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<br /> <b>Warning</b>: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, null given in <b>/home/oliverqu/public_html/liveblogs/wp-content/themes/bigfeature/library/functions/theme-functions.php</b> on line <b>930</b><br /> Oliver Quinlan: Live Blogs | Events and ideas outside of my main blog at oliverquinlan.com
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Coding across the curriculum - Miles Berry @mberryNicky Morgan: Technology key to reducing teacher workloadFlexible learning space opening at Westfield Junior SchoolLearning to swim - Eylan Ezekiel #wherenext @EylanEzekiel Creating a sustainable education system - Stephen Heppell @stephenheppell #eduict2013Tim Rylands - Back to their future #bett2013

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Coding across the curriculum - Miles Berry @mberry

Coding across the curriculum – Miles Berry @mberry


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Photo 17-06-2016, 10 18 11

Many people in Computing education are critical of the word coding, yet Miles chose it deliberately for this talk title. Why? Because there is a purpose to computing, as the National Curriculum puts it ‘to understand and change the world. Code is the tool which people can use to do this. Learning the principles, and developing the understanding is important, but the code is how this is actually embodied.

He quoted Papert on children learning Geometry with Logo programming. Papert’s concepts were all about children manipulating ‘powerful ideas’ using the tool, by doing the programming. This wasn’t about giving them computational thinking skills then using these for mathematical thinking skills. This was about using programming to embody the mathematical concepts to make them concrete and learnable.

How could this work in other subjects? Writing in the form of HTML strips out the fascination young children often have with style over content when word processing. Mixed with CSS it’s all about separating style from content, and using tags to define the structural features of writing. The abstract ideas of population growth in Science can be actually modelled with rules implemented as code, a process that requires developing a deep understanding of the principles in order to model them effectively. Python libraries for image processing hold huge potential for exploring some of the powerful ideas of composition and aesthetics in Art.

The opening years of the Computing curriculum in England have been marked by teachers stepping up to develop their understanding in a subject many had little experience of. Perhaps the side effect of this has been a focus on the theoretical, the Computational Thinking. In some way this is because that is what the teacher is focusing on; developing their deep understanding of the topic. In others it may be because presenting the subject as a series of concepts that you don’t even need a computer to teach is comforting to those who have little experience of computer based pedagogy, or very limited access to equipment.

Now, two years in, perhaps the next stage is to seeing coding on screen as an unmovably essential part of working with the key ideas in this subject. Once we make that shift, Miles makes a strong case for code starting to be seen as a tool for manipulating ideas. Once we get there, the subject of Computing is just the start.


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How research engaged is your school? Matt Walker, NFER #researched


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Matt began with the importance of developing rich relationships with schools and teachers, so that as a researcher he doesn’t end up ‘pushing research onto teachers’.

He follows a model of ‘evidence informed practice’, a bringing together of a variety of sources to inform practice, of which ‘research evidence’ is only one.

There are two main groups involved in research; the academics and the practitioners. He acknowledged the tensions between these two, the feeling sod disconnectedness on one side, lack of rigour and scale on the other.

We need to ask, he said, what research is for. Do we need large scale or is smaller going to answer our questions? Do we need to use statistical methods to answer the question or will in depth qualitative work uncover what is important. Who should do the research is also important, sometimes the distance and specialist skills of a professional research outfit is needed, others the closeness an collaboration of teacher led research can answer the questions, and get the desired effect.

The NFER self review tool helps schools to identify their engagement with research and enquiry. It’s a free tool for schools and teachers to provide a framework for understanding where they are and most crucially seeing where they might develop next.

The tool has been developed with practitioners. It takes them through 8 key aspects of research engagement, encouraging teachers to self review where they are with these themes, highlighting gaps and areas to extend. At the end it produces a report, an artefact to encourage a discussion about how schools can develop in this often tricky field.

NFER also produce ‘How to’ guides on activities such as planning research, developing surveys, and running randomised control trials. Such activities can lead to assessment for the NFER ‘Research Mark’, a kite mark showing schools that are engaged with such activities. This could potentially become something to attract staff, as Kate Atkins mentioned in her talk earlier.

