A chatbot is an "artificial intelligence (AI) program that simulates interactive human conversation by using key pre-calculated user phrases and auditory or text-based signals" (technopedia.com). Businesses throughout the United Kingdom and elsewhere are rapidly adopting chatbots to support their business. Vodafone, the well known phone company, has a chatbot to help people learn about which phone plans best fit their needs, for example. But what about using chatbots in educational settings?
When it comes to safeguarding pupils online, some teachers will want to take a ‘better-safe-than-sorry’ approach to the issue. Keir McDonald, Chairman of EduCare, argues that the benefits of learning online outweigh the risks commonly associated with the internet.
As adults, we know that the internet is not a good or bad thing, just as there are no good or bad books (only well written or badly written books). It’s true that there are parts of the internet which are enlightening and breathtaking, and other parts which are deeply problematic. However, we don’t fear for our own safety every time we use Google or a social networking site. Why then are well-meaning teachers so frequently driven to alarmism when it comes to students going online?
A reliable wireless network is becoming a must have for schools in the UK, but many are still woefully inadequate. As more teachers begin to embrace wireless devices such as laptops and tablets for use in the classroom, an increasing number of schools are finding that their poor wireless coverage is hindering the use of technology in lessons and that new equipment is going unused.
In the last few years the average number of wireless devices has increased from one or two, to three or five per user, and these figures are being reflected in the classroom. It has been predicted by the British Education Suppliers Association (BESA) that almost a quarter (22%) of ‘pupil facing computers’ will be tablets by the end of 2015. However, as the number of wireless devices increases, so too does the demand for the infrastructure to support it, which many schools are worryingly still without.
Happy Birthday World Wide Web! It is 25 years since a young British computer scientist named Tim Berners-Lee submitted his idea for allowing scientists to share information between educational faculties across the world to his manager at CERN. The idea that his boss described as a “vague, but interesting” started a revolution in learning which continues today. It has changed the way we teach, the way we learn and how we access information and communicate with each other.
Before the World Wide Web entered the classroom, we learned by rote from a teacher who wrote things on the blackboard with white chalk – the traditional ‘talk and chalk’ approach. If we wanted to source or research information, we either made notes, referred to our text books or visited a library. This doesn’t compute for the school child of today. Today’s students are better connected, have millions of sources for reference and are more globally aware than ever. It’s quite incredible how much knowledge can be accessed at the click of mouse or the swipe of a screen.
Isn't it curious that all of you and and all of your students use the internet daily but none of you exploit its potential for teaching, learning and creativity? Isn't it curious that schools force their students to inhabit this alternative reality for six or seven hours every day where the internet doesn't exist?
Earlier this week I led a seminar for PGCE students at Nottingham University on the use of the internet and its potential for encouraging pupils’ creativity. To start, I asked those present to put their hands up if they used the internet daily. All hands went up. I then asked them to keep their hands up if their pupils used the internet on a daily basis. After a moment’s thought, all hands stayed up.
However, when I asked the PGCE students – who had all finished their first teaching placement – to keep their hands up if they planned or been encouraged to plan lessons, sequences of lessons or homework that required the use of the internet, all hands went down. Isn’t it curious, I asked them, that all of you and and all of your students use the internet daily but none of you exploit its potential for teaching, learning and creativity? Isn’t it curious that schools force their students to inhabit this alternative reality for six or seven hours every day where the internet doesn’t exist?
The Internet is a wonderful student resource for researching school reports, communicating with teachers, staying in touch with friends, and entertaining themselves. They can literally hit a few keystrokes and find out about culture in China, the history of Europe, or take a tour of the American White House.
But with that access comes risks, even if you’re careful. For example, in our year 3 class project on life cycles, we never allow the students to search “chicks”, rather they must type “baby chickens” to avoid problems.
The digital natives we are educating don’t want to hide from the internet, though. They want to learn to manage it. What we as teachers must do is show them how to avoid the internet’s bad neighbourhoods so they can benefit from the good. Here’s my year-by-year run-down on how to prepare students to thrive in the online world: