How teachers can do what technology can’t

Published: January 22, 2016

 Bett Show always attracts a number of inspiring people from the education sector. Bett 2016 wasn’t an exception and today we are sharing one of our favourite speeches.
“How teachers can do what technology can’t”- one of the most interesting discussions at Bett 2016. It was presented by Tom Starkey who is a teacher and a columnist. He made some good points about the things that good teachers can do that any education technology can’t.

This is a topic that can definitely start a very controversial discussion, especially at the education technology exhibition. With all the latest technologies in the education sector, it can be easy to forget what the true role of a teacher is. Discussing topics like this can encourage people to remember that there will always be things that could not be replaced by any kind of technology.

 “It is a battle to be better than a computer because we are not given time enough to reflect on our own practice, to reflect on people in front of us. If a computer could do that, that would be great…”

It is important to look at both positive and negative things when talking about technology in education. There are some amazing things that technology can do to improve learning. For instance, different learning platforms can be used to make lessons more engaging, they can also be used for homework and assignments. Making lesson plans or even marking assignments can be done with the help of technology. However, as acknowledged by Tom Starkey, although technologies create some amazing learning opportunities for students, there will always be things that could not be performed by any kind of technology. Technologies provide information, but a teacher is someone who can motivate, encourage, give feedback, listen and help with building creative and curious personalities of children.
It can be said that technologies are there to provide information whereas teachers are important for guiding students on how to use that information and to provide any other support that could not be done by any kind of technology.
Check the video below for some more inspirational thoughts by Tom Starkey.

Miles Berry and Tom Starkey at Bett 2016 from Webanywhere on Vimeo.

Second Day At Bett 2016 | Webanywhere Blog

Published: January 21, 2016

Another successful day of Bett 2016 – the world’s largest learning technology event. Thanks to everyone who visited Webanywhere team at our stand today! We had a great time sharing our knowledge about education technologies.

Today our visitors had a second chance to win our amazing giveaways, including a giant Toblerone and an iPad mini. Visit us at stand F350 to find out how you can win one of our giveaways.

Webber – the Webanywhere meerkat joined us again and he received a lot of attention from Bett visitors!

We love taking care of everyone who visits our stand, that’s why we offered free coffee/tea and snacks again. I’m sure Bett visitors appreciated that.

Two more days to go! More updates tomorrow:)

Learning Management Systems: Your Opinion – Part 3

Published: January 18, 2016

In the third of our four-part series of articles on learning management systems, Sean Aiken Head of Basis Independent School in McLean and Dr Daniel Usera from Arkansas State University talk about e-learning platforms in their institutes.
Also read:     – Learning Management Systems: Your Opinion – Part 1

          – Learning Management Systems: Your Opinion – Part 2


Software simply cannot replace the dynamic, co-creative classroom interaction between teacher and student. Technology is one of many tools available to teachers to inspire students to take ownership over their learning. But there is no replacement for a genuine relationship – you will always remember your favorite teacher more fondly than your favorite computer.

At BASIS Independent, our approach to the use of technology in education is highly focused: we use technology to help us solve problems of scale, as the connective tissue that joins an international network of PreK-12 schools. Most learning platforms are designed to displace the teacher or compensate for weak pedagogical talent. Our platform by contrast is designed to give full control to trusted educators and their unique styles and goals to strengthen and enhance our services over time.
BASISedLink and Assessment our curricular management system, was created to address the challenging balance of accountability and autonomy in the classroom. It’s an example of expertly curated crowd sourcing for instructional design and quality control, to ensure that crucial decisions are made by master teachers and not top-down, centralized bureaucracies.
With BASISedLink and Assessment (BELA), our teachers capture, organize, and share their innovative lesson designs, topic sequencing, time allocation, best practices, and desired outcomes – all in real time. Each topic is linked to assessment tools of varying form, depth, and complexity, like simulations, or short answer, and yes even multiple choice. We want to expose students to diverse avenues in which they can demonstrate success and then let expert teachers determine the best course of action. This intersection of teacher agency and student performance produces useful data to inform the path they will walk together.
BASISedLink and Assessment’s planning and review features help teachers analyze what their kids have actually mastered, not just what they’ve completed. Students benefit from adaptable, authentic learning experiences that align to what’s actually happening in their classrooms. We expect teachers to diverge from a syllabus when the needs of their students call for it, and that flexibility is vital to their lifelong engagement.
The science and art of learning is extraordinarily complex. When we consider the course of technological progress, we should be cautious about those ‘advancements’ that further diminish the role of teaching as an actual profession. Rather than pitching technology against teachers, tools like BASISedLink and Assessment help energize and empower us to create richly-layered and highly interactive learning experiences for all our students.

