaging; presumably for the convenience of warehouse storage prior to shelf display. We bought loose vegetables and placed into our own paper grocery bags; every time we went to checkout we got quizzical looks but we were keen to explain the plastic challenge and every time we were commended by the staff who said they would pass on to managers and what a great idea. Any processed, packaged food was scrutinised for the materials logo:

recycle-logos-1So we felt that by getting some items (ready-meal curries for example) in a PP tray would be ok as the curb-side collection take this plastic. As we soon found, on collection day all of the PP plastic was left behind in our front garden (even stuff previously taken).

Although this was a bit of a set-back, it was an even more tricky shop when trying to avoid food items we would normally buy not available in a recyclable form. Such as Alpro yoghurts. Tweeting about it directly to Alpro was very satisfying:

Alpro were very positive, they may even have something in development for June 2018! We did have trouble finding toilet rolls in paper packaging, all the supermarkets we went to use a plastic film that is not recyclable. We even had a look at other supermarkets in the area in case they had something; Tesco, Aldi and the Co-op. Nothing. This was our first compromise; day 12 of the challenge and we had little choice as we were totally out of supplies!

This was a great response on Twitter:

So we will certainly be prepared next June! We found Morrisons the best for frozen food packaging (cardboard boxes rather than sleeves with plastic/film lid inside). Lidl was the only one to supply brown paper grocery bags for bread (even though plastic supplied for loose veggies). Only the Co-op sell recycled toilet paper; and this is in a plastic package. This is shocking. All of the supermarkets need to be a bit more plastic-conscious; people always agree and usually have a positive comment about the habitat of wildlife so it is really should be  a case of ‘the customer is always right’. If a supermarket wants to be the first to put environment as priority they need to take adapt Greenpeace’s solutions for plastic packaging:

  1. Prioritise reusable packaging and develop systems based on reuse
  2. Make sure packaging is 100 percent recycled, as well as recyclable or compostable
  3. Share information about the plastic they use, reuse and recycle, so progress can be measured
  4. Support bottle deposit return schemes, where a small deposit is added to the cost of packaged drinks, which can be reclaimed when the container is returned.

Further: Get involved

Try the #plasticchallenge next June and support the Marine Conservation Society’s efforts – information here.

Greenpeace is leading the way in a campaigning against plastic waste; targeting one of the worst global offenders: Coca-cola. Sign their petition to affect change at Coke here or donate for their plastic appeal here.

Advice from EatDrinkBetter on reducing food packaging here (image at top credited to this website).


 

Modern life is rubbish* – Part 5: Plastic

*Post title stolen from Blur album of same name equally stolen from stencilled graffiti painted along Bayswater Road in London, created by an anarchist group¹.

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Plastic debris is strewn across the beach on Henderson Island, an uninhabited atoll in the Pacific. Photograph: Jennifer Lavers/AP via The Guardian

What a chuffin’ mess. The wonders of plastic have changed our lives, but what has been the environmental impact? How much is buried in landfill, floats out to sea or is unintentionally consumed? What can we do?

I hope The Guardian don’t mind me reproducing the above photo especially as I will include links to their articles on Henderson Island, a tiny landmass in the eastern South Pacific. It has become one of the world’s most polluted places despite being one of the remotest.  Marine scientists have discovered the highest density of anthropogenic debris recorded anywhere in the world, with 99.8% of the pollution plastic.² The follow-up article featuring the McCreadie family’s response and subsequent attempt to cut out plastics³ for a one week period has elicited this post about modern life and what action we could take.

In June the Marine Conservation Society will launch its “plastic challenge”, asking us to give up single-use plastic for a day, a week or even the whole month. See their website here. I am going to attempt the plastic challenge for the whole month and encourage you to try the same! If consumers can insist on packaging that is widely recycled, then big corporations can be forced to adapt to our (and our planet’s) needs.

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 16.00.33

Helping you make a choice in plastic packaging

One of the things I didn’t realise was the actual component materials that plastic packaging comes in. I use our local curb-side scheme, filling a large green tub every fortnight. However, some of these plastics aren’t recycled locally and should have gone to  a recycling centre. They may even end up in landfill despite having been placed in the green tub! During June, I will avoid single use plastic altogether. Here is a handy guide:

recycle-logos-1 1. PET or PETE (Polyethylene terephthalate) is single use plastic used for pop and water bottles. Can be recycled into fleece textiles but not refilled as harmful chemicals leach from the material and could be carcinogenic. AVOID.

2. HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) is thicker, more durable plastic used for toys, benches and weather resistant products. Can be recycled.

3. V (Polyvinyl Chloride) aka PVC is dubbed the “poison plastic” because it contains numerous toxins which it can leach throughout its entire life cycle. Almost all products using PVC require virgin material for their construction; less than 1% of PVC material is recycled. AVOID.

4. LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) is a non-rigid plastic used for shopping bags, detergent bottles and some clothes. Not widely recycled so best to AVOID.

5. PP (Polypropylene) is widely used for yoghurt pots, bottle lids, crisp packets, margarine and butter tubs. This is widely recycled in the UK. Can be recycled.

6. PS (Polystyrene) is an inexpensive, lightweight and easily-formed plastic with a wide variety of uses. It is most often used to make disposable styrofoam drinking cups, take-out “clamshell” food containers, egg cartons, plastic picnic cutlery, foam packaging and those ubiquitous “peanut” foam chips used to fill shipping boxes to protect the contents. Polystyrene may leach styrene, a possible human carcinogen, into food products (especially when heated in a microwave). Chemicals present in polystyrene have been linked with human health and reproductive system dysfunction. AVOID.

7. Other (BPA, Polycarbonate and LEXAN) is used to make baby bottles, cups, water cooler bottles and car parts. Compostable plastics, made from bio-based polymers like corn starch, are being developed to replace polycarbonates and will say Compostable or PLA on the base next to the No. 7 logo. These are ok, otherwise AVOID.

How to shop without single-use plastic

The Marine Conservation Society can be provide a starter pack for members including jute shopping bags, cotton bags etc via their online shop. The plastic challenge is not about being completely plastic-free but avoiding wherever possible. I have replaced plastic bags with these from the UNICEF site as the money for each bag goes toward 4 polio vaccines. All loose vegetables will be placed in paper grocery bags from Amazon rather than the pre-packed plastic ones in store.

I am sure I will discover just how reliant we are on plastics during my plastic-lite month and will tweet about it with the hashtag #plasticchallenge. I expect each shopping trip to have it’s own challenges and discoveries! Perhaps you would be willing to do a day, week or whole month too?

Further: Do more

Plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats facing our oceans. Up to 12 million tonnes of plastic is entering the oceans every year. This is affecting sea life – one in 3 turtles and 90% of seabirds are now estimated to have ingested plastic. Plastic is even ending up in the seafood on your plates. Coca-Cola produces an estimated 100 billion throwaway plastic bottles every year – and billions of these will end up on beaches, in landfill and in the sea. Send Coca-Cola’s CEO an email here.

 


¹http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Life_Is_Rubbish

²38Million pieces of plastic found on uninhabited island, The Guardian 15th May 2017

³Could you cut out plastic from your weekly shop?, The Guardian 27th May 2017

 

About craftsmanship

In a recent blogpost I discussed aspects of using technology that do not require elements of craftsmanship. I think this idea is worth further thinking.

In the first instance I want to define my terms; craftsmanship (along with workmanship) is, I think, gender neutral despite having the ‘man’ in it. It refers to the artisan skills of mankind as a whole and besides craftspersonship is too mealy-mouthed. Artisanship also doesn’t encompass the element of labour contained within the craft. Craftsmanship is an attribute relating to the knowledge, skill and performance of a task. The type of work may include the creation of handicrafts, dramatic/dance/musical performance, art, cooking, writing, using tools and machinery and other products in which quality is imparted into a product.

Historically we have gone through different phases of appreciation for craftsmanship in Western culture. Early Classical periods sang ballads in appreciation of ceramic and sculptural ability that in late Greece and Rome was thought only to be the undertakings of slaves. The peace and prosperity of the late middle ages in Europe led to formation of guilds (akin to union apprenticeships) and an era of handicrafts prior to the Industrial revolution. Machine-driven processes began to displace the need for quality workmanship but many of the common people appreciated skills themselves and resisted industrial practices where possible.

