Educational Technology Blog

Here’s to the next 100,000 downloads!

Celebrate good times, come on.

We’ve managed to achieve 100,000 downloads on Apple’s Apps store.

Stude is working on a series of EdTech Apps to prepare students for the 4th industrial revolution, get involved and revolutionise teaching and learning.

We would like to say thank you to all our customers; join us in the celebration by downloading a free copy of Classroom Noise Monitor:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/classroom-noise-monitor/id811273381?mt=8

Review Systems – Gamification or restricting content providers

Review systems have been covered in novels and television (Black Mirror’s Nosedive covers a take on social media where review scores become a way of applying power).

Uber drivers have spoken about how four stars mean that they may lose money, or worse still their jobs. If you give an Uber driver four stars you are effectively saying to other users: don’t use this driver. Worse, Uber may cut payments to such a driver and ultimately stop them working if their score falls behind a pre-designated average. The point that Uber drivers are in danger is an average of 4.6 out of 5. I’ll just let that sink in for a minute.

If you do not give your Uber driver a 5 out of 5 you are effectively removing their livelihood.

 

With little understanding of how rating systems work, customers often use rating systems to punish providers. An example of that, close to home for me, is when customers have given 2-star reviews for valid, but small complaints that can potentially remove any potential sales from a digital product.

Here the customer seems to have two issues. One is the high price (£5) for the resource, which would have been known in advance of purchasing the item. The other points can be broken down into two issues with the resource:

  1. Not making sense
  2. Not being able to use the resource

On investigation, the task sheet had an extra page attached with two tasks on it which should have been removed (absolutely my fault). However, I am not clear why the consumer feels that they were not able to use the resource as there are 19 tasks (one is affected by an extra sheet attached, and I would claim still usable).

My reply to the customer offers to make things right (as they did not contact me before), but the outcome has been that the resource no longer sells. The income from this is now zero.

It is not down to me to say whether the punishment fits the crime, however two stars results in resources not selling. This is different to the official ratings guidence given by tes. When you give a review for a resource you are given the following diagram:

However, there is evidence that the use of ratings systems often reveals a bimodal distribution (although this is influenced by context, and the customer’s education and IQ). When customers are asked to offer detailed ratings (i.e. a review) the ratings offer a normal distribution.

There are no real answers to these review issues. However five star rating systems rarely work because that are not intuitive to users or meaningful in assessing performance and certainly not without more context. Netflix have retired their 5 point system (which also resulted in more reviews being submitted), and Amazon ask people for detailed reviews.

Time for a revamp from tes?

The Social Media Reaction To The Manchester Bombing

The rules of mass communication have been changing for the last few years, but as social media has given everyone the opportunity to mass broadcast their innermost thoughts to followers around the world.

Jon Ronson covered this in  fantastic book; so you’ve been publicaly shamed http://amzn.to/2uoGpAA which goes into detail about cases such as Justine Sacco whose life was turned upside down after making racist comments on Twitter in 2015.

A considerable amount of time has passed since the Manchester 2017 bombing, but it should be recognised that after that terrorist attack hate and groupthink quickly spread as people looked for people to blame,

A reporter from the US quickly became a target for tweeting a joke:

https://twitter.com/David_Leavitt

A joke, albeit a poorly timed one. However people reacted in a sadly predictable fashion, one person writing on Twitter:

“Seriously makes me sick. I don’t say this often but I hope he gets fired”

In a world where mainstream comedians like Frankie Boyle joke about AIDS, rape and the IRA it should be questioned whether the reaction of the mainstream public is not only proportionate, but consonant with other media.

More disturbing, perhaps, was the reaction of multinational companies on Twitter, quick to distance themselves from David Leavitt (and claiming not to be his employer).

The social norms of social media are still being written, with current heavy users (a certain Donald Trump, for instance) displaying online behaviour that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

The jokes that have lost people jobs may have been deemed acceptable some days or months after the incident. This brings to mind a question; how soon is too soon to joke about disasters or tragedies? The instantaneous nature of social media seems not to have changed the idea that the passing of time changes the socially acceptable limits of behaviour.

Students need to understand that while the rules of the media are changing, there is not such a thing as the much loved notion of fair. The wisdom of the crowds is having an effect on all of our lives for good and for ill, but we need to make sure that our children are educated not just for the world they are growing up in, but the world that they will inhabit when they leave school.

 

Election day: The student based solution

On a day like today, it seems unusual to write something about education. However, things have changed since my previous post about how nurses mattered in the election, but teachers didn’t.

