Saturday, 22 November 2008

A Day with John Davitt

This one has been two weeks in the writing and I have loads more to catch up. Not doing very well really :-)

I was lucky enough, a couple of weeks ago, to attend a day led by John Davitt,  described as a “practical visionary” in the field of ICT in education. John talked about how we all learn. The answer is; in a multitude of ways, so he felt that we should be asking children how they want to learn what they need to know saying that we can’t guess. The personalised learning agenda has been an important feature of education here in the UK for a while now, but in a new analysis of personalised learning - reported by the BBC and tweeted a few hours ago by Gavin Dudeney it has been called "Well intentioned waffle" and challenges the idea ending with the line: “Which is why "personalised learning" was more of a symbolic gesture than a real turning point in education policy.” Being a teacher I have no problem with the fact that teachers provide for as many different ways of learning as possible by making the best use of many types of resources, images, video, sound, text and ask for work back from pupils in a huge mixture of different media and allow pupils freedom to develop their own interests and skills as far as can be fitted into the creative curriculum. Also the Learning Platforms that are being introduced across the whole country giving pupils access to their learning resources and education on demand. We are all working towards what we thought was personalised learning - if it not called that, fine - we are doing the best we can to provide what our pupils need when they need it whatever it is called.

The focus for the day was to be on the use of tools for the schools of the future.  John said that there is already a wide range of learning tools available in school but he felt that the web 2.0 tools should simply fit into the pot of resources available for use. Pupils should be able to use whatever works for them to when they want to learn something. The tools need to work around the whole “chessboard” of learning  - so that pupils can, amongst other things,  see,  hear,  talk, show, write, listen, scan, animate, share and record chats. They should be used to develop and enhance creativity.

There is a dilemma between what we have in paper and what we have digitally.  Do we want, or want our students to live in the paper world or digital world? Should we be aiming at being paperless, or do some people need resources that are paper? Are they mutually exclusive?

John’s answer was that so long as they can live powerfully and actively in whichever they choose, or both, then it is fine.

As a warm up John introduced a random name chooser, that was fun and can be found at:

John is a great advocator of using the mobile phone in interesting ways. He says there is a “difference engine” in every pocket. He threw out a few ideas: send a text message abroad and  get a reply, text the teacher 160 characters on any subject and show 10 seconds on sedimentary rock as a film on mobile phone. He reminded us that we should think of activities not technology. To focus on the power of this John introduced his Learning Event Generator, a tool that can generate random curriculum linked activities, an on-line version can be seen at We were all given copies of the software to try out and develop. His newest version was running on his iPhone.  (He also demonstrated a rather wonderful but possible pointless ocarina simulation for the iPhone, that instantly loved and coveted.) 

The delegates were all given a task from the Learning Event Generator and around the room we had videos, pdf files, sound files and animations all created in about 30 minutes in the session.

John showed the group some Flickr tools that I had not seen before -, he used a photograph that he had taken of the group during the morning session and had published on Flickr, to make a magazine cover. Lovely creative use of the mobile phone, web 2.0 tools and a very inspiring task for pupils.

He reminded us to use free tools such as Scratch with its 160,000 current projects that can be downloaded to investigate how they work and improved

He talked about mashing being a new art form and reminded us to use video tools, phones, digital cameras etc. To develop creativity, showing the sheep and Rosie as a reminder of the fun element.

I am sure there was loads more he shared and showed, it was an interesting day and a timely reminder of what my job is all about, it is too easy to get bogged down in things that are not so important and forget it is all about the children.

Much more about John's work can be found on his website at and on Dipity which seems to work well for him but will not for me :-(

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