For example, when workers accustomed to practicing high standards of workmanship were first recruited to work on production lines in factories, it would be common for them to walk out, as the new roles were relatively monotonous, giving them little scope to use their skills. After Henry Ford introduced the first Assembly line in 1913, he could need to recruit about ten men to find one willing to stay in the job. Over time, and with Ford offering high rates of pay, the aversion of labor to the new ways of working was reduced.¹

The influential Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century, arose as workmanship began to be displaced by developments like greater emphasis on process, machine work, and the separation of design and planning skills from the actual execution of work. William Morris,  John Ruskin and others laid emphasis on design and social reform often arguing for a return to the cultural handicraft of medieval guilds. Interestingly, in Asia, such as Japan, craftsmanship has retained its value in society not least in reproduction of artefacts like metalware and ceramics. It wasn’t always so; greatly threatened by industrial practices, the Mingei movement which promoted folk art from the 1920s onwards, was influenced by the writings of Morris and Ruskin. Like the Arts and Crafts movement in Europe, Mingei sought to preserve traditional crafts in the face of modernising industry.

Using technology to replace mundane and repetitive tasks, not unlike using machinery in the past, intensifies the design aspects with added bonuses of speed or reproduction, uniformity of presentation. Within my teaching experience it is simply exemplified by comparison of first year (16 year old) photography students and the skills developed by first year fine artists. Skills are hard to measure and compare. Hours of mundane painting (of still life perhaps) will eventually lead to art technique improvements.  Will repeating a similar task on a camera and Photoshop similarly lead to photographic craftsmanship? In an eight month period, the photographers may be able to mimic aspects of photography seen by expert practitioners (true craftsmanship in the art of photography) such as lighting techniques, aesthetic compositions and basic camera functions. This is a digital darkroom course so many will delve into Photoshop workflows and possible fixes in Lightroom. Have they learnt the ‘craft’ with a press of a button and a click of a mouse? Steve McCurry argued recently for the ‘truth’ of photojournalism and use of analogue film and was subsequently exposed for manipulating the integrity of recent images in Photoshop as an aspect of “visual storytelling”². There is no ‘truth’ in photography, we choose what to select, crop and leave out as soon as we raise a camera. However, the skill of the craftsman, Steve McCurry, is the cognitive and imaginative connection between the efforts and end products. Incidentally, on an exam-board professional development day, a moderator for the photography course suggested that maybe using analogue was a better foundation in the skills needed to be an outstanding photographer. Lomography anyone?

I think that rather than become neo-Luddites, turning back the clock on technological developments, we should teach the use of technology not as ‘quick fixes’ but as an aspect of a cognitive, imaginative and creative process. It’s not just about the intent of the artist but the connection between skill, effort and end product. I am calling for a definition of digital-craftsmanship; using the technological tool to impart quality through a thorough mastering and knowledge of processes and accounting for reasons for their use³.

 

References

¹Matthew B. Crawford (Summer 2006). “Shop Class as Soulcraft”. The New Atlantis (journal)

²The Case of Steve McCurry: What is ‘Truth’ in Photography? 12th May 2016

³Apple is trying to turn the iPhone into a DSLR using artificial intelligence 8th September 2016

 


Should you upgrade your tech?

People often get the impetus to get the latest versions and upgrades to their hardware and software and ask themselves and others: Should I upgrade? In schools, we have committee meetings to discuss the latest and the best between groups of governors and interested parties of teachers. Is it always right to be ‘bang on trend’ with the tech and invest in the latest developments? Usually if you have to ask this question, the answer is NO. If you have an obvious need for something, like a new server or an IWB in the Foundation stage classroom, there’s no question that you ought to get it. If its obvious, you’re not having to justify the pedagogical principles, it’s a case of signing off the funding. On a personal level it might be a case of convincing your partner that a Macbook Air really would be more practical for holiday web-browsing rather than the actual need to invest in ‘another’ piece of hardware. Indeed, many schools made do with Win XP way beyond it’s life expectancy and are only just justifying the move to Win 7 and appropriate Office upgrades. Despite the fact that older hardware can cope just fine with ‘free’ Linux/Ubuntu alternatives.

Okay, I am just as at fault as many others. I can say that I was pretty keen to dispose of my last Power PC based iMac in order to get an Intel one even though there was plenty of life left in it (not to mention the software that I had to replace). There have been occasions of course where practicality has overridden functionality; the case in point being my Psion 5mx (as shown above). This was my third Psion mobile device bought in 1997. As you can see in the photo, it still works just fine after 15 years. For practicalities sake though it has long been abandoned to the status of techno-antique as there are no longer 16 pin printers or Win 95 drivers and I can’t get it to connect to the Internet with the dial up modem as it once did. With equipment, what everyone (with exceptions) fails to realise is how little the technology has to do with the actual result.