All their resources for schools are available at nfer.ac.uk/ris


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Research makes education better @kateatkins33 #researched


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“Research makes education better”, began Kate, head of a 3 form entry Primary School in Lambeth, London. The school serves a mixed catchment, two very different communities in terms of affluence and culture. One of their biggest priorities is narrowing the attainment gap.

Rosendale School has become a strategic partner with the Institute of Education, and are involved in two major research projects. One looks at the impact of ‘lesson study’ to improve outcomes for Maths. The other is a national project which the school devised and wrote the bid for. It involves exploring how to teach meta-congition to primary schools, and has led to a 30 school randomised control trial (interestingly randomised within each school by class).

Kate said research can improve outcomes. It can identify the right thing to narrow attainment gaps. The knowledge base, such as John Hattie’s work, identifies the key areas that can have an impact and those that don’t. They have seen the evidence on homework, and have decided teachers should not be spending time on setting and marking homework: it makes no difference (at primary level). She has diverted teachers’ time from this to feedback, an area that is shown to make a difference to outcomes.

Kate raised the gender issues inherent in the discussion of professionalising the teaching profession (through research or otherwise). Teaching has historically been seen as a female occupation, and (therefore?) does not have a professional body. The building of a professional knowledge base is an important part of being a profession.

Some of the development of research has been about not just outcomes, but giving opportunities to staff. You get the best staff who deliver the best results when you have a school in which people love to work. Research also gives teachers a chance to further develop that love for their job as their understanding of the nature of learning and teaching becomes deeper and stronger.

Teachers need to be learners. They need to keep learning to engage well with their students. Research can be a vehicle for this. Teachers need to have the opportunity to ‘look out’ of the minutiae of their day to day jobs.

One way to achieve this is reading, setting aside study periods in the 12 weeks of holiday they have. Few teachers take this fully as holiday, they work in some way, and Kate encouraged teachers to see reading as a key part of this work.

Networking with others through twitter and going to conferences is also a key part of this. It allows you to gather ideas and directions for further reading, and crucially further thinking. At Rosendale no one goes to a conference alone, the experience has to trigger conversations that lead to change. This builds learning communities within a school.

They also use experts. The IoE research and development group, the EEF and Sutton Trust work, a lot of ground work has been done and is there to pick up and use.

However, Kate also highlighted the importance of becoming an expert yourself. Appraisal at her school is based on an action research project in every classroom. One teacher is exploring whether having a buddy approach helps with learning times tables. The staff then share the findings in staff CPD time, again building the learning community within the school. The onus on acceptable failure has to be part of this – some projects will make no difference, discovering that is important as well.

She’s putting this into practice by using pupil premium budget to give all teachers a 4 day week. 1/2 a day for PPA and 1/2 for professional development and research engagement. This needs to be driven by them, following their own enquiries into their own professional practice and the impact that different activities have on them and their students.

Changing beliefs is really hard. Schools need to be patient and persistent when trying to approach becoming evidence and research engaged.


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Why should primary schools be engaged in research? @Jon_Brunskill #researched


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What is the purpose of education? Jon Brunskill highlighted just how value laden education is, and that when engaging with research it is important to keep coming back to this. Clearly identifying the values behind the questions you are asking is central to research, and leads to clearer questions that just might give some answers.

Research has value if it is to make teachers better, as Dylan Wiliam put it, not because they are not good but because they can all get better. There is a perception that research comes from outside to tell teachers what to do and follow a model they don’t recognise in terms of their experience or their values.

He gave the example of a school using the discredited ‘Brain Gym’ approach. When he challenged the teachers on it the answer was ‘We found it works for us’. The question, it seems, is what we mean by ‘works’, what are we aiming for? If it’s some fun and a bit of physical activity maybe it does ‘work’, if it’s cognitive development then the evidence suggests it’s not that which is going to be ‘working’ for you. There’s another side to this for me, the damage that can be done by further entrenching mistaken beliefs in the power of something shown to not work. However, there is a point in terms of being clear before implementing approaches in school what it is we might want to see from them if we are to say they ‘work’. Not setting any goals leaves them almost guaranteed to ‘work’ in some way.

Jon questioned whether teaching was a profession as it does not have a clearly defined and agreed upon knowledge base or discourse. He made the point that this lack of consensus on what works and what matters leaves the profession open to attacks by politicians.

