Digital jewels, Interactive whiteboard haters, and more. In this episode, Andy, Emily and Adam are joined again by Researcher, Teacher and Cheshire and Wirral Maths Hub Lead, Andy Ash to continue the conversation about the impact the use of technology has on student’s mental health. What does this impact look like in school? Where will technology go in the future? Plus, find out which social media platform’s adverts know Adam down to a tee.
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Hi, I'm Andy Psarianos.
Hello, I'm Emily Guille-Marrett.
Hi, I'm Adam Gifford.
This is the School of School podcast. Welcome to the School of School Podcast.
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Welcome to another episode. We're very to have Andy Ash here. Andy's been associated with Maths Hubs, University at Cambria. You were in a teaching school alliance, I believe. Can you maybe just introduce yourself as well? Cause I've only just touched on it. And so just maybe introduce yourself.
My background is that, I guess, at heart I'm a primary school teacher and in fact, I first started working in reception, so teaching very young children, but since then I've worked with both primary and secondary school teachers to support with maths teaching. And I have a keen interest in maths research in particular, and I'm studying, doing a part-time PhD as well, where I'm looking at how teachers teach fractions. That's kind of me in a nutshell,
Right. Well, today we're talking about technology. Is it good or bad?
I think my... In terms of schools, something that I've been thinking about quite a lot recently is that actually I would encourage more schools to start thinking about how they're using technology and how they're encouraging parents to use technology. Because, in a way, technology was a bit of a saviour during COVID because it made homeschooling and things much easier, but at the same time, I think what it's done is contribute to a bigger shift towards children at home spending more time in front of screens. In my own school there, all my kids' homework is done online now. And we sometimes find that very difficult because they sit in front of the computer and they don't want to sit there and do homework because their computer's there and they know how to go and open up a new window on the internet or do... they're very good at using the technology. And it just is another battle that we are having to have at home that actually when it was just pieces of paper or a workbook or something, we didn't need to have that.
Just want to throw something out there. I just want to ask a question. Because I genuinely have no idea on this. Not all communities, not all countries have access to technology. Yeah? Yet there's still children. So is anyone aware, and I honestly, I have no idea with this. And I don't even know how you compare it. Because I know there's been happiness studies and all those sorts of things. But is anyone aware of anything where children don't have these? And are there any differences? Are they any happier? Are they any anything? Are they hearkening back to the good old days when I was a kid, right? The internet didn't exist. I love saying that to my children. Or if it did, it certainly hadn't made its way on a slow boat to New Zealand. And I just, I don't know, genuinely. Because I wonder about these things, it's something that is part... I'm living in England now and it is absolutely 24/7 part of my children's life. And I cannot see that changing forever, certainly in my lifetime. But I do wonder about, I do have these idealistic, romantic memories of me as a kid and running down the beach and all that sort of stuff. Not a phone in sight, unless you went to the phone box and they were attached by wires, all that sort of stuff. Anyone? Anyone aware of anything?
Certainly when I've tried to do... I've done some reading around this just out of interest and I've not really found anything that says, oh yeah, children are much happy with technology. There are some small things that show that in terms of learning, we can use technology in specific ways to help pupils learn things specifically. So we know that they can be very beneficial educationally, but these are tiny, very specific things, not general things. Anecdotally as well, I mean, I was away in July. We went away for a week as a family, I've got young children. And we were somewhere where we had no phone signal and no charge because we were camping. And I think my kids were the happiest they've been for a long time, actually. Once they got over the initial hump of realising that there was no TV and no screen. That's an anecdote, but I see in my own kids when they're not being distracted by them, they are actually happier.
I do think that there is something there around... I think, there are many respects where people might have a perception of me as being not a parent who isn't pro technology when actually I'm massively am. So there are certain things that I still hold to. There's no gadgets in cars. Doesn't matter of we're going to the south of France, we just don't do it. And we talk and we argue and we play games and we do I Spy. And that's just the reality of what we do. And when we go to the beach, we're going there. If the kids want to do something like a game like Pokemon GO or they want to do something, we're actively building it in as a plan. We'll discuss it, and that is something I'm totally fine for them to do. And then there's a timed limit on it. And I just, I kind of feel like there are some things where it's really good and some of this is just about us kind of starting to try to... And maybe I'm extreme in that. Because I think I probably share some of the thoughts that you've got Andy. But I also am, bizarrely, on the other end of the spectrum. I'm like really, really pro technology. I'm unhelpful, I realise that, in this conversation. But I was really blown away by... And, again, I think it's down to the teacher, who's utilising this technology, but there was a particular programme called Classcraft. I don't know if you're familiar with that. This was in, around behaviours in the classroom and it's in senior school. So my son, my eldest just started year seven. I'm not advocating everyone goes out to get Classcraft. I really don't know enough about it. But what was fascinating about it was the gamification of the classroom behaviours and the teacher can assign certain, I get characteristics. It's almost a bit like Lord of the Rings and you've got your own avatar and things will be taken away for you. And actually the kids work together as a group. And you can be given jewels. And if your work is marked, you're going to be assigned or something might be taken away. And there are certain things that you have to do through the term to kind of reach your goal, which was fascinating to me because it was two worlds. It was a genuine, you were doing this stuff genuinely in the classroom. The gamification came about with the reward and the conversation with teachers. And I guess that kind of thing got me excited. But I did think to myself, in the hands of someone who didn't understand, that could be a very pointless exercise. He just happens to have quite a creative and interesting teacher who's playing with that in a fascinating way. I guess that's....
