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Being Human - by Sal McKeown

'These days radio is all about real people.  This is the century of Vox Pop and Reality TV and it is the job of the media professional to bring out the personalities and get the stories. That's what listeners love and what they remember afterwards.'

Russell Prue is famous as an educational technology evangelist and a popular after-dinner speaker but these days he is just as likely to be found travelling round the UK, hosting his own outside broadcasts from schools, company headquarters or exhibitions. If anyone knows the world of broadcasting it is Russell so I asked him, 'What makes good radio?'

 'What we don't want is the media trained specialist,' he told me. 'They are dull, dull, dull. Often they have had all the spontaneity drained out of them and give guarded corporate replies that don't communicate to listeners.'

 If you think about politicians, you can see exactly what he means. They spend too long talking around the question, stringing out meaningless phrases and trying to get their agenda across. Modern audiences are media savvy and are unlikely to be awed by statistics and an impressive job title. In the back of their minds they are thinking, 'What does this mean to me?' 

 'Social networking has changed the game beyond recognition,' continued Russell. 'It means that marketing can't be overt. Gone are the days when you hammered home the message over and over again and mentioned the product name as many times as possible in two minutes. It has to be subtler now. Editorial and advertorial work better than advertising in print media and the same approach is true for radio.'

The entertainer Max Bygraves' catchphrase was "I wanna tell you a story'. We love stories and they bring the person, the company, the product, the service to life.  

Often people are doing other things such as driving or working when they tune in and they like to feel they are almost eavesdropping on someone else's conversation. Russell believes that the tide has turned and that audiences have had enough of the aggressive and dictatorial and they are looking for warm and friendly rather than the Jeremy Paxman bombast.

'Where are your stories?' asks Russell. 'Go out and find them. You need to live and breathe your stories and really know your customers.  Your market should not just be something you throw advertising budget at. It should be your community and you need to be able to quote them chapter and verse.'

So instead of always putting forward the same spokesperson, think laterally. While your department may not have a huge media personality they can field, you do need someone who is interesting and can communicate enthusiasm and a passion for what they do.  A person like that wins hands down on the radio and will come across much better than the 'media trained' head of department.


Written by Sal McKeown
Special Needs Freelance Writer & Broadcaster
Winner NSE Journalist of the Year 2006, Finalist ERA Award 2013, Texthelp Dyslexia Champion Award 2013


Sal McKeown

How to keep young people safe online - by Russell Prue

It really is time to take another look at how we go about sharing important advice.  I've discovered two things during my research with young people using mobile devices.  If they participate and are more engaged in an activity rather than just being told something, they are more likely to absorb that information.  Educators know this.  Secondly if you try to ban mobile phones, they will find a way around that ban.  They will text from their pockets, under school desks and from their bags all whilst trying to not be seen doing so.  This begs the question; why are we wasting any time trying to ban phones? 

Niel McLean a former director of BECTA (British Education Communications Technology Association) has always said; if you want young people to understand something, get them to make one.  Apply this to key Internet Safety messages and the latest developments in easy to use Internet Radio broadcasting you have the perfect solution.  I can prove this actually works.  Young people do enjoy listening to other young people especially if they know them.  School Radio stations are perfect conduits for communicating essentially important messages, whether they are Internet Safety, or just general positive behavioural messages.  Just imagine the positive reach that a show about being safe online has when it's created by young people.  I really think that children and young people have become fed up listening to adults going on at them about how to be safe, when as is often the case, young people know more about the technology.  I've been researching and exploring the educational benefits of getting children and young people to make live radio programmes.  I've discovered during eight years of research that if young people are encouraged to work together to a tight deadline with a clear understanding of the consequence of failure they are capable of producing work that's brilliantly engaging and of an incredibly high quality, well above what is normally expected of them.  By steering the focus of the content, any educational outcome is possible as this can be applied to any subject.

Education really is the key to solving all of our problems, as long as education engages, inspires and affects the learner in a meaningful way.  That's the challenge for all of us: how do we ensure that learning and teaching is sufficiently desirable to interest and engage our audience?  We must involve our audience of learners in the fundamental aspects of learning & teaching, our audience needs to participate.  Our messages of being safe and secure on the Internet should be part of every child's development and woven into the fabric of learning.  Educators cannot achieve this alone, parents must play an important role and children and young people should Connect with Respect.


Written by Russell Prue


Russell Prue

Enhancing Mathematics with Digital Technologies - September 2009

Before we start to look at tools for our trade as mathematicians, we need to briefly examine how ICT is being used within our organisation and establish a strategic way forward.  Pockets of innovation are hard to maintain without a holistic approach to your organisation's use of learning and teaching technology.  It is for this reason that I am not going to be covering the latest developments in virtual on-screen geometric drawing tools, and neither will I comment on which version of excel is best for maths.  It is more important to consider how these and other tools are used within the context of learning and teaching. 