Four reasons he gives to be research engaged:

1. Immunises against ideas that waste time.
2. It can help improve student outcomes.
3. It can be a shortcut to good new ideas (especially to newcomers to the profession) – drawing on the knowledge base rather than having to gather first hand experience.
4. It is professionalising.

Creating a field of discourse and a body of knowledge professionalises. Jon said it is ‘bottom up’, something teachers will engage with and own rather than feeling top down ideas are nicely framed but ultimately damning criticisms of them.

The elephant in the room, he says, is the time and capacity for research engagement in schools. Senior leadership currently have no reason to believe that engaging with research is going to address their accountability outcomes or their school development priorities.

The challenge is how the engagement with research as a thing in itself make a difference to students. For schools, it isn’t about the pure pursuit of knowledge and understanding for it’s own sake, it’s about how their activity makes the difference they are there to make. More needs to be done to explore how this can work and whether it really does.


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Becoming a research engaged school #ResearchEd @C_Hendrick


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Carl Hendrick is Research lead at Wellington College, and has set up a research centre to embed research across the school. Carl has identified five problems with education research:

1. The outside in model
Research has been something done ‘on’ teachers as objects of study rather than active participants.

2. Knowledge creation
Teachers have been given answers to questions they did not ask. Outside agents have told teachers what to do. The questions come from outside and so do the answers.

3. Gap between research and practice.
This is a canyon. Teachers should be asking what research looks like in their classroom. And example of this is ‘grout mindsets’. Ask any teacher you get a good working model, ask them how they can affect a growth mindset you get a different answer. This results in a chinese whisper effect – 30 years of research turning into vapid motivational posters. Implementation is a real problem.

4. Narrow measures of success
We’ve become really good at measuring some things such as exam results, but not the hidden effects of what happens in classrooms. In the Vietnam war McNamara thought the success of war could be measured by body counts, leading to… the result of that conflict. In education we measure what we can easily measure, such as Robert Coe’s ‘poor proxies for learning‘.

5. Time and capacity
Systemically teachers don’t have the time and headspace to engage meaningfully with a field that requires significant engagement to get anything out of.

What schools can do to engage with research?

1. Establish a research centre
Wellington Learning and Research Centre has been set up to strategically approach engagement with research rather than just access it in a piecemeal way project by project. It helps enable staff to engage with the evidence base, ask their own questions, involve students and establish a platform to disseminate work.

2. Appoint a research lead
You need to consider if someone should be on SLT (clout to get things done), if they should have academic qualifications, what their relationship is like with staff and whether they can see projects through. Sometimes senior people take responsibility for this area but then don’t have capacity to make things through.

3. Embed it across the school
Often people’s MAs and PhD’s take place in their own space, unaligned with a whole school focus and not even talking to each other. Wellington are co-ordinating their research across the school with a student research council, staff research fellows and strategic partnerships with other organisations. The student research council meets every fortnight, carry out literature reviews, and works alongside teachers to make the research happen. Carl has seen something powerful with students when they read the research- another level than many ‘learning to learn’ programmes.

He said research can be a change agent in schools, not top down, but empowering when embedded properly and linked to the challenges that teachers and students face in the classroom.


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Nicky Morgan: Technology key to reducing teacher workload

Nicky Morgan: Technology key to reducing teacher workload


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IMG_1673.JPG

“I am convinced that educational technologies must be at the heart of this”

Talking of the power of education technology, Nicky Morgan quoted the BESA report that many schools have inadequate connectivity. She cited a number of programmes the current government have been involved in to address this.

She said the pace of change makes it difficult for people of her generation to keep up, quoting the work of Mark Prensky to justify this. For many teachers, she said, this means support is needed, and she have examples of some of the programmes and financial incentives the government has put in place in partnership with the tech sector.

This morning she announced a new programme to put industry experts in to schools to train and support schools. Another £3.5 million will go into supporting the implementation of the new computing curriculum.

“The next stage is to raise our sights far further”

The education technology action group have recommended reforming school accountability. Morgan said we need to consider how big data can be used to give parents and students choice. She suggested loosening up tax data so the population could see the ‘true worth’ of different subjects.