That's hitting the nail on the head though, isn't it? Actually what we're not saying is we shouldn't use technology and it's bad. What we're saying is, we need greater awareness of how to use it to good effect, rather than a mindless use of, oh, this makes life easier. Let's use that.
But there's some pretty cynical views about how... with futurists who look in the future and try to predict what's going to happen, they're pretty cynical about the whole device thing. One that comes to mind is a guy called Jordan Peterson, who's a bit of a controversial figure. I heard him in a... We should try to get him on this podcast. That would be a lot of fun. That would be, we should try that.
On the back of this, that would be great.
Jordan Peterson. Yeah. Anyway. He said something once and it was in a podcast and I thought it was, wow. I never thought of it that way. So the discussion was around another book or another topic, which was the sort of society and where are we heading? And this notion that's come up in a couple people's mind that we're heading towards this possibility of a useless class. It's not a very nice or popular view, but the idea is that you're going to have really clever, smart people who are running things. Right? And because of automation and mechanisation of everything, you're going to have a whole bunch of people that are effectively, we don't have jobs for them. There's nothing for them to, so what do we do with them all? Somebody asked Jordan Peterson that question, what do you do with them all? And he said, "Give them mobile phones." And it's kind of an interesting point of view, but it's the pacification of people. You can pacify people with mobile phones. And that's an interesting view. I don't know what that's got to do with education necessarily, or what we can do about it. It's scary. The future's scary. I don't know where it's going to go. It could go in all kinds of bad places.
Yeah. Well, the way I see it is the way it relates to education is that we've got to think very carefully about how well we teach pupils so they grow up to become really critical and metacognitive thinkers. Because even as adults, the only way we can break the cycle of addiction to a phone or something is through thinking like that and reflecting and being a reflective person.
Almost treat schools like a rehab for... it's like technology rehab. You got to come to school and we're going to centre you back to reality. Right?
Yeah. I do think the problem is exacerbated by the fact that most people who are teachers, it's nobody's fault, because we didn't grow up with it. We're trying to deal and deal with pupils who have grown up in an entirely different world when it comes to technology. So it's not something we have any kind of point of reference for as a child. So we're trying to just always second guess the whole time and figure this out. And I think it's what you were saying, Adam, it's just you're trying to work out, is it just me being old or is this something really that I've got to try and do something about? And and I think the point is, we've just got to have more to discussion about it and more debate.
I suppose the question is, has it always been thus, though? Again, I was talking about this to someone the other day that, it's just like a nostalgia trip for me. In New Zealand, there were two TV channels when I grew up. And I reckon of those two TV channels, there was probably a maximum of an hour in a day of child content, if you like, for kids to watch. So I imagine the scourge that happens at some point there would've been parents that now, you can watch children's telly 24 hours a day. So the TV would've been something that, is my child spending too much time in front of? And I suppose that's a thing. I mean, I think Andy's point about the amount of information that is now known about us. Because I started to think about the industrial revolution when you were saying what happens with automation and stuff. Well, the same thing kind of happened in the past where machines were taken over and all of a sudden manual labour wasn't as important. Something must have happened with the people. But I think that that's the part, is that it's so sophisticated now and so manipulative. There's certain apps that I use or certain... Instagram's one. Gee, they've got me spot on for advertising. Everything that comes up, I'm just like, "Oh, look at that. I wonder how they knew that? Geez, I'm quite interested in that." Their hit rate is remarkable, genuinely. Far, far exceeds anything else, any other platform that I look at or anything else. They have got me absolutely dialled. I didn't know I needed that. Didn't know I needed to look at this. But I just wondered, again, it's that part of it's just kind of like, well, this is just the way the world is and it wasn't my world, and so I don't really know how to behave in it in the same way that my children do. They get it. But there's that other part of it that says, yeah, but the manipulative part is pretty terrifying. And if you're not aware that that happens. So I can open my arms to Instagram advertising until I look at a bank balance and think, flipping eight, man, I've just spent a fortune on this stuff that actually, when it arrives on my doorstep, I really don't need this.
