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Is Your Biggest Fear I.T?

What is your biggest fear? If it’s I.T. and social media you shouldn’t just hide from it, you need to face your fears. James Yates discusses how he uses I.T, especially social media, positively with his students.

At the risk of sounding like my Grandad, I’m going to open with: ‘When I was at school things were different’. I still recall being asked to help swap over the sheets on the overhead projector for the teacher and I’m pretty sure my old science teacher did still have a chalk board.

It’s safe to say things have moved on since then and that was only around 15-20 years ago (still makes me feel old though). Nowadays, there is so much available to teachers due to advances in I.T. However, so many still aren’t embracing it. From a personal perspective, I’d be lost without YouTube in particular. There are so many engaging videos for every subject – it’s just a matter of looking for them. It could also provide an opportunity for students to make their own videos based on what they’re learning and potentially upload that. The sense of pride and achievement when they see something they’ve created go ‘viral’ is great to see. We are living in an age where kids are more I.T savvy than most adults. We need to be trying to catch them up so that we can support them fully. I worry that because some are so behind in terms of their understanding of things such as social media and other platforms that not everyone is capable of providing the level of safeguarding needed at times.

This is why I could easily link IT to I.T (the pun was intended). In the Stephen King novel and adapted films, the demonic entity would appear to his victims in various forms. The victims would see their greatest fears and I think there are many areas of I.T that people fear and don’t know enough about. As already highlighted, some fear social media; it’s human nature to often fear or be cautious over things they know little about. Social media is often portrayed as an added hindrance to teachers: whether it’s students with their phones out in lessons or the peer issues/cyber-bullying that can arise from it. I just think people are missing a trick with it. I’ve only recently started using Twitter to network and talk more about this wonderful profession with others. Previously, I’d only really used it to be nosey in regards to certain celebrities. It’s helping me outside of the classroom but it can also be a tool within it. If a student/class impresses you, why not tweet about it? Right there in the class in front of them. Naming them may not always be appropriate but students love the praise; it’s about making them a positive celebrity within your class and not a negative one. Many teachers put the names of badly behaved students up on the board (in my opinion always a no-no as it is like rewarding negative behaviour). This week, a year 8 student was sat in my chemistry class and we were looking at the periodic table. He put his hand up and said:

“Sir, I think I’ve just made a joke up about elements.”

I said, “Go on let’s hear it.”

“What do people do when an element dies?” At this point, I had no idea what the punchline was but I was hooked.

“I don’t know?”

“They barium.”

It was brilliant. I was so impressed that:

  1. He was so engaged with the periodic table
  2. That his ability to use puns was so good.

So, right there and then I put it up on Twitter. He was so pleased with himself and the sense of achievement was massive even though it was just a joke. Now, I did check that night to see if that joke already existed and yes there are similar jokes but I genuinely think he made it up. The point is, using social media can be an asset in the classroom. I’ve often used it in my plenaries: students must write a tweet or Facebook status about the lesson hash-tagging keywords they think were important etc. Getting students talking about their learning outside of the classroom is a massive step towards creating the culture that any school wants – having students that really connect with and care about their education.

It’s not just social media that you can use to get them really engaged. I’m sure lots of you have used Kahoot. If not then I recommend it – students love it, it’s free and lots of quizzes and assessments are already created for you across all subjects. It is basically a quiz where students can use their phones or laptops to link in with an online quiz you run off of your PC or laptop etc. You can create your own quizzes and I’ve even got students to make their own as a way to reflect on their learning.

As I’ve already said with Twitter, I.T isn’t just useful in the classroom. If you are a senior leader or Head reading this and you don’t use Class  Charts, I recommend you look into it. My school has only just started using it but it’s amazing. It offers so much: virtual seating plans that include pictures of students and highlights SEN and other data; it tracks behaviour both positive and negative; attendance is monitored and tracked too. Another impressive feature is it’s ability to link in with SIMs. Furthermore, students can engage with it and they all can have personal log-ins to look at their own performance, encouraging them to be reflective and self-assess. This week, I had an information evening for parents in year 11 and they were given the parental logins so they can monitor their child’s performance in school. It means they don’t have to wait until a school report to have an idea of how their child is doing in school. They can provide an additional level of support daily/weekly. For those that are parents, the classic response to asking how you day was at school is, “It was alright”. Now parents can actually say “I see English went well today as you got a reward for answering questions in class” or “What went wrong in Maths today?” Parental support has been proven to be up to eight times more influential than social class or location so giving them something easy to access with easy to use tools is a great way to get that hook for them. As a pastoral leader, I have found it great as I get a live feed on all logged behaviours across the school and this means if I see a specific student that I’ve been monitoring get something positive logged, I can go and high five him/her or shake his hand. Alternatively, if it is negative, I can go and ask what went wrong or possibly support one of my colleagues if appropriate.  I am conscious that I’m starting to sound like I’m on the Class Charts payroll (which I’m not) but it is seriously a great tool on so many levels.

Now, even with me sharing some of these ideas I still consider myself a novice with I.T and I’m still learning and finding out about new things all the time but the key is to look out for things that will support you in what you do. Some will be great, some won’t fit with how you teach or work and that’s fine but the key is to be open to everything that is out there. In IT, Pennywise the clown appears every 27 years to feast on the fears of his victims but in education you cannot afford to stay still for 27 years. I have been teaching for almost 10 years and things change all the time. I.T and the impact it can have on us as teachers is changing and evolving all the time – not every so often. We all need to adapt our teaching to keep it relevant and engaging. Embrace the clicking of a few buttons and you could open a world that improves both your teaching and their learning.
Face your fears… repeating “I’m not afraid of you”.

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The author

James Yates has been teaching Science for almost ten years now. He is a self confessed Superhero geek and this led him into teaching which makes sense as he is passionate about helping people. James soon picked up Pastoral leadership responsibility in school and well as some teaching and learning roles. James is always looking to improve himself and those around him which is what he tries to promote to the young people he teaches .He is passionate about teaching the person not the student. He believes every child deserves a champion and has the right to an education. That education isn’t just subjects and qualifications but life lessons and how to socialise.

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