Archive for January, 2008

A third of teachers ‘struggle with technology’

A third of teachers struggle to use the technology schools are equipped with and want more support and training, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) said today.NFER’s first Teacher Voice Omnibus Survey (TVOS), which was completed by about 1,000 teachers, including heads and newly qualified classroom teachers, shows widespread use of information technology in schools: 80% said it had made a difference to the way they teach.

But a “sizeable minority” (33%) felt they lacked the necessary skills to exploit the technology available to them and needed more support and information to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) in lessons, NFER found.

A third of the teachers surveyed said lack of resources and poor reliability discouraged them and limited their use of ICT in schools.

But NFER said when compared to research conducted in 2004, the findings suggest that teacher competence in using ICT has improved overall.

Two thirds (67%) said they had the ICT skills to exploit the technology available to them and 62% said ICT helps to raise pupil attainment.

Teachers also said ICT leadership in schools could be improved. Just 27% of respondents felt that the leadership of ICT pedagogy in their school was inspirational and only 44% said that their school is innovative in its use of ICT.

NFER’s Maria Charles said: “The first TVOS survey has given us a valuable insight into the views of teachers. We hope to be able to continue addressing current issues within teaching in further surveys.”

Author: Anthea Lipsett 28th January 2008


January 28, 2008 at 10:17 pm Leave a comment

Video games now in gym class

Years ago, gym teachers waged a war with video games, blaming them for turning children into couch potatoes.For hours on end, children were glued to their seats while their fingers ran rampant over controllers. That all changed when physical education teacher Don Prorok’s brother bought a Nintendo Wii over the summer.“I was playing in the garage and I was tired and sore all over,” Prorok said.When the school year began, Prorok and the other gym teachers at Chelsea Intermediate School wrote a grant proposing to buy the Nintendo Wii systems to implement into the physical education curriculum. The interactive video game forces players out of their seats and makes them use their arms and legs, which allows for a cardio workout.

Prorok said that convincing administration wasn’t difficult at all.

“They loved it and they were right on board with it,” he said. “Our administration really supports us in what we do.”

The school bought seven systems with 28 controllers, also purchasing Wii Sports game that comes with tennis, bowling, boxing, baseball and golf. The whole school can use the systems, but the gym classes have priority.

Fellow gym teacher Kay Elam said that they were all excited about the game because it brings technology into the classroom and helps develop positive attributes in the children.

“It’s developing more sportsmanship and comradery among the kids,”she said.

Fourth-grader Hannah Stovall said she received a Nintendo Wii for Christmas and that she enjoys the active games.

“I like that you don’t have to do it with the controller, you can actually use motion,” she said.

Madeline Vaughan enjoyed the Wii system for very different reasons.

“I think its the ability to play video games at school,” Madeline said, laughing

Prorok said that incorporating the video game into the curriculum was his way of trying to be innovative, as well as beating the enemy at his own game.

“They’re going to play video games anyway, we might as well steer them to the right ones,” he said.

John McGinn, also in the fourth grade, said that he enjoyed how active the game was and how fun it was.

Steven Ogbonna said he enjoyed how life-like the game was.

“Its how real life, it’s real actual physical education,” he said.

Prorok said that another reason he brought the Wii system into the school is because of the friendliness of the game.

“That’s why I love Nintendo games, there not like shooting games,” he said. “I mean how can Mario be mean?”

Author: Shenequa A. Golding, Southtown Star 20th January 2008

January 28, 2008 at 10:12 pm Leave a comment

Parents want tech in schools

However, schools are not using new technology to the best advantage, according to the government’s educational tech agency.

Most parents believe having the latest technology in schools helps their children learn better, but just a fifth of schools are using it to their full advantage, according to a new survey on behalf of the government’s IT in education agency, Becta.

In a poll of 2,000 parents by research firm Populus, 95 per cent said they believed innovative tools, such as interactive whiteboards, help their children at school. Another 77 per cent believe technology helps engage children in difficult subjects, while nearly two-thirds think computers boost exam results.

Stephen Crowne, Becta’s chief executive, said: “As a parent, you want to know that your child is enjoying school; that they’re getting access to the best support; and that if they’re having any problems, you know straight away.”

The survey also showed that 91 per cent of parents believe the use of computers and the internet helps prepare young people for the world of work.

Despite this strong favour, research from Becta – which advises the government and the education sector on how best to use technology in schools – has shown just a fifth of schools are using modern technology to the fullest advantage.

“There is a gap between what parents think about the way schools are using technology and the reality – we need to close that generation gap,” Crowe said. “We want to move technology from the margins to the mainstream in our schools and colleges and make the most of the opportunities and benefits it can provide.”

Becta today launched its Next Generation Learning campaign, to help push for better use of technology in education – following the lead of Bristol Brunel Academy, the first to open under the Building Schools for the Future programme.

