Educational Technology Blog

“Sir, my computer won’t turn on” says pupil turning the monitor on and off

“Sir, my computer won’t turn on” says pupil turning the monitor on and off

I often encounter teachers with complaints like the above. Follow-on discussions range from “Digital Natives: what can you do?” to “…and staff too.”.

If there is an elephant, I might suspect it is in this room.

The point is there is an opportunity in teaching students about modularisation. This is very important not just for computer programming, but for aspects of academic and working life.

I have often explained to students that cars were built from different parts. Ford don’t make tyres; they just buy them from another company. Tesla don’t make gears (or most parts of the drivetrain), they stick pre-bought parts into their products.

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Students often think “what’s in it for me?” when they are taught that CPUs are discrete components from a computer. Some might be misled that it is just vocabulary, if they refer to a computer as a CPU it doesn’t really make a difference. They might have a point; you could refer to a steam train as an engine and people would understand. However, things move on. The difference between students in 2017 and those 100 years ago is that we expect more. We expect logic, inference and an understanding of the wider world. It is our responsibility to teach students that computers are different from monitors and vice-versa.

Implicit or explicit

By referring to students as digital natives we do sell them short. A student would implicitly understand that an external speaker has a different power button than a connected phone. However, many find it difficult to transfer this knowledge.

A student attempting to use touch on a traditional monitor has a similar issue. However, we should be asking THEM why ever screen is not a touch screen. Laptop sales are falling, but students are familiar with such machines. Few have touch screens. Why not? If the conversation resorts to cost, why are touch screens more expensive?

By asking the student, preferably in pairs or groups you might find that they know the answers. As a teacher, you need to make the difference explicit.

Why? The future of your students might depend on their problem solving, and not taking things for granted. When a teacher tuts that students are no longer able to use mice, they perhaps need to look at their mind-set first. But then, yes, kick a teacher who asks why the students can’t use Spreadsheets while they cannot use them either.

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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 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:

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.


Full pack:

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