Whilst everyone is focusing on the “defeatists” aspect of the Secretary of States latest billet-doux to the education profession a single word in a small paragraph caught my eye.
That’s why we’ve accelerated the pace of reform in our schools — setting higher standards in maths and English in our new national curriculum, recruiting more top graduates to teach maths, physics and chemistry and introducing computer programming and coding, 3D printers and tablets into many more of our classrooms.
Leaving aside the slightly strange addition of 3D printers to the list, the word that caught my eye is “tablets”. Now, unless he is talking about an unreported increase in the use of Prozac within the profession I can only assume the tablets in question are iPads or Androids*, which are indeed increasing in usage. This interested me for two reasons. Firstly, I can see no way in which any of the current governments reforms have driven the numbers of tablets (or for that matter, 3D printers) used in the classroom to increase. So I can’t really understand why it’s even in that sentence. Which leads directly onto the second reason. If there is no logical reason connected to the reforms for the comment to be there it must be there for a different reason.
I am not, I promise, a conspiracy theorist. Read my other posts. I have a view about things, but its not borne out of conspiracy. Why would Gove go out of his way in a convoluted sentence in The Times to mention the use of Tablets in classrooms? Could it possibly have anything to do with the News Corps backed Amplify project? If you don’t want to wade through the corporate site, you can read the news about Amplify here and here.
Avid readers of this blog (both of you) will be aware that I favour the use of appropriate technology in schools, where it enhances learning and teaching. You will also know that I oppose over-control of, and over-controlling technology in schools. Amplify falls clearly into both of these categories. The focus on learning analytics will enable two things other than (possibly) better learning. Firstly, more ‘lessons’ driven by technology and not by teachers, which means more unqualified teachers. Secondly, learning analytics have the potential to provide at least as much information about the teacher as they do the child. This data will inevitably be used to feedback into assessment of teachers.
I have no instinctive or philosophical opposition to either of these two things. What I do know, however, is that managers find it hard to ignore the feedback given to them by machines. It is somehow seductive. For some reason unfathomable to me it is seen as more valued than that provided by highly-qualified humans. If a single system, such as Amplify, takes over in classrooms then the machines will be determining how children learn and which of their teachers will be back in class next term. These things will be decided by the big machine back at HQ after it has analysed all the inputs from across the country. Your next terms learning will be programmed according to the national norms. And in education we know how that works out.
Its not quite SkyNet. But it’s not teaching and learning as we know it either.
* Yes, I know about Windows Tablets but there’s no snappy name for them
Courtesy of Mike Cameron at Distant ramblings on the horizon