Crowe said: “With people increasingly interacting online and creating and using lots of different media to support their entertainment and friendships, learning which does not make the most of the opportunities provided by technology could be increasingly regarded by learners as dull or irrelevant. Businesses also need people with the skills to make the most of this new environment.”

Author: Nicole Kobie 15th January 2008

January 25, 2008 at 9:57 pm Leave a comment

Through the Portal Into Interactive Learning

To prepare for his role as technology editor for TrainingZone, John Stokdyk embarks on a voyage of discovery into the interactive possibilities of the latest digital tools.

The world of training can play with the preconceptions for anyone more used to frontline operations. Someone anticipating a quieter, less frenetic environment of worthy textbooks, classroom sessions and role-playing exercises is in for a big surprise.

Opening the door into the TrainingZone community, I carried with me an assumption that I had already seen the most interesting and innovative use of mobile devices, business intelligence and online tools in sectors such as manufacturing, distribution, finance and design. I arrived expecting to explore the nuances of learning management systems and programs for recording and assessing personal development activities.

“Interactive tools such as collaborative wiki documentation projects and blogs are making a big impact on how learning materials are being created and delivered.”John Stokdyk, technology editor for the Sift Media portfolio

Instead, I was greeted by trainers talking up Facebook, or inviting me to their synthetic properties in Second Life. Adobe’s Steve Allison explained that accessible design tools made it much more feasible for trainers to create and capture content themselves rather than having to rely on external agencies. This creative portfolio has expanded to include podcasts, video, and the 3D animation technology we’re more used to seeing in computer games.

Who ever said kids should be the only ones to play with this stuff?

In an early scouting mission to identify emerging trends, I visited the recent BETT education technology event in London and found myself thrust on to IT’s cutting edge. Olympia’s Grand Hall was packed with hundreds of stands and I was caught up in a huge tide of educators keen to lay hands on new software and devices. This was one of the busiest and most frenetic trade shows I have visited in more than 20 years.

The buzz at BETT had a lot to do with the government’s agenda to promote ICT skills and creative innovation. In his keynote address, the minister for schools and learners Jim Knight announced a £30 million plan to encourage universal access to the internet for school pupils. Companies including Microsoft, Intel, Nokia and O2 were all there, obviously keen to get their hands on some of that cash.

The event helped me to draw up a rough map of the different technologies applicable to training. Consider this my mission statement as I set off to explore the following territories in more detail over the months to come. As a self-confessed novice in some of the wider aspects of learning theory and training practice I need help and would welcome any pointers you can give me, using the Add comments button below.

Serious gaming

Computer games and training simulations may not be a new idea, but they sit right at the top of the industry’s technology agenda. It’s worth remembering that the first pioneering 3D projects were flight simulators created by Evans & Sutherland for US military training. Microsoft’s ubiquitous Flight Simulator PC program and the joy-stick powered games found at your local arcade continued the tradition. US Navy recruiters, for example, were reported to have frequented suburban arcades during the 1980s, pouring quarters into machines and telling players about even cooler toys they could play with in the military.

Caspian Learning chief operating officer Graeme Duncan recently wrote that gaming is no longer the preserve of adolescent males, but has entered the corporate mainstream. Mavis Beacon programs feature less violence and glitzy graphics than typical shoot-’em-ups, but have helped teach millions to type over the past two decades.

“Interactive gaming enables organisations to provide training that is motivational, learner-centric, personalised, contextualised, gives immediate feedback, and allows users to practice in a safe ‘failure-free’ environment,” Duncan explained.

At the BETT exhibition, for example, I was particularly taken with the Referee’s Assistant created by RSL Media Partners. These CD-ROM-based programs use live video and animations to illustrate the laws of football and other sports. What a perfect, natural medium to put across concepts that can be difficult to interpret in the split-second scenario of a live match. It’s also completely familiar, as many of us watch Gary Lineker and his colleagues doing much the same thing every Saturday night on ‘Match of the Day’.

“The question hovering in the background was the speed and degree to which the assembled technologies would cross over into the professional training market.”

Web 2.0 – Wikis, blogs and social networking

For the past year or two, the big technology buzz has been Web 2.0, which is based on the infiltration of communal web-based exchanges into business processes. Social networking on the web may not be big news to the denizens of TrainingZone, but interactive tools such as collaborative wiki documentation projects – think of small, work-and process-focused versions of Wikipedia – and blogs are making a big impact on how learning materials are being created and delivered.

Second Life is particularly fascinating because it combines online networking with 3D simulation and online role-playing. Karl Kapp, author of the book ‘Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning’, claims that virtual worlds “just might be the future of e-learning”.

