Don't stop me now: How music impacts learning and mood

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If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
— William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Even Shakespeare understood that music can impact the mood, by focusing on the music and allowing himself to be consumed solely by it. In his play Twelfth Night, Orsino - deeply in love with the Countess Olivia - mused that an excess of music might cure his obsession.

There is no denying that music can induce emotion. Just think back to some of the happiest moments in your life, and also the saddest. It is highly likely that when you think back to those times, or you hear a particular song that helped you process your feelings, you’re instantly transported back to that very moment.

Music as therapy

Music can act as a form of release and therapy. When you hear the first few bars of a song, you are overwhelmed with the emotions associated with that time.

Whilst reading this, you’ll probably be recalling some of these great moments (perhaps even humming a few bars of that happy song under your breath). Likewise, there will be those tunes that evoke feelings and memories of sadness. However, these can be looked as a form of healing and growing. After all, if we do not go through challenging or difficult situations, how can we possibly develop and learn from these experiences? These experiences help shape us into who we are and define our personality traits.

This is what we want to instil in the future generation and youth today. We want them to learn and experience a plethora of situations and subsequently deal with their emotions; regardless of whether they’re painful or uplifting. It’s all part of the process to reach our neverending goal to be happy and content.

80% of kids with a diagnosable anxiety disorder and 60% of kids with diagnosable depression are not getting treatment, according to the 2015 Child Mind Institute Children's Mental Health Report. The sooner we acknowledge this and encourage discussions on how to find a release for these symptoms, the sooner we can teach our youth of today to strive to become the very best versions of themselves. 

With music, there is no judgement. It can either provide an indulgence or an escape, and is essential for our continued development. 

Children who had chosen to learn an instrument were considered by both their parents and teachers to be less anxious than those who had received only group lessons.
— Dawn Rose, The Conversation

Music in the classroom

Music is essential in the classroom and learning. Exposing children to music helps improve their cognitive function from a young age. Children can build their confidence through performance and find a way to express themselves through lyrics and melody. It’s even been proven that children involved in music, score 7.2 points higher on IQ tests!

Some argue that background music can actually help concentration, though this tends to be music that is more subdued and less upbeat; a steady and repetitive pulse. In fact, a study found that music which is just instrumental actually aids learning performance.

How then, can we encourage our pupils to embrace the power of music? More emphasis should be placed on developing a child’s confidence through extra curricular activities like: music lessons, singing, poetry, drama groups, debating and other performance-based clubs.

This can help to develop and encourage creativity, in turn equipping the future generation with the skills to tackle difficult situations and develop analytical, logical and kinesthetic skills. Through this, we are nurturing a child's confidence to break glass ceilings, lead breakthroughs and build resilience.

It is our responsibility as educators, parents, friends and peers to ensure the future generation has access to all of the tools to help improve their learning and development.

What better way to do that then by encouraging them to belt out…

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We hope this blog elicited some fond musical memories! We'd love to hear about how your school uses music in learning and productivity. Please comment below.

6 ways teaching has changed in the last 10 years

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[1] Tech is redefining the game

It seems obvious to say but the gargantuan changes we have seen in technology, in the last 10 years alone, has completely changed the way we do many things. Education is no exception.

Some of these impactful tech changes include:

  • mobile technology
  • machine learning / artificial intelligence
  • virtual / augmented reality
  • cloud & data storage
  • significant increases to internet speed (globally)

Tech evolution is not only redefining the ways we can teach but the actual curriculum of what should be learned. This is likely to continue, while we try to better clarify technology's place in the learning process.

[2] Mobile technology is opening new ways of learning

There have been ongoing arguments about pupils having mobile phones in school for many years now. The simply truth today though is that mobile tech has permeated into our lives so much that more people own a mobile phone than do not!

In fact, there is a slightly horrifying statistic that states more people in the world own a mobile phone than a toothbrush!

If we can accept the fact that mobile tech is here, perhaps we can begin to look at how it can be used in the classroom. Here are a few ways that mobile tech has positively affected learning:

  • pupils can research topics online, explore subject content further and find inspiration for their work
  • pupil engagement has been noted to increase in schools already integrating tech and mobile tech into their learning process
  • different teaching styles are easier to implement with mobile tech - distant learning and collaborative learning for example
  • consistent use of mobile tech provides more skills for pupils' futures, particularly around digital citizenship

[3] Remote learning is increasingly becoming simpler

We have all likely heard of (and maybe even tried) Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These are courses (many of which are free) where you can learn remotely by watching videos, reading course content and self-assessing your understanding.

MOOCs give people the opportunity to learn skills in almost anything you can imagine without needing to attend classes. 

