Disruptive Technology

So today the TES published an article entitled “Ofsted warns against ‘extremely disruptive’ tablets in school”. In the spirit of full disclosure I’ll say here and now I have yet to read the full article (as you’ll see, I’ve been busy googling).

The article contained the following:

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 22.03.53

Within the space of four paragraphs the phrase “extremely disruptive” is used twice. I’ll come back to this.

The first bit to tackle is the “an Ofsted survey… …reveals that 30% of secondaries now operate a so-called ‘bring your own device’ policy”.

Unfortunately it does no such thing.

The survey was conducted in March 2015 during S5 inspection visits of 39 primary and 45 secondary schools. The 30% figure actually relates to student answers to the question “Are you able to use your own device at school?” So the sample is non-randomised, it is the answer to a different question than the statement in the article, and it relates to the percentage of students asked, not the percentage of schools.

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 22.11.53

The second, and perhaps more serious issue, is that of the use of tablets being “extremely disruptive”. Now, given that this phrase is so good they used it twice, you would assume that there is very clear evidence for it. Indeed the second use is ascribed to a (nameless) “Ofsted spokesperson” and goes even further to say that bringing personal devices into school “make it difficult for teachers to teach.” There must be masses of evidence for this for such a clear and (unusually) unambiguous statement to be made by an “Ofsted spokesperson”.

So I looked in the obvious place to find such evidence that would provoke such an extreme reaction from an “Ofsted spokesperson”. Ofsted reports.

I did what I usually do when I am seeking information that I don’t currently have in my head, I search the internet. Using Google. This is the search term I used – site:ofsted.gov.uk pdf tablet and I picked off the reports from the first two pages returned.

This returned results mainly from 2012-14. To ensure that there was no recent phenomena I was missing out on I did a further search using the term site:ofsted.gov.uk pdf tablet 2015. I picked off the reports from the fist page of the results. This gave me 27 reports to look at. I then searched within the pdf for the word tablet, and the results lists at the end of this post contain the sentence/paragraph where the word appears. Before anyone attempts to hoist me by my own petard let me state that this methodology is no more statistically rigorous than the Ofsted survey mentioned above. You can also point out that the reports refer simply to tablets rather than any BYOD effects. But given the extreme claims made by the “Ofsted spokesperson” I was assuming that the reports would be so filled with such details of the “extreme” disruption caused by tablets that this would not be a problem.

The results are below. You can read through them. They show no evidence of “extreme disruption” caused by the presence of tablets. On the contrary, the reports clearly point out the benefits and efficacy of tablets. There is one negative report, which I have highlighted in red. And this refers the occasional distraction rather than “extreme disruption”.

As far as I can see there is no evidence for the claims made by the “Ofsted spokesperson” contained within Ofsteds own reports. So unless they are collecting the evidence and not putting it in reports where it is relevant it would seem that the claim of “extreme disruption” just does not stack up. Not this year, not last year, or the years before that.

I think it would be helpful to one and all if Ofsted were to explain why they have made such a clear public statement and to publish the evidence they have to back it up.

Otherwise I think we are justified in believing that their statements in this area are fiction made to support an idealogical stance rather than an evidenced one.



UPDATE – Please see Disruptive Technology part 2 for an update



Search 1 results

Outstanding – December 2013 – Secondary

The pupil premium is used highly effectively to fund additional staff. This includes a counselor and resources such as tablet computers to reduce barriers to learning and enable these students to achieve extremely well. Their progress is on par with others. At the end of Year 11 in 2013 the progress of these students was slightly faster and attainment was slightly higher than that of their peers.

Good – May 2013 – Primary

Pupils are inquisitive learners, which give them a keenness to learn more in lessons. They practise their speaking, reading, writing and mathematics in many subjects, including science and design technology. They have good computer skills. They enjoy using the internet to find information and tablet computers to record their learning.

Good – Sept 2013 – Secondary

Students’ literacy skills are developed well across the curriculum, for example through the use of subject-specific vocabulary in many subjects. The widespread use of tablet computers throughout the school has a positive impact on students’ learning, for example by supporting their reading and research skills.

Good – December 2012 – Primary

Information and communication technology skills are well developed using tablet computers to record photographic evidence and make notes that they later use to write an article about the event. Pupils are also learning to write simple programs as well as using a range of equipment that utilises their programming skills.

Outstanding – October 2012 – All Through Special

For older students, very effective use of tablet computers is made to record their achievements.

The additional money provided for students through the pupil premium is used well to assist those students to have their own mobile computer tablets. These are having a very positive impact on supporting their communication and learning needs.

Outstanding – June 2012 – Secondary

A good range of resources, particularly the provision of tablet computers, has had an exceptionally positive impact on students’ learning.

The decision six months ago to equip all students with tablet computers has not been universally welcomed by parents and carers, but the positive impact on students’ learning is obvious. The computers help students to work independently, they give all students equal access to online resources and they provide an excellent communication tool between teachers and students.

Good – January 2013 – Secondary

Information and communication technology (ICT) is used very well to keep students’ interested. It is also used very well to develop individual students’ understanding. For example, in a mathematics lesson, students used tablet computers to explore the features of the shapes of a sandwich they had just made.