Yes, a zoom lens for your DSLR will make it so much easier to capture the action on school stage or sports event but any 35mm camera used by someone with the right skills can win photography competitions. I am reminded also of @mattpearson’s blog post on iPad’s magic fairy dust – the eagerness of individuals to purchase quantities of iPads for educational use or upgrade their own older models has a whiff of consumeristic marketing snake-oil about it. Nothing wrong with blowing £400 of your own money just to get the screen-mirroring output of the new iPad or iPad 2 but how will you use the technology differently and appropriately in the first place? In two contexts recently I witnessed the justification for buying sets of iPads to ‘get teachers up to speed with technology’ and secondly as ‘ a way of introducing more research activities’. Having trained teachers across the borough using iPad version ones there is definitely a ‘coo! shiny’ effect followed by a ‘what do I do with…’ and subsequently followed by ‘playtime/golden time’ unless the teacher has specific aims to use the tech differently and appropriately. The research use proposal was to upgrade from a set of netbooks; hardly a planet-saving ecological idea!

If we pay attention to what we already have and how we might use it, we can let the manufacturers spend billions on advertising nurturing the myth of the upgrade as the easy solution and ignore them until the essential becomes tangible.


 

Three major game changers in School Tech


Having been asked my opinion on the top three game changers at the moment, I consulted respected bloggers around the web for this short list.

1) New hardware and skills usage: iPad/iPods, tablets, game consoles, e-readers. Using apps to access learning rather than web sites/software. Leads to independent learning, peer work, self paced ‘personalised’. Good example is contrast of Rosetta Stone CD or web site (£200) with multitude of apps for language learning (vary between free, 59p and £1.99). Immediate and intuitive (fun? Intrinsically games-based?) vs structured courseware. None hierarchial interfaces can lead to younger (or conversely much older) development of digital literacy skills. This video widely shown (CBS TV/You Tube) of a baby with a magazine:

Gesture-based computing is developing through the track pads of laptops, tablet devices/phones, touch screen and more recently through voice recognition (already in use – MS Kinect and Siri). Keyboards may not be needed as devices can be controlled by human gestures and voices.

2) Allied to this is BYOD – Bring your own device. This is starting to happen with big industry and in schools I have seen formally in use with sixth form and (against school rules) with everyone else! This used to be known as mobile learning (the iPAQ or hybrid phone) but has changed so much due to smart phones and iPods. In my classes for eg no need to book a formal PC setting to do research, just allow them use of their own phones. Issues in this include economics, haves/have nots and theft (main reason younger kids banned from using by Academy). Also access is not by school-controlled network and is via 3G so no blocking, e-safety etc. Older students sign contract and can have access to free open wi-fi.

3) Web 2.0 tools and InternetWeb 2.0 Projects booklet by Terry Freedman. This a game changer due to our dependence on Internet tools now that many are free. Issues recently have been caused by global companies acquiring some of these Internet start-ups and swallowing them whole. Facebook has been particularly responsive to this but more recently Picnik image editor was bought by Google and will disappear. Twitter acquired Posterous this month and is yet to release details of what it intends to do with the tool.

This aspect would include using Social media to communicate with parents and other stakeholders.

•Blogging/Publishing by learners

•Game Based Learning – directly via consoles

•Collaboration/Social Learning – online collaborative tools across continents, Skype-linked and even shared publishing (Zoho, Google docs).

Using tech devices for data collection is becoming a possibility:

Web 3.0 and Learning analytics: Loosely joins a variety of data gathering tools and analytical technology to study pupil engagement, practice, performance and progress. Teachers and school would tailor educational opportunities to each individual student’s level of need and be able to adapt in ‘real-time’. Using ‘smart’ devices pupils learning, attendance and achievement would be monitored by computer programs that would automatically change to suit the ‘level’ of the child’s ability and practice. Even be able to monitor health, tiredness, diet etc.

(Julian S. Wood/@ideas_factory)

You may wonder why I have included the Lolz cat image – this shows a cat using an iPad app specifically designed for feline users! Game changer?