Arkansas State University uses a very popular LMS. I think it definitely has advantages. It acts as a central hub where students can turn in all of their assignments in one place, and they can see their grade progress without having to send an e-mail. It makes keeping track of student assignments way easier.
The LMS has a ton of features like plagiarism detection, creating forums, and blog posting. With students being more computer-savvy these days, I think they enjoy the convenience of accessing course material and their grades at the click of a few buttons.
There are a few disadvantages, however. Some students (especially non-traditional) are not as computer literate, so they will often e-mail me asking how to do basic tasks. Every once in a while, a student will use the LMS malfunctioning as an excuse for turning in a late assignment (e.g. “the LMS wasn’t working” or “I tried turning it into the LMS but it kept getting an error.”) And at my university, the IT people often have to do “maintenance” on the LMS, which requires it to go down for periods of time. And if you don’t like reading off screens, grading assignments can be a strain on the eyes after a while (so I have to take breaks).
So that’s my experience.

Learning Management Systems: Your Opinion – Part 2

Published: January 14, 2016

This is the second of our four-part post on learning management systems. Read Learning Management Systems: Your Opinion – Part 1, where Donna Lubrano from the Northeastern University in Boston shares her opinion with our readers.

In this post, Kathy Walter, Educator and CEO at Nsoma, reveals her thoughts on Learning Platforms and their contribution to student learning.

Learning Management Systems (LMSs) are used in a number of schools to deliver online learning content in a structured way. As opposed to gather random search content from search engines, learning management systems do just that – they manage learning based on the subject, teacher and curricula being taught. Like all technology, they work only as well as the people or person loading them with content. Most technology solutions for learning do not come with content and those that do need to have that content licensed separately.

Learning Management Systems are great for delivering content to students for a number of reasons.
1. Different paces, steering together: because you can control what content students see, but students do not necessarily know where other students are in their learning path. So, for instance, one student may be far ahead in a lesson and another may be far behind, but unless the lesson plans for them working together on a topic, each student proceeds at their own pace.
2. Anytime, Anywhere: LMS allows students to log in at school or at home. So if they are sick or miss an assignment, want to review for the day ahead or want to go back and review a concept they did not understand, it’s all possible.
3. Flexible Delivery: Most LMS render on a computer or laptop, but also on mobile phones and tablets. So it does not matter what device a student has, they can learn from anything.
4. Special Needs Handled: When students require additional mechanics like braille readers, color blind screen adaptors, text readout, etc, many LMSs link with other technology tools to help all learners.
As with any technology, there are also drawbacks:
1. Training: LMSs are more prevalent these days, but many schools and teachers still have not learned to use them. And schools may change their LMSs as contracts expire and new bids have to be issued. It takes a long time to train staff and students to use them when it’s not something they are familiar with.
2. Let me in! LMSs require logins and when they are not sync’d with other login systems and a student forgets a password, it takes valuable learning time to get them up and running
3. Technology changes: LMS companies deliver a lot of technology changes each year, but not all LMSs have the same functionality. Some can vary widely. And some functionality works more intuitively than others. This can be frustrating for users when they expect to do something quickly and wind up with more work – for instance, teachers trying to load in lessons and assessments. People usually adapt well, but when a new round of changes comes out, companies still have a habit of not always understanding classroom and school processes, and it can lead to user frustration. Too much user frustration, particularly by teachers means some will stop using a system all together.

Bottom line: every school should have an LMS. The types and cost vary widely, but technology runs our world. Not introducing our school kids to technology in all aspects puts them at a severe disadvantage. It’s worth the time and effort to deliver at least part of their education via online content.

