Thursday, 29 January 2009


Woke up this morning in a (thankfully warmer) St Katherine's to find a hovercraft moored nearby - cue a mass of conversations on the dock because it really is so different to anything else moored here.

On the English east coast the water can be very shallow (you can stand waist deep in water, out of sight of land) and these hovercrafts are used as workboats to get to the places a floating hull simply can't reach. Hovercrafts were very much "of their time" and almost all the short ferry services have ceased now, they were just a bit too thirsty and quite hard to control in rough weather. You can hire this one, I'll add the website when i find it...

It is a nice illustration of how hard people find it to "think afresh" (cue debate about education): when Sir Christopher Cockerell invented the hovercraft he showed it to the armed services. Famously the Admiralty said it was a plane not a boat; the RAF said it was a boat not a plane; and the Army were "plain not interested"! Today they are used by the military more than anyone else... but it took a long time.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Learning Elsewhere (2)

On the Saturday of BETT Jonathan Furness' students from Kings Road Primary (they don't have an apostrophe) in Chelmsford, with their fab headteacher Phil Kyriacou (he is so ambitious for how good they might be, and so confident in them), came along to the quietest day of what had been a manic BETT.

Jonathan is an inspired and inspiring teacher and you can see the difference he has made too; as the show started the students just quietly got on with some wonderful learning embracing all kinds of technologies - here, as the show opens, they are just camped out all over our stand and the Show with their projects. Later, having been introduced to John Davitt's clever lesson planning tool "Learning Score" they produced a lesson plan for teaching chess, and introduced it in a spontaneous presentation on the stand.

I think the 21st century will be Ok with this lot!

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Learning elsewhere

I was rather pleased with our stand at the heart of BETT this year - the focus was Learning Elsewhere and the stand was in two halves: a grassy "outdoor" half with astroturf and fresh real flowers and an "indoor" half with wood floor and surfaces. Each day a school, from "elsewhere" beamed in on Skype or iChat (interesting how much better iChat was by the way) and the stand guests and daily school's students all chatted about life and learning in China, the US, the Caribbean and so on.

The students were (of course) unfazed by all this and chatted, as ever, so comfortably, but the stand was packed for these sessions. BETT is prefaced by an event that something like three quarters of the world's population are represented at by their ministers of education - it is all becoming very global and exciting.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Digital divide (2)

I have posted elsewhere in this phone blog about the digital divide opening up between the educational fundamentalists - who would ban everything from phones to social networking - and the 21st century schools who understnd that every turned off device is potentially a turned off child and are embracing the 21st century for all they are worth.

The Learning and Technology World Forum in Westminster brought a host (collective noun suggestions please?) of education ministers together and I invited a group from Lampton School to come along and form a panel talking to the ministers about how they use tech in their personalised learning. Their confident use of YouTube and social networking, their MSN support from teachers at night, their phones-as-a-classroom-resource, their sense of ICT entitlement, and more, captivated the audience who were however divided in their facial reactions! Everyone could see the value of course but half were nodding in a reaffirming kind of way, the other half looked frankly terrified! There's that Digital Divide again...

In the photo the students' hour and a half of confident answers to the ministers' questions is over to be followed something of a stampede to the front to ask more yet questions and seek more of their wisdom. Here the students are, statesmanlike, answering this last lot of questions! The same school - and some of the same students - went on to really impress the BETT guests with their projects on our Learning Elsewhere feature stand - they really were exceptionally and persuasively articulate about their learning lives.