[4] Learning can be more focussed around collaboration

This may be one of the more impactful changes we see in education, collaboration:

  • pupil / pupil collaboration enabled by tech can be a powerful (and equitable) thing. Pupils who are perhaps introverts may find it easier to collaborate with their peers over a digital platform
  • pupil / teacher collaboration is also enabled with tech. We have already seen platforms like Pinterest enable this collaboration, but in reality this can be taken to exciting new heights as the power of tech grows

Collaboration is an essential life skill, so having tech as a tool to better instil it as a quality can only be a good thing.

[5] Digital games are finding a solid place in the learning process

Game based learning and gamification were hot topics a few years ago. Many educators agree that using digital games in the learning process can actually help improve pupil engagement and give teachers useful tools to help analyse their pupils engagement.

We have seen some great innovations in the digital game meets education technology industry, Minecraft: Education Edition for example. 

[6] Information is easier to come by, but application still needs the guidance of a teacher

While all of the above are very positive regarding the impact of technology in education, there is one essential thing to bear in mind. This is that while the availability of information has been vastly improved (a pupil could be said to have unlimited knowledge in their pocket with smart phones) the application of this knowledge still needs to be taught.

And this is why the teacher cannot really be replaced! We explore this exact topic in our analysis of Virtual Reality (is it a supplement for teachers, or their replacement) and the outcome very much remains this:

The act of teaching isn’t just imparting what’s in your head to a captive audience. Teaching is a performance, it’s reading the room and working it. This is where technology really falls short.
— Harpreet Purewal, Journalist for The Guardian

How do you feel about the changes tech has brought to teaching in recent years? We'd love to hear your opinions and experiences. Please comment below.

Do children really care about privacy & data protection? (Part 2: Children online)

In Part 1 of 'Do children really care about privacy & data protection?' we explored how teachers and parents have a responsibility to ensure younger generations are safe online. Much of this responsibility stems from adults understanding these issues implicitly themselves - so they can champion good practice and safe use to children.

In this follow-up article we will look at these issues from a child's perspective. 

Digital Natives

In the last 10 years we have watched the behaviour of the world change. Sounds unbelievable but it is fact. From the richest 1% to people living in some of the poorer places on Earth, mobile technology has influenced lives and behavioural patterns. It has made it possible for these incredibly separate worlds to interact with one another. Something that Richard Branson posts on Facebook can be seen and interacted with by anyone owning a mobile device.

We saw these changes develop - albeit in a profoundly short amount of time - but the younger generation did not. Kids born today don't understand a world without Facebook! They haven't grown up in a world where food, entertainment, transport, education and Peppa Pig is not at their fingertips.

They are digital natives - they are born into tech and are growing up with tech.

What does this mean regarding privacy and data protection?  

On the one hand, many adults will agree their kids understand how to use the digital tools available better than themselves. Their kids are after all, as natural with tech as a fish is to water. On the other hand, you wouldn't give a blowtorch to a child without first guiding them in proper use...would you? 

This latter thought raises an interesting point: adults know blowtorches are dangerous. Fire = danger - we've known this since the Stone Age. What we don't know as well is Internet = danger. It is too new a discovery for the pitfalls to be ultimately realised. This means safeguarding children on the internet becomes harder - but it also means we can start leveraging their natural use of digital to help overcome this challenge.

Overcoming the challenge

So, what steps can we take to achieve this? What tools can we utilise to make digital use safer for our children? What techniques can we employ to make their data and digital presence more secure?

T&C's - opening their eyes?

In Part 1 we brought up the conundrum of Terms & Conditions - how most adults don't even read these when signing up for services such as Facebook or Gmail. This results in the blind leading the blind...how can kids possibly understand what they are signing up for if most adults don't either?

To help combat this situation the UK Children's Commissioner, Anne Longfield, has suggested two steps for schools and digital businesses to take:

1. T&C's should be simple enough for a child to understand: most adults don't read the T&C's for one simple reason - they aren't easy to read. If companies were to rewrite them into simple language more people would be able to comprehend them - particularly children. This has been dubbed by Ms Longfield as giving children power online.

2. Schools should provide Digital Citizenship education: for kids to understand their rights and responsibilities online, schools should be providing the right knowledge. Digital Citizenship education is one way to do this. While lessons such as ICT do provide basic applications in digital safety, for many these lessons start too late in a pupil's life. Instead, Ms Longfield would like to see Digital Citizenship education starting as early as 4 years old.

The first steps of a digital footprint

For many of the younger generation coming onto social media, they won't understand what a digital footprint is. This throws up all sorts of issues regarding how they operate online.

One simple test to ask pupils to do is to Google themselves - it is often surprising what information comes up! In doing this it should make the ideal of a digital footprint much clearer and instil an understanding that what goes online remains online. 

From this, it becomes easier to direct children in using social media safely. It needs to be made clear that posting rude pictures or attacking someone else online has consequences, which are not easy to escape from. However, it should also be made clear that digital footprints are not to be feared! Employing good, and safe, practice when using social media and the internet will negate the negative side.

Summary

Through this exploration, we hope that understanding issues of privacy and data protection online from both an adult's and child's perspective have been made clearer. Digital is still relatively new and there are no right or wrong ways to use it! All we can do is ensure that we, as adults, are educated on the pitfalls and pass this on to our children - the people who will be using digital more and more as they grow up.

It is not an easy task - digital now will continue to evolve; what is true today may not be true tomorrow. However, despite its evolution if the younger generation understand what their rights are as digital citizens, what they are agreeing to when they sign up for accounts, and how far reaching the internet is then they will be better prepared for tomorrow.

 

Thanks for reading - if there are any questions you have regarding this - or if you have any thoughts on what has been discussed - we would love to hear them. Please comment below.

Do children really care about privacy & data protection? (Part 1: Adults online)

Digital privacy and data protection is a big topic for schools adopting social media. It is the first time in history that teachers have less knowledge than the pupils - with so many kids having now been born into a socially connected world.

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This means that extra work needs to put in to ensure pupils are using social media and digital tools safely. This does not stop at the classroom - parents also need to be educated to understand and guide their kids to safe digital usage...

...this is the assumption anyway! But do the younger generations need to be correctly guided in social media?

How clued up are they about privacy and data protection? Do they even care about it - is online security a serious consideration for your plugged-in kids?

 

Educating the educators

Before we can answer these questions you need to ask yourself how knowledgable are you in online safety?

 

T&C's - the blind leading the blind?

As adults we have greater scope to understand how social media works and to be savvy about what we sign up for. However, the simple reality is most of us aren't particularly savvy and will blindly agree to anything online.

Don't believe us? When did you take the time to read the Terms & Conditions for Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, or iTunes, or Netflix, or Gmail? 

Without fail, each and every one of these services collect your data and you agreed for them to do so! Some use this data to refine their platforms, some use it to target you better with products and some will sell your information onto third parties. It may sound dodgy or seem unfair, but you agreed to let them do so.

With this in mind, how can your pupils and kids possibly understand their rights as digital users? 

 

Professional Reputation - digital is forever

As educators your reputation in your school is important. You are champions to your pupils - examples in how to learn not just academically but in all facets of their lives. It is essential then that you maintain a professional outlook in all facets of your life. The simple rule to always remember is this:

What happens on social media, stays on Google forever.

Suddenly, that silly thing you did a few years ago (for a laugh) becomes your digital legacy. The pupils in your school can (and mostly likely will) find it - even if your settings are set to private. 

Understanding this is an important step to understanding how you can better educate your pupils on their digital legacies. 

 

Issues of privacy: The rise of Sharenting

Have you heard of Sharenting? It is the name attributed to parents who share images of their own children on social media. It sounds harmless enough, but it is important to realise the consequences of this.

Most kids have started their life on social media before they are even born! It is nothing new to see pictures of ultrasounds - of parents celebrating their pregnancy. Beyond this, it is likely you have seen proud mummies and daddies plastering their Facebook or Instagram walls with baby pictures and videos. In fact, according to a survey, more than 90% of 2-year-olds in the US have a presence on social media.

This trend continues on for most parents indefinitely -  with toddlers and older having their photos continually shared online.

What is not being realised is that parents are creating digital footprints for their kids. This means that:

  1. Media of a person is being shared without permission. While this is not usually an issue with babies, it does raise an interesting question. If a child asks for their pics to stop being posted on social can the parent refuse? What digital rights do children have? Right now there is no one rule -  in much the same way that adults can't 100% stop friends and family posting pictures of them.
  2. It’s hard to UNDO content. For kids reaching the more awkward stages of their youth, fitting in is a huge worry for many. Many will be on social already (even if they are younger than 13), so having a collection of embarrassing photos and videos of them can lead to hard experiences. Good news (although laborious currently) - when they turn into an adult, they automatically become the right-holder for their data - and can go through the process of asking Google to remove any links or references to them. Go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/removals. In the future, this will be more automated and easier via AI.
  3. Private information is being shared. Think for a moment about the sharents you know on your own social media. Now think about all the details you know about their child - even if you have not seen them or the parents for a long time. You'll probably know their name, where they live, their age, date of birth, hair colour, eye colour, the school they go to. If you know these details it stands to reason that anyone can easily find them too. 

Resources: In and out of the classroom

You may be reading this and thinking MY GOODNESS! But fear not - we are not looking to scare monger people into never using social media again. In fact, we are all for social media, and want schools to be using it effectively and safely to help share #SchoolStories across their communities.

What needs to be the focus of this article is awareness, and understanding the consequences of poor privacy and data protection. 

