Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Why build a blog?

My father tells a story but I'm still not sure what it was about or even if I've remembered it properly. The gist of the story is as follows.

It involved my father when he was perhaps about 20 and his father (my grandfather) visiting someone who had just acquired a tape recorder. Depending on what age you are, you may have to do a mental rewind at this stage. We are not talking dictaphone style mini tape recorder, or even a cassette recorder, but a big reel-to-reel tape recorder. They wanted to record something, but as is often the case in circumstances like this, no-one could think of anything to say... until my grandfather (a man not normally stuck for words) pulled an advertising flyer out of his pocket and read, "Why build a porch?" For some reason or other this became a family catch phrase and whenever it was felt to be appropriate, somebody might trot out, "Why build a porch?"

I don't know why this story stuck in the family sub-conscious and I suspect you are wondering why I have included it in the first post to my new blog - a blog which is supposed to be about Educational Computing. There are a few reasons, one is that it gave me the title for my first post: Why build a blog? Another is that it says something to me about how people approach new technology.

My grandfather and father had access to a very expensive piece of technology that was supposed to be used for serious business purposes. What were they doing with it? They were playing with it! I don't think that this is because I am descended from a long line of gadget geeks (although I suppose this is possible). It seems to me a more universal approach to new technology. The same kind of response can be seen in the play Death of a Salesman where Willy Loman's boss is playing with his new tape recorder - replaying recordings of his son rather than listening to Willy.

So what does this say about Educational Computing? Well, to me it says that we need to give people time to play with the wonderful bits of technology that are coming into schools. We need to give the teachers time to play before they use it with pupils. This is so they can become familiar with the capabilities of the technology, but perhaps more importantly, so they can learn to enjoy using it! Similarly, pupils need time to play. I think we often expect pupils to be able to run with new technology as soon as they have shown they can walk. It may be that pupils pick up the technical skills more quickly than their teachers, but they still need time to play, to explore, to discover or they will not get the best out of the technology and we will not get the best out of them.

Unfortunately, time is one of the most precious of commodities in schools today. It is probably easier to get £1500 to buy an interactive whiteboard than it is to get a couple of days free to play with the board once it is installed! What is my solution? Unfortunately, at the moment I do not have one ...other than to sit in my ivory tower and complain.
Sad face
However, to finish on a more positive note, the main reason I have set up this blog is so that I can play. I do not know if I'll keep it up. I do not know if anyone else will ever read it (but let me know if you do). But I do know that I want to play with blogs and see what they can do!

1 comment:

Jim said...


I had to visit your blog and see what you had to say about teachers playing with technology. I enjoyed your comments and as I said on my blog I think we need time for both students and teachers to play with technology. Some of the best learning comes from exploration and fun.