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Tes ED TECH64
Chapter eleven
Not revolution
but evolution
GETTY
65Tes ED TECH
I
n 1968, a year before the first failed
attempt to communicate via an embryonic
internet, the pioneering computer scien-
tists Joseph Licklider and Robert Taylor
wrote that “in a few years, men will be able
to communicate more effectively through a
machine than face to face”. That first
attempt to remotely type “Login”, got only as
far as “Lo” before the connection dropped,
but, ultimately, their prediction was spot on.
But while grand visions like thatof ­Licklider
and Taylor can act as a driver for the great
advances that follow, when applied to the
requirements of the 21st-century school,
they sometimes induce a fear of missing
out that can motivate bizarre educational
gambles – the most extreme example being
the $1.3 billion (£1 billion) Los Angeles iPad
scheme, which was supposed to provide a
tablet for every child and revolutionise how
the curriculum was delivered. It failed to live
up to the hype and ended with the school
district asking for its money back.
In fact, we would go so far as to say
that inspirational big ideas are perhaps
the biggest obstacle to the successful use
of technology in education, and can cloud
the learning process. With apologies to
Karl Marx, we believe that inspiration is
the opium of educators, and that only
by abolishing inspiration as illusory knowl-
edge can we make clear our demand for
real knowledge.
There is an alternative history of technol-
ogy to that of great men with grand visions.
The history of technology from below is
one of tinkerers, hobbyists, of billions of tiny
advances, of practical solutions.
The reality of this people’s history can be
seen in the 250,000 patents associated with
current smartphones, and the two billion
lines of code that make up Google. When
faced with this version of history, we can
see that it is humility, not hubris, that is the
real driving force.
This humility, this respect for the details,
has been the approach to technology at our
school. We are the custodians of our stu-
dents’ education and must not gamble this
sacred trust on folly. Yet we are also aware
that in an ever-changing world, atrophy is
equally foolish – the one thing we do know
about the future is that it will not be the
same. Finding this balance has been central
to whateversuccess ourschool has achieved.
We cannot know the future
In The Road to Serfdom, the economist and
philosopher Friedrich Hayek warns against
the dangers of central planning – of “planifi-
cation”. His argument is based on one key
idea: we cannot know the future, and any
attempt to force a particular future to occur
will lead to totalitarianism and disaster.
In his later work, he describes planification
as “constructive rationalism” or “positivism”:
in other words, the mistaken belief that
human beings can create the future they
desire by the manipulation of certain varia-
bles. We cannot, for example, conclude
that simply by forcing technology use in
every lesson, students will be better pre-
pared for 21st-century life.
The alternative is evolutionary rationalism,
which, by accepting the limits and incom-
pleteness of our ­knowledge, seeks to reap
the rewards of the freedom to tinker. Hayek
writes that “the effect of allowing ourselves
to be deluded by [constructive rationalism]
has always been that man has actually
­limited the scope of what he can achieve.
For it has always been the recognition of the
limits of the possible which has enabled man
to make full use of his powers.”
At Caxton College, we have pursued what
we would describe as an evolutionary ➧
Tes ED TECH66
costly, but the price for not having layers of
contingencies can be catastrophe.
We take care of the details, such as the
placement of wi-fi antennae in each class-
room. The apparent holistic, seamless
continuity of our system is, in fact, the
product of many tiny improvements over
five years. Successfully implementing tech
is an ascetic discipline. It is only by not forc-
ing bad ideas that good ideas can flourish.
Thus, sensible use of technology is not
imposed but allowed. There can be no
denying that we are in a very fortunate
position here at Caxton; we are free from
many of the restrictions that stifle advances
in other schools. Nonetheless, we are
proud of our achievements with technology
because they are hard won. If you do decide
to visit, do not be blinded by what we have
got right. Ask instead about the one thou-
sand things that we do not get wrong.
Bernard Andrews is head of­
philosophy and research lead at
Caxton College, in Valencia,
Spain. Ahmed Robleh is the
school’s ICT learning coordinator
approach to technology in the classroom.
No particular software is proscribed for
teachers. We replaced lengthy CPD ses-
sions with micro-sessions of 10 minutes,
where a particular app or process is demon-
strated in a “take-it-or-leave-it” atmosphere.
This has been essential to encourage tinker-
ing among staff and students.
We introduce any changes slowly, always
ensuring that there is plenty of testing,
refining, warning and adjustment time.
Iron out issues on a small scale
There are several phases of implementation
that allow us to iron out issues on a small
scale. For example, initially a single trolley
of iPads was used in lessons in Year 4, fol-
lowed by a trial period with one class in Year
4 and one in Year 7. Only once we had proof
of the concept was the iPad project intro-
duced to whole year groups. From there,
the project grew organically.