Assessment and reporting were another ETAG area. ETAG recommended moving towards technology enabled examinations. Morgan said she wanted to find a way to use technology to improve the flow of information for parents.

Finally, she said technology should play ‘a pivotal role’ in reducing teacher workload. Planning and marking have been revealed by the teacher workload survey as contributing hugely to this. She said apps are available to assist teachers to mark and plan, reducing duplication in planning and spreading good practice from school to school.

Some schools are developing their own apps that build in and streamline the planning process and spread this practice to schools across the world. However, there are other aspects to reducing workload as well, which the government will take action on soon.

She also said there is a huge potential of technology for learning for children.

She quoted Steve Jobs about misfits and promoted the “people crazy enough to want to change the world” in moving forward education.


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Flexible learning space opening at Westfield Junior School

Flexible learning space opening at Westfield Junior School


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photo
Yesterday afternoon I had the privilege to visit the opening of a really interesting project at Westfield Junior School in Hampshire. ‘The Hive’ is a flexible working space, with just enough technology to give children options for their projects, coupled with enough space and flexible furniture to let them define how they work.

Taking an old kitchen space, Headteacher Karine George decided to create a space where staff and children could try out new ways of working, without the pressure of remodelling all of the existing classrooms. A space for trying out innovation, this contained flexible furniture, lots of open space, walls that could be written on as whiteboards and lots of technology available.

360 Panorama

As I arrived at the school I was met on the playground by a group of children, who confidently introduced themselves to me, asked if I was here for the opening and got me signed in and toured around the school, all without any adults telling them what to do. It turned out that they hadn’t been especially prepared for this role either, they had heard there was an opening going on and took it up themselves to make the visitors welcome in their school.

The new physical space contained some interesting technology which the school are exploring the potential of. As you might expect, there were tablet computers but there were also desktop (or at least ‘desk based’) PCs which had their inner workings exposed so children could actually see how the computers they use are constructed.

They had also been donated two 3D printers, with plans to set up an enterprise manufacturing the creations of local designers, as well as explore the potential for children prototyping their own creations.

As I explored the new space, children kept coming to find me and ask if I had see. One aspect or another of their school, taking me off to show me the library modelling into a jungle, the music room which they had helped design, and the websites they had created for their Egyptians project.

What struck me most about the visit was not the technology, although the children were clearly very confident and engaged users of it, but how confident, articulate and welcoming they were.

Whilst this school are creating spacious and balanced physical environments, they are clearly also creating spacious and balanced social environments too, giving children space to become individuals. It was a great day and well worth a visit to see a school trying new things for the right underlying reasons.


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Michael Gove – #bett14 Keynote


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Gove began by congratulating the companies representing “the best of British” at BETT. He congratulated TSL publications, publishers of the TES and their professional social network NAND resource sharing site. He noted the by teachers for teachers ethos of this.

Next was frog, and particularly their project to connect Malaysian learner across their entire country. Little bridge were also mentioned for their solutions for young learners of English.

British businesses, it seems, are being celebrated for their roll out of educational products internationally.

Gove noted how young most of these companies are, and how disruptive technology is to business. New technologies develop so fast- that is why, he said, we need to structure out education systems flexibly and in an open way. He said that academies and free school programmes have helped make the school system more adaptive, with power spectra listed. The openness, adaptability and flexibility have been a big part of the curriculum reforms in England, he said.

He reminded the audience of his speech two years ago dismantling the ICT curriculum, and how his resulted in the new computing curriculum. He said that this has led to teachers using this freedom to begin using the wealth of resources online to develop their practice, and contribute to the new curriculum.

He said this new curriculum gives schools more freedom to innovate. The old curriculum, he said, was about as useful as teaching children to use a telex machine. Now children will be using computational abstractions and the types of skills the jobs of the future, and of now, demand.

New CS qualifications will be included in the English baccalaureate from this summer, showing how important he thinks this subject and these skills are.

Teachers need to be properly supported to make the most of the flexibility and dynamic nature of this area. He government have given more and bigger bursaries for computing graduates to become teachers. He said it was not enough to have just the best new recruits, but to support existing schools. They have done this by fussing the computing at school initiative. They are, he said, establishing a national network of excellence in computer science Tes high with the CAS networks and their master teachers.