Kathy Walter, CEO at Nsoma, is responsible for conceiving and delivering innovative solutions that support the instructional and educational agendas of school districts and edTech companies. She recently served as the Executive Director, Product Strategy & Innovation at the NYC Department of Education and prior to that as Director, Product Development at a start-up online learning solution.
Kathy has a BA in Applied Math from Union College, an MBA From NYU’s Stern School of Business, and a Graduate Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). She’s currently completing her JD at Fordham Law School in Education and IP law. Kathy has been an ESL Educator at Northeastern University and Cambridge Learning Center; an ESL curriculum consultant with the YearUp program in Boston; and a program developer for several teaching projects in Uganda.

Banning mobile phones at school ‘moving in the wrong direction’?

Published: January 11, 2016

Using mobile phones and other technology in schools has become a popular topic recently. Some people say that using mobile phones could benefit students, while others agree that restricting or even banning mobile phones in schools might be a good idea.
Controversial opinions surrounding this topic are usually caused by the concerns regarding the negative effects of ‘digital distraction’. It’s clear that most people would support the opinion that mobile phones and other technology can have negative effects on sleep, homework, exercising and studying. However, it is important to accept that technology is part of children’s lives. So instead of restricting or banning it, teachers and parents should look at how children are interacting with the technology and consider different ways of teaching children how to use technology in a healthy way.

It is important to remember that we are living in the digital age, so banning any kind of technology might not be the best way to go. Teachers should consider how mobile phones could be incorporated into the school curriculum to give children the skills they need to thrive in the modern world. Building mobile phones into the school curriculum enables students to learn everything from soft skills, such as learning to use the web effectively, to more specific tools, such as the latest communications and social platforms that are used in the world of work.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Professor Howard-Jones said: “Banning mobile phones and other technology in the classroom is moving in the wrong direction, an academic has said, as he warns children will keep using technology anyway.”
“I share concerns of parents about the effects of leisure technology on sleep and homework and exercise but it’s important that we don’t demonise it completely.”
Several studies have been undertaken in order to find answers whether mobile phones and other technology have a negative effect on the quality of learning. Again, the results of different studies are usually controversial. For instance, some studies prove that banning mobile phones in schools can actually improve grades, while other studies show that using technology allows students to study or to concentrate better which leads to improved results.
“Video games are powerful things for engaging children. Still, computers need to be turned off in the evening because they could be affecting the sleep, but if they are using games to learn that can be a positive thing.”
To conclude on this topic, it can be agreed that if used properly, mobile phones and other technology can help improve different aspects of learning. This means that banning mobile phones in schools, without trying to teach students how to use them in a healthy way, might not be the best solution.

Learning Management Systems: Your Opinion – Part 1


We’ve asked education experts about learning management systems in their organisations, how they benefit their students and if they see any disadvantages or problems in using them. As the replies we received were numerous, we’ll be posting a four-part series of articles, where education experts give their opinion on learning management systems. This is the first part of that series.

The first opinion comes from Donna Lubrano at the Northeastern University in Boston:

Learning Management Systems are fantastic tools for the instructor as well as the students. For the professor it provides a repository for all the learning materials to be used for the course, a systematic approach to the course development, and learning tools to make multimedia presentations, such as podcasts, videos exams and quizzes.