Everything we know about everything is available online.  It is possible to teach a child a full and varied curriculum without ever going near a school.  The Internet has demographically shifted the access to learning and Web 2.0 tools, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter continue to shape the way information is presented.  Traditionally we would go to a library, use their indexing system to search on keywords, subject categories, titles and genres.  Using the Internet and Web 2.0 tools, every word is now a keyword, every article can be searched and linked in ways never before considered.  Knowledge is cheap.  Creativity and problem solving skills are the new measures of success.  It is not enough to say that our use of ICT is exemplary just because we have replaced our dry marker boards with an interactive whiteboard, many of which are simply not being used as effectively as intended. 

Whilst we continue to insist on measuring learners' ability to learn and regurgitate facts, figures and rules we will continue to evade the true potential of ICT.  Perhaps that might mean forever we will miss the true potential that ICT offers learning and teaching.  We know that when Technology is left in the hands of learners it is often used in altogether creatively and disturbingly different ways.  Quite different to the methods and adoption classroom practitioners have been encouraged and forced to follow. Often technology is simply used to replace older methods of working, Maths text books have been replaced by on-line worksheets. 

If for just one moment you accept that we are lost in a sea of technology and are asking someone for directions to the promised-land would we be surprised to hear "you don't want to start from here".  Perhaps it's just not possible to start from anywhere else and the best that we can do is whilst on this journey we ask some really difficult and unpopular questions about how and why we are using ICT.  To successfully embrace some of this new technology in our learning and teaching we must be prepared to stop doing what we have always been doing.  Often that means stop trying to bolt stuff on and instead take a radical look at what we are trying to achieve.

Mathematics has had and will always have an inseparable link with computing, after-all everything we do with digital technology has been developed from an understanding of Maths.  Take away FREE Mobile Phone GPS tracking within Google Earth, take away social networking and everything else we do with computer based tools and all you have left are a series of mathematical calculations based on the crudest of all languages, Binary!

I think that while educators need currency with which to buy learners' attention; leaving aside the moral and political dimension to this, that using their technology can have an immediate and motivational impact.  Social Networking is incredibly popular with young people.  Twitter is a micro blogging tool, it is free to use and interestingly isn't being widely used by young people.  There are lots of explanations for this, I think that we (adults) got there first and unlike "MySpace" - which is really "Their Space" and that because we got to Twitter before they did it isn't cool!  Twitter is a community of bloggers who instead of writing for a webpage, write a short (up to 140 characters) description of what they are doing.  This is then posted onto a public time-line and by choosing whose tweet you see, you determine the type of information that is pushed towards you.  There are other aspects to this brilliant C21st communication tool and you can be excused for perhaps overlooking them.  The British media would have us all believe that Twitter is only for the absolute Geek and that the Tweeting community is full of some very sad people.  As with any social network it is a direct reflection of humanity as a whole and I would be lying if I said no one is commenting right now on the thickness of butter on their toast!

How can you use Twitter in the classroom?  Simply by asking your followers a question you can get real instant answers that you can use in your teaching.  Any subject could benefit but let's stick to maths; I know that some of the early adopters of Twitter have used it to bring real-life statistics into class.  Simply by asking how likely rain is today where you are, generates a flurry of intense Tweeting activity and loads of useful data.  Having location information available too allows learners to plot this information in Google Earth or on a traditional map.  The activity is real, relevant and reflective and loads of fun to do.  The educator is then left to facilitate the information retrieval and ensure the learning objectives are met.  This is disruptive technology and if you weren't ready for it, this activity will turn your classroom upside-down, never a good enough reason not to do it even when the Inspector calls!  It isn�t going to work if your establishment bans Twitter.  The activity can be applied to lots of Mathematical activities, solving puzzles, getting help from experts, collaborating with others in data rich projects. 

Our Learning Platforms and Managed Learning Environments also have the capacity to improve learning outcomes but only if they are used appropriately and not like a worksheet information store.  John Davitt often illustrates this point with a brilliant analogy between education and shopping.  Why is it more accepted that online shopping environments constantly up-sell and we don't do this in education?  For example, why don't we see learning environments saying that learners that found the Right Angled Triangle interesting also found the Isosceles Triangle Interesting?  Until this is common we won't have properly addressed the use of ICT in learning and teaching.

I like technologies or uses of technology that challenge established practice, it is not good enough that we continue to carry on doing what we've always done without asking is this the best way for the learner to proceed?  Collaboration is one of the most important survival skills for C21st and it is a great shame that we don't assess this skill or celebrate it in our assessment of learners.  Imagine turning up for a public exam with three friends, a Netbook and a mobile phone and being allowed in.

Greater levels of transformation will occur when Mathematics is merged with other essential key subjects like Science and Engineering.  Elsewhere in this book there will be significant coverage of STEM.  An Initiative designed to encourage a greater take up of all of these subjects by teaching them in concert and in context of each other.  Obvious when you think about it really.

Written by Russell Prue for Professors Carol Knights and Adrian Oldknow for their book published June 2011


Russell Prue