He noted that primary school teachers have little or no experience of this subject and said gat initiatives are being put in place to address this.

3D printers, he said, have developed from an expensive toy to something that is making a real impact in engineering and manufacturing. This has fed into the new design technology curriculum. This is not about teaching children just about technology, but to support learning in other subjects.

He said inspirational projects like this are taking place across the education system.

Technology forces us to thing about the way we use technology to make education ‘immeasurably different’ to the education he had. This is happening in a disruptive and bottom up way. He said he wrong way to proceed is for government to dictate from the centre hoe this should happen- it cannot keep pace with the speed of this field.

He believes that the government should give schools the freedom to allow schools to react and innovate with new technological developments.

Gove spoke of the power of open resources such as those at MIT and other MOOCs. These open world leading courses at highly prestigious universities to everyone with a connection. This democratises knowledge. The problem of dropout from these courses was mentioned, and give said we need to innovate the courses to take advantage of what employers say they want to make them more motivating to complete.

Technology will, he said, change the way schools operate. He is exploring using MOOCs and online courses in sixth forms and how the new accountability measures might take account of this.

The government are funding a course to bridge the gap between a level and undergraduate physics to ease the transition between these two levels.

He finished by re iterating the uncertainty in this field and the importance of allowing those with the ideas and the drive to change education with technology to do so.

He thanks all the innovators and inventors who has brought us here today to this point.

Questions

Gove was asked by Terry freedman what he envisaged a young person leaving school in five years would look like. He said in essence the capacity to decide what their future would be is key. Thanks to the power of education and technology we have choices, he said. He would like to see students with the confidence, the knowledge base and the character to do this and take advantage of opportunities. They also need the cultural capital ness secret to construct their own life in the future rather than something imposed on them.

He was then asked about schools engaging with the private sector and how he saw this developing. Gove sung the praises of the private sector and the influence they have had on the current state of our system. He said we should not loose sight of education being a public service and teachers should be motivated by idealism and love of children.


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Making better decisions about digital technology in education @nesta_uk #digitaldecisions

Making better decisions about digital technology in education @nesta_uk #digitaldecisions


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Photo 21-01-2014 16 45 07 (1)

Many education systems have invested significantly in digital technology in the past decade, but there are many examples of decision making based more on what is new and fashionable rather than what actually works for learning. This afternoon at Nesta we convened for an event to explore how we can make better decisions about technology in education.

Reference was made to the Nesta report ‘Alive in the Swamp’ and the Michael Fullan book ‘Stratosphere’.
How can teachers and product developers work together to identify the best digital innovations for learning? 

Maria Langworthy said that much decision making has been based around ‘an outdated pedagogical model’ of content delivery. She would like to see a move toward co-creation and collaboration as a foundation for deep learning. For her, this is an epidemiological shift towards students and teachers discovering the content knowledge together. This is not just delivering knowledge but actively constructing it, and she has provided some ideas about how this might happen in the forthcoming ‘Rich Seam’ paper from Pearson. One example is students working on a project about the hydrosphere. Their teacher challenged them to demonstrate the implications of this learning, and they chose to Skype with a conservation project owner to discover the key problem they were facing. They used this insight to collaborate with a manufacturer to design a piece of technology that solved this problem and bring it to the site of the problem.

Katelyn Donnelly came at the question from a product development point of view. People in this field need to not only create great things like schools, but also find large markets for them to make them work. What she sees happening in this space is more product developers using schools as R and D labs, or setting up demo days to show their work and build a feedback loop to ensure that their products are really solving the problems that a large number of schools face. She suggested that the ‘startup model’ could be built into schools- where the school is constructed in such a way that they generate new technological solutions to the problems they face and get the pedagogy of the technology right.

Prof. Michael Fullan said in Ontario when faced with digital technology the best decision they made was to ignore it… or at least to focus on the pedagogy first and trust that the technology industry would see what they were doing and develop solutions that fitted. He also emphasised that decisions have to be made in a way that allows whole school systems to change not just ’boutique schools’. From a pedagogic point of view he has seen the most powerful work around John Hattie’s ‘teachers as activators’ rather than ‘facilitators’; when teachers and students c0-construct the areas they are working on, but don’t just take all the direction from the young people passively.