Big technology companies such as Cisco Systems and IBM have set up training shops on Second Life. Cisco has created a ‘training island’ virtual campus, while IBM’s Second Life learning workplaces are being used for new employee orientation and mentoring experiments. As Kapp explains: “It is not uncommon to see two virtual people fly overhead discussing business issues as the 3D world passes beneath.”

The Facebook generation

Facebook captured the attention of the latest generation of social networkers when it emerged from its academic roots at Harvard University in September 2006 and opened its arms to the wider world. Facebook is based around friendship and affinity groups and provides tools to share photos, videos and instant feedback about what the members are thinking and doing. By publishing information about how data is transferred in and out of the online environment, Facebook has also made it possible for third party developers to plug their tools into the system. In contrast to straight-laced, closed learning management systems (LMS), Sarah Robbins claimed on her Ubernoggin blog that the new tools available within Facebook make it a “near perfect course management system”.

An outlandish claim, perhaps, but one given serious credence by Mark Aberdour of Epic, one of the UK’s leading interactive training consultancies. “Customer satisfaction with LMS feature-sets is low, and the LMS vendors have largely failed to embrace m-learning with handheld devices despite customers crying out for it,” he blogged.

“But Facebook works just fine on your mobile or PDA… The core ingredients are there: it’s social, it’s mobile, and it’s open.”

M-learning refers to mobile learning, the process of delivering content to people via their iPods, smart phones, games consoles or the net. M-learning allows people to develop themselves as and when they choose, for example during the ‘third time’ when they are travelling between work and home. As Aberdour comments, Epic has been pushing the idea that learning can happen anywhere for years, and the dovetailing of m-learning with social networking sites such as Facebook is causing considerable excitement.

Back at BETT, the Finnish mobile phone giant announced a partnership with its compatriot learning software house Sanako to market £295 Nokia N810 handheld internet tablets alongside Sanako’s Study 500 class management application.

UK mobile network provider O2 was at BETT too, announcing that it was collaborating with the Learning Possibilities Group to create LP+, an online learning solutions for schools that pupils can access from their O2 mobiles. Rather than assuming every student will get a PC at home, the mobile giants are positioning lower cost, handheld devices or smart phones as the means to deliver the government’s vision of universal access.

As Sanako’s UK director Ian McDowall, explained, the N810 was “a cool device” that could “catalyse engagement and learning”.

BETT was certainly an eye-opener, but the question hovering in the background was the speed and degree to which the assembled technologies would cross over into the professional training market. Having drawn up my action plan, I’m looking forward to the Learning Technologies event at the end of the month to find some answers to that question.

And just in case you’re thinking that yet another boy-journalist has had his head turned by glitzy but inessential technological toys, I also promise to look into the current state of the art in learning management tools as well.

Author: John Stokdyk TrainingZONE 18 January 2008

John Stokdyk is the technology editor for the Sift Media portfolio.

January 25, 2008 at 12:11 pm Leave a comment

Parents urged to embrace new tech

The head of the government agency which promotes technology in schools urges parents to see it positively.

It seems that every week a new report is published revealing the negative impact technology such as the internet, computer games and television is having on young people.

pupils using laptops

Schools have invested heavily in new technology

A Childwise report revealed that a generation of children were living their daily lives in front of a television or computer.

According to the report, British children spend an average of five hours and 20 minutes staring at a screen each day, while reading continues to decline as a regular pastime.

‘Their world’

The conclusion many will draw from this is that our technology-driven world is producing a generation of lonely and unimaginative children, glued to their screens and unable to read, write or communicate properly.

But before parents throw their televisions and computers away in horror they should consider this: it is not technology that is at fault, it is the way technology is being used.

Young people today have grown up with technology. According to research by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, 41% of children aged 8-11 regularly use the internet.

Over 75% of 11-year-olds have their own TV, games console and mobile phone. 56% of children aged 8-11 play computer games, and 7% of 10-year-olds have their own web cam.

Whatever you feel about these statistics, they describe the real world for our children.


Technology will never be able to replace books, but neither should we see it as a social evil because our children spend so much time using it. On the contrary, we need to help them use all this technology in as positive a way as possible.

This week technology guru Johnny Ball helped Becta launch its Next Generation Learning campaign to improve the way schools and colleges use technology in their lessons.

Research shows that effective use of technology in schools helps improve achievement, behaviour and results, but currently only 20% of the country’s schools and colleges are using it effectively.

Johnny Ball believes having access to technology in schools is “like having a world library in every classroom” and that “IT makes all teachers better and good teachers absolutely brilliant”.

And he is absolutely right. What’s more, pupils respond to technology in their lessons because they have grown up with it, and it makes learning fun because it feels like an extension of what many of them already do in their free time.

Pupils in schools that are already using technology effectively often admit that they enjoy their lessons because they do not realise they are learning at all.