We have learnt to love redundancy: hav-
ing the bare minimum of bandwidth or wi-fi
antennas is not enough; when it comes to
technology infrastructure, redundancy is
GETTY

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Not revolution but evolution. By Bernard Andrews and Ahmed Robleh. Caxton College

  • 1. Tes ED TECH64 Chapter eleven Not revolution but evolution GETTY
  • 2. 65Tes ED TECH I n 1968, a year before the first failed attempt to communicate via an embryonic internet, the pioneering computer scien- tists Joseph Licklider and Robert Taylor wrote that “in a few years, men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face”. That first attempt to remotely type “Login”, got only as far as “Lo” before the connection dropped, but, ultimately, their prediction was spot on. But while grand visions like thatof ­Licklider and Taylor can act as a driver for the great advances that follow, when applied to the requirements of the 21st-century school, they sometimes induce a fear of missing out that can motivate bizarre educational gambles – the most extreme example being the $1.3 billion (£1 billion) Los Angeles iPad scheme, which was supposed to provide a tablet for every child and revolutionise how the curriculum was delivered. It failed to live up to the hype and ended with the school district asking for its money back. In fact, we would go so far as to say that inspirational big ideas are perhaps the biggest obstacle to the successful use of technology in education, and can cloud the learning process. With apologies to Karl Marx, we believe that inspiration is the opium of educators, and that only by abolishing inspiration as illusory knowl- edge can we make clear our demand for real knowledge. There is an alternative history of technol- ogy to that of great men with grand visions. The history of technology from below is one of tinkerers, hobbyists, of billions of tiny advances, of practical solutions. The reality of this people’s history can be seen in the 250,000 patents associated with current smartphones, and the two billion lines of code that make up Google. When faced with this version of history, we can see that it is humility, not hubris, that is the real driving force. This humility, this respect for the details, has been the approach to technology at our school. We are the custodians of our stu- dents’ education and must not gamble this sacred trust on folly. Yet we are also aware that in an ever-changing world, atrophy is equally foolish – the one thing we do know about the future is that it will not be the same. Finding this balance has been central to whateversuccess ourschool has achieved. We cannot know the future In The Road to Serfdom, the economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek warns against the dangers of central planning – of “planifi- cation”. His argument is based on one key idea: we cannot know the future, and any attempt to force a particular future to occur will lead to totalitarianism and disaster. In his later work, he describes planification as “constructive rationalism” or “positivism”: in other words, the mistaken belief that human beings can create the future they desire by the manipulation of certain varia- bles. We cannot, for example, conclude that simply by forcing technology use in every lesson, students will be better pre- pared for 21st-century life. The alternative is evolutionary rationalism, which, by accepting the limits and incom- pleteness of our ­knowledge, seeks to reap the rewards of the freedom to tinker. Hayek writes that “the effect of allowing ourselves to be deluded by [constructive rationalism] has always been that man has actually ­limited the scope of what he can achieve. For it has always been the recognition of the limits of the possible which has enabled man to make full use of his powers.” At Caxton College, we have pursued what we would describe as an evolutionary ➧
  • 3. Tes ED TECH66 costly, but the price for not having layers of contingencies can be catastrophe. We take care of the details, such as the placement of wi-fi antennae in each class- room. The apparent holistic, seamless continuity of our system is, in fact, the product of many tiny improvements over five years. Successfully implementing tech is an ascetic discipline. It is only by not forc- ing bad ideas that good ideas can flourish. Thus, sensible use of technology is not imposed but allowed. There can be no denying that we are in a very fortunate position here at Caxton; we are free from many of the restrictions that stifle advances in other schools. Nonetheless, we are proud of our achievements with technology because they are hard won. If you do decide to visit, do not be blinded by what we have got right. Ask instead about the one thou- sand things that we do not get wrong. Bernard Andrews is head of­ philosophy and research lead at Caxton College, in Valencia, Spain. Ahmed Robleh is the school’s ICT learning coordinator approach to technology in the classroom. No particular software is proscribed for teachers. We replaced lengthy CPD ses- sions with micro-sessions of 10 minutes, where a particular app or process is demon- strated in a “take-it-or-leave-it” atmosphere. This has been essential to encourage tinker- ing among staff and students. We introduce any changes slowly, always ensuring that there is plenty of testing, refining, warning and adjustment time. Iron out issues on a small scale There are several phases of implementation that allow us to iron out issues on a small scale. For example, initially a single trolley of iPads was used in lessons in Year 4, fol- lowed by a trial period with one class in Year 4 and one in Year 7. Only once we had proof of the concept was the iPad project intro- duced to whole year groups. From there, the project grew organically. We have learnt to love redundancy: hav- ing the bare minimum of bandwidth or wi-fi antennas is not enough; when it comes to technology infrastructure, redundancy is GETTY