Bad practice

11th May 2001 at 01:00
He's bad. Jack Kenny looks at all that's bad in educational technology and what we can learn from it.

* The first shall be last

The English department is very strong and very effective. Their SAT results and GCSE results are the best in the school. However, the teachers in the department had never really started with ICT and they had been disappointed with their NOF training which had set them back. Sensing changes in the future, they were keen to start working with ICT. They, in common with all the other departments, were asked by the headteacher to bid for ICT. They asked for four laptops and one whiteboard. They received nothing.

* Where next?

The reason the English department was given is rather like the reason given by the DFEE for limiting the laptop for teachers scheme to maths teachers teaching specific groups. The head wanted to use ICT to bribe teachers to improve results. In that school the ICT resources were going to go to those people who had shown no inclination to use them. Far better to give the resources to those who would make a success, to those who would inspire the other teachers to emulate them.

* Countdown

You are a minister in the DFEE and you note that a tabloid columnist and TV personality is building up a head of steam about Internet problems. Do you challenge it as the home secretary did with the News of the World's campaign to name convicted paedophiles? Or do you stand shoulder to shoulder with the TV personality as you fall in line with the tabloid agenda, hoping for their seal of approval?

* Where next?

Changing previous proposals about email addresses in order to get Brownie points from someone who seems to see online communication as a black art is demeaning. The source of the problem, chatrooms, are more relevant for parents than teachers, most of whom ban them. Whole class email policy is already happening in primary schools but is probably unworkable, and not welcome, in secondaries. There are problems with the Internet. Slick as she is with mental maths, Carol Vorderman has no special hotline to school solutions. These need to be sought in a measured, mature way and not as a knee-jerk reaction to a tabloid campaign.

* Naff NOF

A teacher writes: "On the advice of our local authority adviser we committed the whole of our teaching staff to training with one provider. The idea seemed good but has not worked out in practice. Local authorityadvisers had not received training themselves and were less informed than the teachers they were mentoring. Twelve months on, many subjects do not have a mentor as they had not been appointed until recently and still need to be trained. Recently, one or two local authority advisers have been better informed. The programme relies heavily on teachers contacting each other via their message boards and conferencing systems. This does not suit most of our staff for many different reasons. The size of the folder presented was daunting. This has now been addressed and there is a far more useful guide to the programme. The videos accompanying the training have no guidance. The object of the training is to dip into relevant parts of the training provided, but this is not possible if you have to watch a whole video. There is no relevant training for drama teachers with this provider."

* Where next?

The advice of the TTA on this is to complain to the training provider. However, that has been done. The staff of this school must be disillusioned and it is doubtful if anything in the short-term can be done to remedy the situation and restore confidence. It all points to the fact that the LEA advice is not always the best advice. Some LEAs have had a vested interest in promoting one provider, so cast your net wider for advice.

First there was the word I run a homework club. Last week a student was looking for information on famous inventors. He used Encarta and the Internet. He searched, found material, synthesised it, edited it, reworked it for a specific audience, pasted the file into a Word document, improved the layout and then printed it. I told him to put it on disk as well. I advised him to look after it until he could hand it in to his teacher. "I can't hand this in. It has to be handwritten," he said.

* Where next?

It is increasingly difficult to understand why teachers still make these rules. Handwriting tests do not really reduce the chances of plagiarism. The simple key is the quality of assignment setting. If that is improved there is little fear of indiscriminate copying. It is easy to see when a mediocre writer suddenly attains a mature vocabulary.

If you know of any genuine examples of bad practice, email details to Jack Kenny at jack.kenny@who.netThe purpose of this column is to encourage good practice, rather than apportion blame. All material that we use will preserve anonymity

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