Good – 2013 – Secondary

A strength in teaching is the high level of interaction in lessons and the quality of resources, including the use of tablet computers.

Inadequate – December 2013 – Secondary

The school has invested heavily in new technology to support learning. Tablet computers have been provided for all students and are used to good effect in some subjects, such as in physical education where students record and analyse their movements. Not all teachers are confident in using this technology and some are unsure as to how to make the most of new resources. On occasions, the technology is a distraction rather than an aid to learning.

Good – June 2013 – Primary

In the best lessons, teachers use computers well to capture pupils’ interest and develop pupils’ skills in using computers. In an English lesson, Year 5 pupils worked in groups using ‘tablet computers’ to add music to a black and white film they had made. The music had to match the emotions of the actors. Pupils made outstanding progress as they discussed their work well and improved it to meet the high standards set by the teacher.

Good – November 2013 – Primary Special

Teachers concentrate on helping pupils develop skills in communication. The pupil premium has been put to good use here through the purchasing of tablet computers for those entitled to benefit from the funding.

Outstanding – September 2013 – Primary

For example, it checks closely on the achievement of pupils who receive pupil premium funding, which has been used to invest in tablet computers for pupils and to extend speech and language therapy. The impact on pupils’ progress in communication, literacy and numeracy is very evident in their excellent progress.

Good – March 2013 – Primary

The school is currently reflecting on and reviewing the way it teaches subjects to make sure that it provides the best possible learning opportunities that pupils find relevant to their lives. The school is leading on developments to use tablet computers in lessons and the pupils develop skills quickly as a result.

Good- November 2012 – Secondary

Many students start the academy with reading ages well below average, but as a result of well-focused intervention now make rapid progress. Students make excellent use of electronic tablet technology to store and record their reading activities and to develop their writing and research skills.

Good – October 2013 – Middle

For example, during a Year 6 geography lesson the teacher used a wide range of strategies to spark the interest of the pupils, including the use of tablet computers, a ‘snowball’ activity where pupils ‘threw European countries into a box’, and an investigative approach to developing knowledge about Europe. The combination of absorbing activities and high expectations led to outstanding progress.


Search 2 Results

Maths Subject Inspection (Year 5) – July 2015 – Secondary

Teachers use tablet computers to help pupils self-assess. Where this practice is embedded, it contributes to teachers’ understanding of pupils’ mastery of concepts.

Inadequate – January 2015 – Primary

Children learn eagerly. They respond well to the stimulating opportunities provided, particularly in the indoor areas. They quickly forge friendly relationships with each other and respect the need to share resources, such as tablet computers, fairly. They comment on their learning and new experiences, and they work well with each other on paired or small-group tasks.

Good – April 2015 – Primary

Children as young as five are able to say exactly what they would do if they were suspicious about anything on a ‘tablet’ or laptop computer as well as, remarkably, exactly what is included in the school’s behaviour policy.

RI Monitoring – April 2015 – Primary

Older pupils extended their vocabulary and punctuation when producing twists on the classic fairy tale Cinderella through creating crime and mystery ‘blogs’ using tablet technology.

Good – June 2015 – Primary

ICT is used well to support learning. Young pupils were observed using tablet computers to successfully finding out interesting facts about caterpillars. This was a challenging task, in which they were excitedly engaged and subsequently, learned at a fast pace.

Good – February 2015 – Primary

Children behave well and already are developing good cooperative skills. For example, as three children in the Nursery shared the story of The Three Little Pigs on a tablet computer, they took turns and talked to each other about what they were doing.

Good – March 2015 – Primary

They are equally confident in painting a picture in the style of Mondrian, using an ‘app’ on a tablet computer, or writing short sentences independently in response to the teacher’s ‘dictation’.

Outstanding – March2015 – Primary

The spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils is promoted exceptionally well. There are a range of exciting opportunities which ensure that pupils are always enthused by their learning. For example, pupils were very excited to use tablet computers to create a stop-go animation.

RI – May 2015 – Primary

Some of the teaching makes good use of a range of resources to motivate and interest pupils. For example, in Year 6 pupils were using information that they had collected to record the introduction to a television programme, about rainforests, using a tablet computer. Pupils of all abilities were fully engaged, and making good gains in both their written and spoken English.

Good – Jan 2015 – Secondary

Students who speak English as an additional language achieve well. Not only do they benefit from the experience and expertise of staff across the academy, but ready access to tablet computers enables those at an early stage of learning English to translate words they do not understand or to submit work in their native language.


Two of the discovered report were left out. One only referenced tablets to say that the school did not have any, and in the other it was inclear if the word tablet referred to an actual tablet (the lesson was about teeth cleaning).


5 thoughts on “Disruptive Technology

  1. People always have to be savvy about including media references. Not only do you have to question the reference, but also the source, the accuracy of information and the context, timing and possibly, intent, of the dissemination by the media. The use of the phrases like “…an Ofsted spokesperson..” is often a dead giveaway that the story may have been generated by the media and not the Organisation itself – in this case Ofsted. I would also suggest that large organisations such as Ofsted employ more savvy PR departments…

Comments are closed.