There are plenty of great resources available, ranging from lesson plans for your pupils to taking control of your own digital citizenship. We have listed some below 👍

  • The UK Safer Internet Centre - the organisation behind Safer Internet Day - is a great place to start. Their site is filled with lots of tips, articles and advice for your pupils to better understand e-safety. It also tackles large issues such as what to do if pupils have witnessed or been involved in cyber bullying.

The site is split into three sections for easier navigation - dependent on who is looking for advice:

  1. Young People
  2. Parents and Carers
  3. Teachers and Professionals
  • Likewise, edutopia has curated a Digital Citizenship Resource list - collecting articles, videos, and other resources on internet safety, cyberbullying, digital responsibility, and media and digital literacy.
  • We also have a great article from our blog archive all about Keeping Children Safe Online.

 

 

We hope that the information in this article has given you some insight into not just digital safety and privacy, but where you and your school stand in ensuring children are safe online. As a school, your duty goes beyond keeping children safe in the world - meaning it is important parents also understand their role in online safety.

In the next part we will look into this from a pupil's perspective. It is important to realise that the vast majority of your pupils are digital natives - in terms of using the tech they get it. What needs to be addressed is whether they care about privacy and data protection, and if they need to be taught in the same way we need to.

 

Thank you for reading. We welcome thoughts on all the topics we discuss and would love to hear from you. Please comment below. 

The #FutureSchool: Evolution or Transformation?

For hundreds of years pedagogy has formed the core to teaching and learning. 

Learning outcomes and academic results have become the focus for educators and the community around them - a narrow view that is having less and less to do with today's modern needs in education. While striving for educational greatness is not necessarily a bad thing, the single-mindedness desire to top league tables and churn out the best grades is failing our children. Schools need to be adaptable to new styles of education, otherwise the only losers will be those who are receiving an education.

Schools tend to focus on buying technology, without considering the human impact.

Schools talk a lot about ‘educating the whole child’, and ‘giving them opportunities beyond the curriculum’ to thrive in what they are good at - but are we missing the point? 

The Reality

Teaching practise has had to evolve to the changing world around us. However we, as people, have not evolved at the same rate. Sorry humanity but humans are lazy by design. We typically look for the easiest path, so long as the result is acceptable. Technology has played a significant part in making knowledge far more accessible - and when used correctly it has helped make learning a more immersive, engaging and fun undertaking. But these are the exceptions!

Why?

Because schools tend to focus on buying technology, without considering the human impact. It's easy to see why - tech is more often than not wrapped up with simple labels and the promise of being the answer to everything:

  • Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)
  • Parent Portals
  • Management Information System (MIS)
  • Learning Management System (LMS)
  • ...and so on!

All of these have one thing in common - they invariably fail after the point of implementation. This is because users (real people) have not been considered enough, nor trained to unleash the full potential of these innovations. 

Schools are left with these technology silos - slowly becoming digital graveyards to old ideas.

Users are often only defined as the end-user (at the point of consumption) but we must consider this both in terms of management (someone needs to manage the data / content going in), and also in terms of the consumer (accessing this data / content in their personalised way).

So schools are left with these technology silos - slowly becoming digital graveyards to old ideas. The entire platform is doomed to fail the very moment a user gives up using it for the intention it was originally brought in for.

Data, then, becomes inconsistent and untrustworthy. Likewise, the point where users access this information becomes confusing, duplicated across multiple systems and completely lacking in data integrity. The true foundations to a sustainable and scaleable technological infrastructure need to be revisited and challenged

Perfect Harmony

For this to work, a #FutureSchool needs to bring into perfect harmony:

  • technology
  • big data / content
  • the environment
  • human behaviour

When technology is integrated correctly into our lives it is invisible. It has been weaved seamlessly in to the fabric of the environment and our day-to-day living. It is easy to use and easy to manage (this part is often forgotten). Most importantly, we must start to put people at the front of all our IT decisions. We need to understand the innate behaviours that people have for using technology - and what they wish to consume. Only then can schools deliver amazing, fantastic, super user experiences.

If we are to educate our children for a #FutureWorld, then the #FutureSchool needs to correlate to this.

This requires immediate transformation within schools. We are probably at the only time in history that our children know more about the real world around us than the teachers. This is certainly true when it comes to technology and social media.

Schools and teachers seek the easy path and bury their heads (human nature again). But we must invest in more staff training. We must spread this knowledge to parents (organising parent training events) to better help and support them. It is pointless to say that this huge change is coming - the change has happened! If we wish to support the next generation of students this educator / parent knowledge needs to be in place - now.

#Disruptive Thinking

If we are to educate our children for a #FutureWorld, then the #FutureSchool needs to correlate to this - and not just be an attempt to introduce technology into a classroom and hope that it is enough.

We all need to challenge the way we look at things if we are to truly impact the future of education.

Put the ‘human first’. Ignore this basic principle - and it will all fall down like a house of cards.

Simon Noakes (Founder & CEO)
and father to four children aged 5 - 13 years!