Education has risen back up the agenda, with the Guardian featuring The Latymer School for a second time regarding the funding crisis. Teachers need to think about the government they want, and the direction that education will take over the next term. Some say that teachers have allowed themselves and the profession to be run down over the last few years – perhaps teachers need to get out and provide a counterpoint to this argument. We can all agree that teachers and teaching is important, but the wide range of the role (including the prevent agenda) alongside tightening budget is putting several parallel arguments into focus as we move into the election.

However the actual problem in education might be that; the students don’t seem to care.


Are we doing all we can in tutor time and throughout the school day to make sure that students know what is going on in the world, and what effect it might have on their future?

Here are a great selection of resources to help out your students: remember that youth is our future, and outside your subject we need to promote voting and democracy.

Worksheets:

https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/general-election-2017-worksheets-pack-ks3-11576210

Full pack:

https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/general-election-2017-pack-11576314

A thing worth having is worth cheating for

The Guardian published an article titled I’m teaching – and I’m cheating. But why would any teacher cheat?.

I actually think that teachers, more or less, have to cheat to stay in the profession. This may be controversial, but in the profession there are perverse incentives that have unintended consequences for cooperation and professional standards:

  • Schools have league tables that result in a zero sum game; the success of one school naturally impacts on the relative placing of another. Schools are effectively disincentivised from helping each other. Teachers have pressure to help be part of the team and pull their weight making the school successful.
  • Results are an important part of OFSTED inspections. To deliver good results, senior management may put pressure on teachers even in some cases encouraging direct cheating.
  • Teachers are measured against colleagues, and often are compared irrespective of experience. A teacher with 15 years of experience should deliver better results than a new teacher, but there is no clear methodology for defining how much better the results should be.
  • Teachers are measured by results and are subject to performance related pay. If student results are better, teachers are more likely to progress up the pay scale.

Some might say that teachers are in the profession to help students, and should not be influenced by pay. This is a misunderstanding of how motivation works, but also ignores the fact that teaching performance is measured on student outcome rather than intangible factors.

If teachers are part of a caring profession, they care for others around them. They want successful students and to work for a successful school. They are encouraged to cheat. The fact that is surprising is perhaps the most surprising thing of all.

The Fidget Spinners myth

If you want a teacher’s guide to fidget spinners download from TES, or perhaps try an interactive probability lesson for just £3 (FREE if you use the code MEGA-MAY)

Fidget spinners are a new toy, and are being banned in schools around the world due to the noise they make and possible disruption to classes. Some teachers allow them, as the teacher feels that they are harmless and to allow students to bring a small toy into class as a comforter.

That is where the story should end. However schools have at times found it difficult to ban the toys due to anger of parents because they say the spinners help with ASD/SPD or ADHD, in fact the following article http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/whats-on/family-kids-news/schools-ban-fidget-spinners-cubes-12946235 but stay away from the comments if you would like to preserve your sanity.

The difficulty is that people are referring to therapeutic value, and even dramatically improve learning and behaviour. It should be clearly noted that there is no evidence that fidget spinners help those with ADHD; the closest I can find is a study about autistic students and communication therapy or a poor article from Time that does not back up hand held sensory devices.

Why should anyone care? Well there is money and a misallocation of time.

Wasted money

As part of a discussion on a teachers forum it is apparent that sites like suelarky sell items called sensory tools with claims like:

“A small ‘fidget toy’ in the hand of a majority of children with ASD will dramatically improve their learning and behaviour.”

promising their products will help student, at a cost to schools of course that could be better spent on resources that actually help students.

Ineffective practice

Teachers spending time on things that just don’t work is a problem. During a training course a young teacher told the group that she based her teaching on preferred learning styles. This is known to be a myth of education and after I raised it the course leader referred to it as controversial (it isn’t, it just doesn’t work). The issue is that teacher may keep applying a theory that doesn’t help students and spend less time on things that don’t work as a consequence which is a tragedy for all involved (I’m still angry about this).

The same applies to sensory toys. Teachers are perhaps letting some students use these toys due to the claimed benefits, and banning them from others. There is no reason to give the toys to any students, so the choice may either be arbitrary or as (amazingly) a reward for poor behaviour.

Energy will be spent by SEN departments choosing whether or not to give permission to use the toys to individual students, meetings with angry parents who demand that the child uses the toy as it helps them…the effort and work involved goes on.

Taking advantage

Teachers are in a vulnerable position in that there are many myths in education, and teachers do not necessarily have the time to investigate the research around new tools and theories in education. Teachers have a difficult job, and the exploitation of teachers and the grabbing the money in education is not the way that businesses should work. We should be beyond snake oil salespeople, or we are going backwards in business.

 

suelarky have been contacted for comment, and are yet to do so.

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