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Can I touch it?

When showing the video clips of the new Apple iPad to my post-16 learners and my 4 year old I got the same underwhelming response, but for two completely different reasons.

My 4 year old was un-impressed as the concept of ‘touching’ information seemed so obvious to him. When I enthused about being able to touch the screen to move images around and to activate his favourite CBeebies characters he just shrugged. He is more than adept with the computer mouse, however has often asked why he couldn’t just tap the screen to get character moving. I now feel even more of a inadequate father having not bought him a HP TouchSmart computer, to go alongside his Nintendo DSi. I believe that his generation will grow up naturally manipulation images, data and files intuitively through touch screens around the home, on their person and at work/school.

It was sad to see that the 16+ learners at college where underwhelmed due to general scepticism of the technology. As much as they thought it was a sexy device, they are far too aware of Apple’s track record of delivering looks without the functionality. It seems that the iPhone’s ground breaking design and interface has also left a legacy of technology doubters, waiting for the next version – the one with the upgrades!

The attractively low price tag and ‘cool’ design will win over one or two of the learners, however I doubt we will see the iPad filling up classrooms in the near future. However, once a device with the same interface and enhanced connectivity is released (e.g. A USB port!) I can see can see great potential for e-learning applications. In fact I may jump on the band wagon and download the software development kit now 😉



Do we need to blame the schools?

I understand the developmental reasons behind attitudes towards learning changing as we grow up; but just when do we change from a learning sponge in our early years into a teenager that demands to be spoon fed.

My 4 year old is constantly asking about and investigating new skills, whereas my post 16 learners sit there expecting me to feed the information directly into their brains. I am constantly demanding my 16-18 learners to challenge themselves and read around, and it is only now that they are getting the idea. However, they spent the first term complaining that the answers were not being given to them.

Sitting and working things out seems to come naturally to my 4 year old, but not to the post 16 learners – when did this skills disappear? I have seen evidence of creative and challenging learning in primary schools, so is it the secondary schools?



My college is closed due to dangerous ice and I am wondering what my learners are up to? I am looking after my to little ones while trying to work from home. Their attention is a bit limited to allow me to work for any sustained time. However, my 4 year old did raise a good point. “You have a computer at home, why do you have to go to work?” I have to admit I was stuck for an answer there.

It left me thinking how many of my learners are carrying on their learning from home today? I cam see that there are two learners logged into the VLE, what are the others up to? Strangely(!) When I log onto XBOX live I can find another six learners.

We are going to run am experiment during the learner’s final year project where only half of the group will work in college at one time, the others will work from home; keeping contact through the VLE and social networks. The results should be interesting I’ll keep you informed.

Where has the Telly gone?

I had to use all my teaching ability to try and describe to my 4 year old what had happened when our electricity went off on Sunday. Using several analogies and the help of Peppa Pig I managed to get the message across. This is similar experience to teaching my 16-18 year olds networking, I almost had to rely on Peppa Pig then.

It went dark for only a few minutes before lights came back on, however you have to wait for the Sky box to reboot before you can resume watching the Television. So I used this time to explain to my son about how the power for items around the house traveled down wires from the power station, like roads leaving the Play Centre. If the weather is bad sometimes one of these roads gets blocked and the power needs to take a different route. This means we can be without power for a little while, as the electricity people re-direct the power. Just like if the road to our house from the Play Centre was blocked we would find another road home. No they do not put down cones and signposts, they just send a message to the power to take another route.

As usual with new information he took this in and let me know that there was a Peppa Pig episode where the lights had gone off as well.

Trying to explain to a 16-18 year old how information is passed through a network from machine to machine was a lot harder. I tried to make this more interesting by discussing how SMS messages passed from mobile to mobile, however they were more interested in the model of the phone and the call plan rather than how it all worked. Luckily with a little role playing, computer simulations and practical work it started to become clear to them all. Perhaps I could convince the makers of Peppa Pig to create some teaching aids for older kids.

How fast do we learn?

It is always interesting to watch how long it takes people to learn skills. My 4 year old has taught himself how to play Mario Kart on the Ninento DS and shut down a PC (which is quite a complex task). However, it has taken several demonstrations and ‘walk throughs’ to teach some of 16-18 year olds how to write an effective search string for google! The Net Generation is not as naturalised as some may think.

The young learners on my course are now starting their IT projects and there are some really exciting ideas, which range from travel apps for mobile phones to interesting uses of QRCodes.

The Net Generation

The classroom was a buzz of excitement, mainly from the discussion about the previous night’s exploits, but also from the expectation of another interactive and entertaining lesson. The room was full of the same disaffected young learners that occupy further education colleges across the country. However, they are used to being experimented on by me. Part of my role at the college is to teach the other lecturers to use technology in learning and I have to try out these techniques somewhere:-)

Today, the so called ‘net generation’ were being shown how to create a wiki. We were developing an online document to share our research on the laws and ethics surrounding information systems. We used the excellent etherpad online collaboration tool (recently acquired by google, so who knows what will happen to it), which allows real-time, multiple, edits of the document. Researching computing and adding their findings to the online document, the class built up a shared resource. Once they had added their research to the wiki, they spent the remaining time playfully abusing each other in the associated chat area on the wiki.

Meanwhile, back at home, after only one demonstration my four year old has worked out how to switch on the family computer and navigate to the cbeebies website without supervision. In comparison it took my post-16 learners an hour to get to grips with an online document.

Through this blog I want to compare the developments of the current net generation with the next generation of naturalised technologists. A generation that is so completely immersed in interactive multimedia that technology is an extension of life.