The most important thing, he said, is for product developers to understand pedagogy. They need to take the agenda of learning and learners need to take the agenda of technology.

We then moved to discussion around tables and feedback. Ideas drawn from this included running competitions for funding for student innovations in technology, although it was noted that it is important to make sure the judges have the expertise needed to make these decisions. Michael Fullan picked out the idea that technology products need to be based on the understanding of how teaching and learning works, and that there is work to be done on defining these principles. The theme of students as co-creators came out strongly, but Maria Langworthy added that a structure is needed for this to give them clear goals. A byproduct of this is that is gives students experience of creating ideas and technology in the way they will have to in the world after school.

How can we evaluate the value and effectiveness of digital innovations in education? 

Katelyn and Michael defined a structured system for evaluating digital innovations in their publication ‘Alive in the swamp’. They have found that when used in practice this has provided a useful structure for discussing the key points of these innovations between technology providers and schools. Michael Barber noted the importance for effective innovation of being thorough, making sure we are looking at them from all possible angles rather than just the exciting edge of the new idea.

Maria used Microsoft’s ‘Partners in learning’ as an example of an initiative that moved from trying to change teachers to trying to change systems. They decided that the actual way to make lasting change was to develop measures of the impact of technology, and she was part of a global research programme to do this.

Michael Fullan has found that applying the ‘Alive in the swamp’ index to innovations has focused those developing them in on the weak points, and generally this has been on the pedagogical aspects. Much like a ‘SWOT’ analysis, he has found this focus key to helping people sure up the technological initiatives they are developing in education and spotting the gaps.

From the room the point was made of the difficulty of knowing whether improvements we are seeing are down to technology. Michael Fullan said we need to make sure people in schools have the capacity to answer that question. High stakes testing and accountability with narrow measures make this difficult. High stakes assessment itself, he said, is not undesirable, but it is about basing it on the right measures.

Maria Langworthy said we need to develop new measures of co-construction and knowledge creation, as these are the outcomes that are often in mind rather than the more traditional measures we seem to often end up resorting to.

One audience member suggested approaching measurement in terms of the ‘health’ of learning environments. Rather than measuring the learning, measure the environment in which the learning is happening- this is where good learning happens, and also focuses us on making the changes to the environment needed for the learning to happen, rather than the abstract that we often end up with. Conditions are in some ways more straightforward to both measure and to change and therefore develop the learning.

Another from the audience noted that this is a political issue. If we start with measurement then we could end up with a situation where teachers are in competition which may not be healthy. With measures can come top down control that narrows teachers capacities to respond to their learners and engage in the kind of co-construction the earlier speakers were focusing on.

How can innovative technologies and pedagogies be scaled up?

Michael Fullan said he dislikes the notion of pilots- what usually happens is people keep piloting their way through life and don’t accumulate successes. He prefers the concept of ‘diffusion’, the idea that it might spread. This keeps the mind focused on what is happening elsewhere whilst the innovation is happening, and discourages ‘piloting’ in a blinkered way. People should not pilot and then connect with others, but be connected and interact as they are developing their work. This encourages them to pay attention to the ideas of others even if they do not completely agree with them; a healthy environment in which ideas spread. The spread of ideas needs to be ‘voluntary but inevitable‘, when ideas are co-constructed they are built around addressing the problems they actually face so they are bound to ‘scale’.

Maria Langworthy said perhaps access is the key; where students have access to technology the innovation and pedagogical development is often inevitable, with the caveat that locked down technologies can hinder this. With increased access there should be a ‘tipping point’ in new pedagogies and learning activities.

On our table we discussed the fact that innovation needs to be seen as a whole process, including dissemination and scaling up. Too often innovation is seen as just the initial idea generation, which causes the problem with ‘pilots’ that Michael Fullan mentioned.

We need to see innovation as a whole life cycle, and get innovators excited about the problem and innovation possibilities involved in scaling. ‘Capacity must be the goal’ Michael Fullan re-iterated.

Technology also needs to be designed with the scalability of the pedagogy as well as the technology itself, an audience member noted. 