The classroom is a new entity where the majority of learning comes from the students preparation for the physical classroom experience. The LMS provides the delivery of those tools that can be used outside of the classroom in preparation. It allows the professor to curate the material and provide his/her perspective on the subject/material. This is especially helpful for remote learning, hybrid and full online learning environments.
For the student it’s fantastic. They have a clear path to the material and a dynamic learning environment using many of the mediums which are part of their everyday experience. Listening to podcasts and viewing videos can be done on their smartphones while traveling or even in a coffee shop.
The multimedia nature of the tools and resources accommodates the many different types of learners and provides an opportunity to even have some fun with tools such as Quizlet to take quizzes, research tools and other materials.
Learning is no longer confined to the classroom; Harvard Professor, Eric Mazur and his concept of Peer Instruction and the flipped classroom support this idea for course management software. It has helped re-engineer the instructor’s role from “sage on stage” (not my words!) to “guide on the side”. The LMS helps the professor “curate” the material for the student to help guide them through the subject. In the curation the student gets to understand the professor’s perspective as well.
A notable disadvantage is that the student has to be technically savvy, have reliable internet access and a computer, iPad, or phone. Without those tools they cannot do the work. So in lower-income areas or schools, these tools may not be readily available to all students and will put them at a disadvantage in regards to other students.
For older students, especially those who are returning to school via online programs, learning the LMS toolset can be a barrier in and of itself. Especially if they are exclusively online and may need in-person help to learn the systems. Professors need to set clear office hours to help students over some of those barriers and to provide alternatives for students who don’t have reliable access to computers and the internet. This can be done with more flexible deadlines and options to hand in homework the old-fashioned way, via paper.
The benefit to the student is tremendous; it is 24 hours a day access to the classroom requirements; especially for those students who work to pay for their education – it allows them to work on their reading and assignments, before or after work. Because learning is a very collaborative environment, the LMS has incredible collaboration tools that don’t require students to be in the same room together. A classroom in Dubai can work on a project with a classroom in US using tools like video conferencing etc. These tools are game changers and continue to change the role of the professor and the way classrooms are designed.
Donna Lubrano is an adjunct faculty with a Master’s degree in International Business from Boston University. She has experience in a broad range of commercial endeavors including, health and fitness, international education, event and conference planning, healthcare, and corporate training. She has worked with students from around the globe, in Leadership and Entrepreneurship. She is a frequent contributor to on-line articles, is a business mentor to small businesses and start-ups. She is currently working on an international virtual student exchange program that would allow students who cannot travel abroad to work on business projects with students from international classrooms.

Join Webanywhere at Bett Show 2016!

Category: Company News,Events

Published: January 8, 2016

Webanywhere will be exhibiting at Bett 2016 – the world’s largest learning technology event!
When? Event will be taking place from the 20th to the 23rd January.
Where? ExCel Centre in London, stand F350.

Bett is your annual opportunity to experiment with the latest technology, hear from inspirational figures and experts in the industry and meet your peers from all around the world.
Join us at the event and learn more about our education products including School Jotter – the school website builder – the world’s most popular open-source virtual learning environment. Our friendly education experts will be happy to meet you, answer your questions and demonstrate our education products.
We have some exciting things planned for Bett Show 2016! Watch this space for more updates regarding the event.

Planning your time!
Download the official Bett 2016 mobile app as a planning tool for your visit and make the most of your time before the show, at the show and after the show to stay tuned.

  • Decide which speakers you particularly want to hear from and plan your schedule
  • Find out who else is attending those sessions and strike up a conversation
  • Plan your way around the show floor
  • Keep a record of your favourite speakers, exhibitors and products.

I’ve just completed my first MOOC and so should you!

Published: May 21, 2015

This week it is Staff Blog week here at Webanywhere, so each day we will be sharing with you a new blog post from one of our employees. Today it’s our Marketing Manager, Stephanie Girard talking about when she completed her first MOOC, what she’s learnt from it and why she’s encouraging everyone else to take part.

I have just completed a free MOOC* on “Copywriting for the web” from the Open University of Australia and I would really recommend everyone else to join MOOCs for their e-Learning.
We are all different in the way we learn and engage. Personally, I struggle to concentrate on videos that go on and on without giving me the opportunity to interact. To be honest, I’d rather read the transcript.

This 4-week MOOC was well presented and very engaging. Following the trend of microlearning**, each topic was no more than 8 minutes with a one-question quiz at the end of each topic and an assessment at the end of each module in the form of 10 multiple-choice questions. A 5 to 10 minute video with a quiz at the end, really worked for me.
As you would expect from a MOOC, social learning was also a big part of the experience with the ability to share on social media, post in the different forums and enhance the learning by contributing with other material.
The attribution of digital badges*** for sharing, blogging and passing assessments was also fun and I guess, a good example of the Gamification of Learning. I have also received a certificate which proves that I have completed the course. Even though it doesn’t give me official credits, it can and will go in my “CDP file”.
Back to the course itself, it was full of tips and techniques about writing content for the web and I have definitely learnt a lot. It has given me the incentive to learn more and I have now joined a MOOC on User Experience for the web.
Stephanie Girard
*MOOC – Massive Open Online Course
**Microlearning is a way of teaching and delivering content to learners in small, very specific bursts. The learners are in control of what and when they’re learning.
*** Digital badges are a validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality or interest that can be earned in various learning environments.