So advertising gets a bad, it gets a bad name, but the reality is without advertising, society couldn't run. Advertising, one, pays for a tremendous amount of stuff. And two, if you stopped advertising, everybody would go out of business, and that wouldn't be good for anyone. But it's that balancing act. It's kind of like who gets to say how much is enough? And also the social pressure to conform. For kids, you know I got a teenage daughter, 14. If she doesn't have access to a mobile device all day long, her life ends. She'll lose friends. But she will, though. It's true. I don't know what to do. Because I know that she spends way too much time staring at her phone, but what could I do? If I took her phone away, I say, "You are no longer allowed to use Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook." Well, she doesn't use Facebook, but whatever. And I said, "You're not allowed." Then that's not going to help her. She's going to have a lot of social problems if I do that.
I agree. Yeah, that's fascinating. You've got to let them use the technology, have them use.
It's out there. The cats out of the bag.
But let's just turn it to teachers for a sec. So let me give you a scenario. Andy and Adam, both you guys have had high positions in schools and tremendous amount of responsibility in education establishments. Imagine that you had a teacher came in and said, "I'm not going to use an interactive whiteboard. I don't use interactive whiteboards. I'm just going to use a flip chart." What would the response be, of the school of the teachers?
I would be like, "Great." Funny you raise that, because actually my own teaching recently, I've found myself using less and less technology. There are some things which it's incredibly powerful for. Certainly, if you want to use images and representations in maths teaching, using the technology to help you show pupil's really nice, clear, accurate representations, it's really powerful. But actually, a lot of the time I've found myself just with some Blu-tack, some things that I've cut out on a flip chart and that's all I need. And in fact, the younger the pupils, the more I find myself using just something really basic like a flip chart, because I find that actually, the screens are distracting them and stopping me from helping them focus in on the maths, because they're too amazed by what the iPad can do. And they start getting interested in, "Oh, how did you do that line on your iPad? How did it go straight?" And I want them just to think about adding two numbers or something. So, I think we perhaps use too much technology at the moment. Yeah.
I just think I'd be curious. I think that's the only thing. It's kind of like if you went to a builder and said, "Listen, you can only use a chisel for the rest of your life." They're going to make some pretty awesome stuff.
Not a lot of stuff.
But there'd be limitations as to... Well, they'll be very small, obviously, kind of miniature world. But I think that's the thing. I think that. Because we've all worked with people, I remember when the interactive work boards first came in and there were people who didn't turn them on. And that's the reality, is that I think that it's the right... Again, it's always been this way, it's just the right tools for the job. So if there's a better thing that we can use, if the lesson is about an apple, you can't really beat a real apple, or maybe you can. I don't know. But I think that's the thing. I think it's a curiosity thing. And I just, I think we should just remain curious as opposed to one's good or bad or anything else. And I think the other thing too, is we must accept... And this is where we need to push all egos to the side. I might be really rubbish with an international. International? Yeah. They probably are international, interactive whiteboard. So if I just say, "Nah, they're rubbish." Maybe that's just me saying, "Actually I'm rubbish." I don't know how to do it. And so I think if we remain curious and someone says, "Oh, Emily's awesome with it. You should go and see how she used it in this." But then she flicks to a flip chart for this. And then she pulls out a bag of apples. And there you go. you just watch your kids sing. You know? And I think that's the thing. As long as we remain open minded and we learn about how to best use it, then we're probably okay.
Is technology going to be a force for good or for bad in the future? Each one of you. Just in one or two words, what do you think? What's your prediction?
I think the answer to that lies in the hands of people and how people use it. I think ultimately, I suspect the negative might outweigh the positive, but it is in the hands of people. And actually in the hands of those who educate people, both children and adults. Because if we can educate people to use it for good and to use it in the right kind of way, then it will have a positive impact. So I'm on the fence there. That's really bad, isn't it?
That's all right.
I was just going to answer, yes.
Okay. Yes is good.
Simple as that.
Adam says, yes.
Things are going to get complicated and a bit dark, but I'm always a glass half full and forever hopeful of humanity. And so therefore, I will say it will be good.
There are a lot of scary things going on in technology, but there are a lot of good things going on as well.
That's for sure. Yeah.
Yeah. Well look, we couldn't be doing this. Could we?
Exactly. That's right. That's right. There you go. Well, thanks for joining everyone. Thank you for joining us on the School of School podcast.
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