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Juggling Homeschooling While Working From Home

young-girl-working-on-a-computer-STEM-featuredThe closure of schools in response to the Coronavirus pandemic has meant millions of parents having to add the job of full-time teacher to their already full-time work.

Murray Morrison, founder of learning program Tassomai and ex-supertutor explains why it’s more than OK to lean on technology to support.

Let’s get one thing straight right from the start: it is not your job to replace your child’s teacher for the duration of the school closure. Parents all over the country are piling on way too much pressure to meet their own expectations of what homeschooling “should” be, while also trying to maintain their day-to-day job. Be under no illusions that your main obligation should be to your own work - you are not a teacher, and that’s fine.

Give yourself a break - and remember school will cover everything

When school resumes, the first thing that will happen is that teachers will run over everything from last year, and teach everything that had been planned for teaching during the “lost term”. There is no new learning that is meant to happen now that won’t be taught - so there is no pressure on families to exclusively cover this new content.

That said, getting your children to read what the school sends, and spend time practising, reading around the subject (and making notes where they can) will be positive - it means that when the material is taught in class, it will be easier to absorb. That’s going to be useful when the teaching next year is necessarily compressed.

Find things to occupy them so you can do your stuff

Self-directed learning will be a great stand-by: not only does it make for better, longer-lasting learning for your child, but also it gives you time to focus on your own work. The key thing is to make sure that work is done in a structured way with tangible outcomes that you can check periodically. Don’t let them just “read some notes”; instead ask them to make flashcards, make a video or write an essay. Technology comes in very useful here - especially if there is interactivity: Tassomai helps students practise knowledge through personalised quizzing while parents can see exactly how much has been done; other softwares teach through videos that track engagement.

EdTech can really be your friend when it comes to getting your children studying under their own steam: BBC Bitesize has fantastic learning games for all age groups, and a few minutes browsing YouTube will yield plenty of excellent learning channels for occasional use through the day.

Make the time you spend together happy, enriching, positive time that school cannot offer

When it comes to working one-to-one with your children, if you can take a few hours off for it, I’d recommend parents spend their time doing activities which schools cannot provide. There are a wealth of “enrichment” activities that schools struggle to support, but parents can do fairly easily. There are obvious options like craft projects, story-writing and baking which allow you to be creative and discuss words, ideas, maths and science. But you could also try some gardening projects or - with just a few materials like cardboard and tape - tackle some STEM projects like making beautiful 3D shapes,  building bridges or constructing gliders.

Use technology where you can to make learning effective and powerful

My advice to parents is to spend a little time seeing what technology platforms are best-suited to solving your most pressing needs as parents: you want education technology that occupies your child’s attention so you have time to do your own work; you also want products that have a solid evidence base underpinning them, so you can be confident that their use will be beneficial. Check sites like Edtech Impact and Edtech Evidence Group to see which products can be trusted to have a real learning impact so that you can focus on your work and make the time you spend learning with your children as wonderful as possible.

Murray MorrisonAbout the author

Murray Morrison is a leading education, learning and revision expert. He is the founder of www.tassomai.com the online learning programme.


tech entrepreneurs

Why is the path to success so much harder for women tech entrepreneurs?

female tech entrepreneurs, start ups

Article provided by Murray Morrison, Founder of Tassomai.com

For the past 20 years, I have been working in education and building an edtech company.

It has been a challenging journey, but I know that those challenges would have been all the greater had I been a woman. From the education perspective, I see endemic problems that make me fear we are still a generation away from the women tech entrepreneurs we need.

When our institutions do not nurture diversity, we all suffer.

Beyond the manifest unfairness of the situation, there is an opportunity cost to society as a whole. We currently live in a world where the things we use each day have been built by men. Because they have been built by men, they are - consciously or not - designed for men.

Changing this picture would mean more women in tech creating better products that serve all of our needs better. And a more balanced tech ecosystem will accelerate the virtuous circle - the more women tech entrepreneurs there are, the more there will be in future. 