Engaging students with technology

Published: May 19, 2015

This week it is Staff Blog week here at Webanywhere, so each day we will be sharing with you a new blog post from one of our employees. Today it’s Keith Taynton talking about when he taught English as a Foreign Language teacher in Japan and Sweden and witnessed the impact that technology can have on student engagement.

I taught English for several years in Japan where, despite its status as a highly developed technological society, technology use in schools is surprisingly low. Most schools only use computers to teach a computing curriculum. I never saw a school using a virtual learning environment like School Jotter, and in this respect, the UK is much more advanced.

This post is about how I introduced a learning platform into my English class as a Foreign Language teacher in Japan and observed student engagement and learning outcomes skyrocket.
I had a contact in a school in Sweden and we decided to use the learning platform website to connect our junior high school students (aged 12-13) together for them to practice English, a second language for everyone, in a practical, real world way. The platform was styled as a poster upon which multimedia elements could be pasted. For example, students could record a short video introducing themselves, add pictures and text boxes and decorate it with clipart and so forth.
Being able to practice the four skills of language (reading, writing, speaking and listening) in one environment for a real purpose thoroughly engaged all of my students, even the ones who perceived themselves as weak at English. The motivation and novelty of the project helped them to focus on applying their learning and the reward was more than just a score – it showed them that they were not alone in their struggles to learn English and that it was a very useful thing to learn because it opened doors to the outside world that monolinguals do not have.
In short, the website gave both sets of students exciting opportunities to reach out and apply their academic studies in a useful way. Foreign languages are a fairly obvious candidate for technology enhanced learning, but with a little imagination this could be applied to many other disciplines. Imagine studying music and being able to connect with schools in other countries to hear what their music sounds like, the instruments they use and even co-composing music. Geography and history could be brought to life by sharing stories with peers who live in foreign countries, enriching both sides by breaking down stereotypes and boundaries.
All these are possible with the technology available today. You’re limited only by your imagination.
Keith Taynton

Related Webanywhere pages

Read some of our case studies to see how we’ve engaged other teachers, students and parents using technology in the classroom.
EdTech15 is an upcoming education technology conference based in Leeds, featuring talks from influential leaders in the education technology field, visit the website to find out more.

My E-Learning experience, from Encyclopedias to Dr Google

Published: May 18, 2015

This week is Staff Blog week here at Webanywhere, so each day we will be sharing with you a new blog post from one of our employees. Today it’s Emily Tasker talking about her personal experiences of E-Learning.

The human race has always had the capacity and need to learn. It has helped us to evolve in the beginning and expand into the world. Without this drive for knowledge, we would arguably not have survived as a species, but that is a debate for another time.

The drive to learn is innate in our structure, it’s in our very core. The difference nowadays is how that knowledge is obtained and/or made accessible. As a child, I remember asking my parents the annoying questions all parents must suffer through, the general response I received was ‘look it up in the encyclopedia’.
When we finally had a computer in our house, the default answer to my persistent questioning was ‘look it up on Encarta’. Encarta was a CD ROM but basically was a digitised encyclopedia; the difference being that Encarta, with its games and challenges, was far more engaging and fun than an encyclopedia.
My more recent questions are easily answered thanks to my computer, tablet and mobile phone making the internet more accessible. The ability to go onto the internet to research an answer is becoming second nature, almost subconscious to society.
One example of this was during my National Childbirth Trust (NCT) Class when I was pregnant with my daughter, we were asked ‘your newborn is poorly, who do you turn to for advice?’ and for each couple to write down their answers. All had the usual answers ‘parents’, ‘doctors’, ‘other first time mums’, but all also had some form of digital platform listed such as information/chat boards, mobile apps, ‘dr google’ was also mentioned! Without even thinking twice, all new parents at that class would turn to digital help with issues relating to their newborn. That’s a significant amount of trust that they are placing in the information the internet can provide them. One answer was so second nature it had given a search engine the persona of a doctor.
I personally think that is the crux of where E-learning/Edtech is heading, as humans innately learn, there will always be a need for E-learning, but to survive it needs to be fun, easily accessible and trustworthy.
Emily Tasker

Related Webanywhere pages
Our E-learning resources – provide personalised e-learning and revision tools, allowing teachers to quickly and easily create exercises for students