Many schools in the UK are already taking advantage of children’s enthusiasm for technology in their approach to learning.

It is astounding to see how interactive whiteboards, hand-held learning devices, school radio stations, blogging, podcasts, computers in homes schemes, digital photography and video conferencing are being used to by teachers to create stimulating and exciting environments for their students to learn.

But it is not just schools and colleges that need to improve the way technology is used in lessons.

Parents also have a vital role to play in ensuring that technology helps their children to develop and learn at home.

A recent Becta-commissioned Populus survey revealed that 95% of parents think the effective use of technology such as the internet, interactive whiteboards and laptops can help their children to learn.

However, parents also said they were more comfortable giving advice on drugs, bullying and alcohol abuse than advice on computers.

Rather than trying to exclude technology from their lives because we feel uncomfortable with it or have a vague idea that it is “not a good thing”, we need to do what parents and educators have always done – harness their children’s passions and interests and use technology to engage them in learning.

Author: Stephen Crowne, Chief executive of Becta, 18 January 2008

January 24, 2008 at 12:23 pm Leave a comment

Brain Training vs Brain Gym

Some of the most interesting stuff presented at the recent DiGRA Scotland day was from Derek Robertson from Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS). Derek’s blog is the Consolarium, which is regularly updated. The focus is on games-based learning in Scotland, but included updates on studies of much wider interest.

The particular example I was most impressed by on the day was a study on ways of improving childrens arithmetic performance which compared Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training and Brain Gym (a movement exercise program which aims to help stimulate students. The exercise bit seems to work, though the pseudo-science behind it has been criticized, however. See here). A third, control, group was also assessed – making the study reasonably rigorous, although some issues over equivalence are noted in the case study, which you can find here. (Also look out for other GBL projects – one featuring Guitar Hero!)

I was thinking at the time that Brain Training is an interesting example of games-based learning because it clearly demonstrates that success and engagement do not require convincing graphics on a par with the current crop of commercial games. It also features a range of relatively simple exercises which are practiced over and over again – almost rote like, in encouraging an almost automatic response to visual recognition and mental maths problems. Indeed, if it isn’t a perfect example of ‘drill-and-kill’ edutainment, then I clearly haven’t understood the term ‘drill-and-kill’. I note that both ‘drill-and-kill’ exercises and rote learning appear to be pedagogically unpopular currently, e.g.:

what Professor Seymour Papert calls “Shavian reversals”: offspring that inherit the worst characteristics of both parents (in this case, boring games and drill-and-kill learning)

(From ‘Digital Game-Based Learning: It’s Not Just the Digital Natives Who Are Restless‘, Richard Van Eck)

Sorry, off on a tangent there.

Anyway, the Brain Training study showed that the Nintendo game led to the greatest improvement in test results, with a number of other positive outcomes to-boot. Well worth reviewing.

I can’t really criticize the study, but the web-page had a tab ‘Digital Natives’ that I just had to click on…

The question at the top of this tab turns out to be “Are digital natives at ease with games technology?”, which if we take to mean ‘are current school pupils at ease with games technology’ the answer seems to be so immediately obvious I don’t know why the question is being asked at all.

While the ‘digital native’ concept has been arguing that old folks will never ‘get it’, and will never be able to get on with technology the way young folks do, its interesting to note that Nintendo are making heavy use of some relatively mature celebrities in their current Nintendo DS advertising campaigns (Patrick Stewart and Julie Walters amongst them).

Author: Daniel Livingstone 21st December 2007

January 23, 2008 at 10:15 pm Leave a comment

Are games useful for learning?

We have been hearing about how games will be important for learning for 50 years, with enormous publicity for games in many articles like this. But it has not happened, and I doubt that is will ever happen. The proponents of games argue that students enjoy them, an important issue, but other forms of learning can lead to enjoyable learning.

The principle problem with almost all learning games is that they do not adapt to individuaal student learning needs on a moment by moment basis. Further seldom do they deal with the fundamental issues of learning. For example few games help young children learn to read, in the full sense.

I have been pursuing for many years another learning strategy, adaptive tutorial learing. It can be used with schools or in locations where no schools exist. Each student moves in a unique pace until successful in learning. I have recently been invited to describe this lifelong learning strategy to serveral oganizations in Washington. Games might be used in this approach, partially, but not current games.

I would be happy to send full details of this approach. Please write to me at

Author: Alfred M. Bork (University of California, Irvine)

January 22, 2008 at 9:54 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts


The purpose of this blog is to provide insight into the impact of computer games and pop culture, and effective ways of incorporating the positive surplus into learning experiences.

Please feel free to add comments and email me with any queries. I am also interested in relevant project collaboration.

Name: Alexandra Matthews
Location: UK

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