But to do so means not only changing the way we hire staff, but the way we fund businesses, the way we develop and train our people, and the way we support our schools and teachers in developing a curriculum for the society we wish to see. 

Our education system is not set up for creating WTEs

The received wisdom is that, for anyone to forge new ideas in tech, they should have a background in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) subjects. 

Of students studying these subjects in the UK, girls are a disproportionate minority. Particularly maths and physics where, beyond GCSE, the number of girls attenuate heavily. In a subject like computing - of increasing importance to our developing workforce - girls represent around 20 per cent of exam entrants. This is perpetuated by the inevitably skewed gender balance of the teaching profession in those subjects.

We could blame the damaging cultural stereotype of maths or physics intrinsically not being “for girls”, but there’s another aspect: in subjects that depend upon the recall and application of facts to formulaic questioning, there’s a lingering perception of ‘maleness’ to the approach that I fear leads girls to think they don’t belong. Contrast with languages, literature or humanities: here, learning follows a more discursive, socratic model of discussion and development of ideas. It’s easy to see how, as a society, we falsely impose our constructs of each gender’s strengths to draw the conclusion that STEM subjects are for boys.

Finally, the reality of the mixed classroom environment too easily draws the teachers’ attention, for better or worse, on certain students. Those who have their hands up with answers - or cause trouble with disruptive behaviour - are the ones who get the most attention. It’s not surprising that girls suffer in that dynamic - though schools around the country are constantly striving to mitigate this issue.

At Tassomai, we provide a self-quizzing app as a means for any student to practise and improve their knowledge. Schools frequently tell us that the major beneficiaries are those who previously may not have felt they could succeed in STEM subjects. But while edtech may be helping, this is a tiny dent in a bigger problem - one that will only truly be fixed if we can review the curriculum to better suit more diverse learning styles and recruit women to teach subjects like computer science.

Too few workplaces nurture female talent

Beyond education, our workplaces are still not set up to pull through female talent, starting with recruitment, and continuing through company culture. 

Most job advertisements have long lists of requirements for the potential applicant. It is likely that a male applicant who satisfies more than half of those requirements will take a punt, but  women are less likely to apply if they cannot confidently tick all the boxes. 

In light of that, we changed our hiring process to list only the most essential requirements, and focus instead on attracting a range of applicants with our development-focused culture; the result was a far healthier recruitment process.

In tech-related companies, where women hires are the exception, it’s no fun being one of those pioneers. Whereas men are afforded flexibility to learn from mistakes, women have to be far more conservative in their approach if they fear an error will make them vulnerable in the eyes of their colleagues. Meanwhile, as in schools, the misguided assumption that men have more aptitude for logical, iterative and focused work draws them into emerging career paths like data science and product design but diverts female talent away.

Unfortunately, it’s entirely that approach - developing analytical skills, learning from mistakes and turning potential embarrassment into the next innovation - that fosters the entrepreneurial spirit. If we cannot improve the hiring and working practices of our businesses, we risk holding female talent back and reducing the success of our organisations - and the future organisations that spring from them.

Business creation is not (currently) for girls

It’s clear to me how much of what I have achieved was made easier by virtue of my being male. I’ve been given trust by employers and investors; I’ve been granted authority before I was ready and had my mistakes indulged as I learned how to do better. I’m reminded of Ginger Rogers’ remark that she did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards - and in heels. I understand how fortunate I’ve been.

From my vantage point in education technology, I see the work beginning in schools to support more girls in pursuit of tech careers. Employers need to demand more from all of our institutions - and ourselves - to accelerate these initiatives. 

As an economy, and as a society, we will all benefit from more women entrepreneurs in tech, but to get there still requires sustained, systemic change. We must continually remind ourselves of our need to improve the world, to define a new normal, and to have the stamina to keep pushing, at every institutional level, for change.

Murray MorrisonAbout the author

Murray Morrison is a leading education and revision expert. He is an edtech entrepreneur and the founder of Tassomai.com, the UK’s leading online learning programme used in school’s.