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Death by suicide: Using an online memorial as a vehicle for telling the untold story – Dr Saffron Scott, University of Bournemouth


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We often explore how online is changing aspects of our social and romantic lives, but the way we grieve is also evolving alongside and through technology. 

Dr Scott’s work grew from exploring grief writing both to and about the dead, which these days is often expressed on the internet. As part of this work she discovered a private online memorial to ‘Ted’, who ended his own life on 12th October 1959.

The language we use in discourses around suicide is often individualistic, influenced by conceptions of the act as criminal in the past, and also often implying self indulgence. The Oxford dictionary focuses on the existence of intention, a problematic concept for some given the potential for suicidal intents to be unconscious. There is a conception is an individual event that ends the suffering of an individual, at the cost of then inflicting this suffering on others, from the more trivial frustration of delayed commuters to the grief of those close to the individual.

People generally deal with bereavement through ‘post death rituals’, those studying this area have long advocated actions to ‘resolve’ this grief as a positive action that allows people to ‘move on’. Some writers have argued for an alternative model of grief that the interdependence people have leads to a link that continues, albeit moving to a new type of relationship. People still have a place for the deceased in their lives, although the public perception is often that this is potentially unhealthy.

Memorialisation of the deceased seems to be a strong part of human nature, and such practices have been present and evolving for thousands of years. Sometimes this is physical memorial such as burial mounds, sometimes in ideas such as stories, songs and poems. Physical memorials have long progressed with emerging technology, incorporating first names, then images, and more recently photographs and digital media on grave stones.

A more recent development is the use of obituaries in print media, a memorial often reserved for those of particular notoriety, character or social status. Jones has argued that the incorporation of print into death rituals has depersonalised the announcement of death in that the message no longer needs to be delivered by a human. This has continued to develop with the increased ability to publish and lower cost of doing so. Websites such as ‘MuchLoved’ have appeared and allowed the bereaved of those who would not be featured in a traditional obituary to take part in this grieving practice.

Although the web allows for publicly available resources, there is a significant mixture of public, semi-public and private online memorials. They are often difficult to access through search engines or hidden either deliberately or not behind logins. Navigation of such material is sometimes facilitates by ‘web rings’ with mutual links which allow people to explore the mourning of other people in similar situations; building communities linked by the experience of grief rather than individuals themselves. Communities exist for those who have been bereaved through suicide, or certain illnesses such as cancer.

More recently mainstream social networking sites such as Facebook and myspace have used the lifetime presence of the deceased and shifting it into a memorial. This could be conceptualised as a virtual ‘open casket’, although the affordances of the technology make this a casket that is never closed.

This allows continuing bonds, meeting of those who share the experience of grief, and a connectedness around death. The traditional conception of grief as something that should be completed and ‘moved on’ from is challenged here by the relative permanence of such records. Conflicting conceptions of the benefits and drawbacks of this have led to public discussions of who owns such profiles after a person dies, and the appropriateness of them being inherited by their loved ones to memorialise or to close down.

So why would those affected by suicide turn to such memorials? The social stigma of suicide disenfranchises those bereaved, and online memorials can allow an expression of grief that deals with this. It also facilitates those struggling with the particular nuances of this kind of bereavement to make connections with others who are also challenged by these issues. This can become a community where the bereaved feel most at home, a community which is available for support asynchronously or twenty four hours of the day. This potentially also facilitates an outlet for challenging the stigma of suicide in society.

As the event of someone’s death ages there has been an increasing tendency to institutionalise it, with only accounts of lives and death that are notable living on in formal texts such as books or histories. In the case of the online memorial of ‘Ted’, the bereaved have attempted to continue the informal, more personal memorial decades after a death by suicide. This memorial continues to develop organically, keeping the personal narrative of this person active. In some senses it has evolved from originally telling the story of the deceased, to telling the story of two generations of the bereaved and the continuing effects they feel.

As ever, the way we conceptualise significant events in our lives and the way they are communicated by technology develops side by side. It is interesting to consider what part each plays in the other’s development, as often it is depicted that it is technology that pushes forward our social structures and the ways we understand them, whether we want them to move in that direction or not. Dr Scott’s work presents the case of memorials to the deceased, and particularly those who died by suicide, as an example of how complex the intertwined nature of these narratives actually is.


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