Be Very Afraid

Nov 08, 2008

Miles Berry

A while ago now, but I did enjoy my visit in Half Term to BAFTA for Stephen Heppell’s ‘Be Very Afraid 5’, a celebration of outstanding use of ICT from schools around the country, set out much like a trade fair, but with the stalls manned by each school’s students, who’d happily engage the great and good of UK EdTech (and one or two issued invitations in error, such as yours truly…), in conversation about their projects and all they’d learnt through them. As well as bumping into folk like Terry Freedman (qv his post on the same event), a personal highlight was approaching BAFTA’s burly security guard with the words, “Be very afraid”!

The Be Very Afraid website will be well worth a visit, although at the moment it’s just the archive from previous years. Four of this year’s projects in particular caught my attention:

A Hounslow secondary school that, as part of a citizenship project, had set up a blog-like site to show photos and record interviews with 100 people from their own community, and then link with a similar set of photos and interviews from other communities world wide, making the most of the links present within their own pupils extended families, giving a real sense of interconnectedness and global heritage. The Y9 student chatting with me explained that the partner site for Ghana had very few stories from anyone over 50.

Elrick Primary School who’d flown down from Aberdeen that morning to showcase their wonderful work with Year 1 that had taken Nintendo’s Dogz as its starting point. With a handful of DS’s scattered around the class, they’d worked in groups (important point this), to feed, groom and care for their virtual pets, entering them in dog shows, and all the other things one does with Dogz. The brilliant thing with this project though was the way the tech experience had then led to some amazing writing and creative work using pencil, paper, paint and other traditional, real media – a beautiful example of blended learning, making a really positive, educational use of gaming, not, perhaps that far removed from Tim Ryland’s Myst work.

Another school (Rawmarsh, Dinnington Community Primary, see below) had set up a ‘praise pod’ as part of its rewards strategy: children working well, doing good deeds, etc, are sent to the Pod for commendations, in much the same way as many a primary or prep (ourselves included) will send children who’ve done well to the head’s study for a ‘well done’ of one form or another. The nice thing about this example was that, when the child arrived at the Pod, they then recorded a video interview about what they’d done, how things were going, what they’d been learning and so on, this was then beamed via bluetooth to parents’ phones when they came in to collect their son or daughter, and, of course, the interview goes into a repository, building up a rich record of achievement over a pupil’s time at the school. Nothing too radical, but given sufficiently cheap storage and recording devices (eg phones!), it’s a good example of using video to capture the moment or record evidence in a richer and, I suspect, quicker way, than text based systems, be they paper-based or electronic.

Another stall that really, really impressed me was the education system wide adoption of Apple by the Isle of Man – the showcase stuff was based on a primary school that had equipped all its Key Stage 2 (7-11 year olds) with Mac Books, opening up all that such 1:1 access to technology can, including some very nice use of things like iweb for history projects, iphoto and imovie. The video they’d put together included some interesting footage of ipod touches used in class. Interestingly they’ve not gone too far down the VLE route though, sticking with the venerable First Class as a system wide forum solution- the learning object / content repository model of VLE use not really fitting with their educational vision, which places much more emphasis on children’s creativity.

All in all, a fascinating insight into how ed-tech’s being used elsewhere, fingers crossed I might be left on the guest list again for next year.