Another Remote Lesson on Slack and Google Docs

This morning I ran another remote lesson with my Lower Sixth class. Important to stipulate there are only six pupils. We tackled the environmental impact of technology in 40 minutes. This consisted of a surface dive into the general area and then breaking into pairs for deeper dives into specific areas. A Google Hangout at the end to sum things up (plenary). Below you can see the anonymised conversation from the Slack channel. But before that you can click here to see the outcome of the lesson.

At the end, I set homework to read the material the other pairs had assembled, and to read the textbook section on this topic. Interestingly, the textbook is less than two pages. The reason for doing this work is to help the pupils be aware of the issues surrounding the impact computers are having on the natural environment, both good and bad. I will follow up in class with an essay-type exam question that tackles this issue but requires material not directly cited in the specification.

Slack conversation

## This is quite long so I have highlighted and commented on what I think are key points in the flow of the lesson. It is important for me to read through the message thread and reflect on whether or not I made good decisions. Typos are left in. Some text has been removed but not much.

daibarnes [11:26 PM]  ## reminder message sent night before

@channel remote lesson in the morning. See you logged on at 0830.

—– Today December 3rd, 2016 —–

daibarnes [8:08 AM]  

Today we are going to investigate the environmental impact of computers. This has different strains to it. The impact of production of hardware. Disposal of obsolete hardware. Contributions to global warming through manufacturing and use of technology including the Internet. However there are positive environmental impacts as well. Use of technological science to understand exactly how to protect the environment by solving problems caused by humans. ## introduction text


Start by looking into the general area for a little while

daibarnes [8:16 AM]  

Your aim is to deep dive into one area – three different areas to work on in pairs on a Google Doc – 1. the harm computer manufacture is causing to natural ecosystems and biodiversity. 2. the methods and efficacy of recycling and how the computer industry is taking measures to be more green. 3. the use of technology to solve the environmental problems caused by humans (not just those caused by tech).


@Student 3 @Student 5 morning Gents – can you ping the others on their chosen flavour of notificationised media please?

Student 3 [8:17 AM]  

yes I will tell them on the fb group ## pupils have a facebook group for the class



thanks @Student 3

Student 2 [8:19 AM]  

whos deciding who does what

daibarnes [8:19 AM]  

you are


@Student 2 is in charge of research allocation ## allocation of responsibility allows me to manage other things

Student 2 [8:20 AM]  



@Student 3 @Student 5 you can do 1

Student 3 [8:21 AM]  


daibarnes [8:21 AM]  

first of all is the surface dive into the topic – familiarise yourselves

Student 2 [8:21 AM]  

@Student 4 @Student 1 will do 3

daibarnes [8:22 AM]  

oh – sorry – should stipulate that @Student 2 and @Student 6 cannot be a pair because they are in the same room


aren’t you?

Student 3 [8:22 AM]  ## pupil suggests integrating Google Docs into Slack, which I did and created a Google Doc to be a base for our notes. It automatically shared the doc with all those in the Slack channel.

Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog

Google Drive + Slack

Create and share without losing your groove.

Reading time


2 min read


Oct 19th at 5:00 PM

Student 2 [8:22 AM]  

but that just makes the job a lot more efficient



daibarnes [8:24 AM]  

shared a file

Environmental impact

Document from Google Drive

Click to open in Google Drive

1 Comment

daibarnes [8:24 AM]  

Not sure how this will work but lets use it as a top level doc to aggregate all our work.

Student 3 [8:24 AM]  

I will delete mine

daibarnes [8:25 AM]  

can you all edit it?

Student 2 [8:25 AM]  

does anyone have any good websites?

daibarnes [8:25 AM]  

i do

[8:25] ## previously found source material

Student 6 [8:25 AM]  

@daibarnes Student 4 is downloading slack

daibarnes [8:27 AM]  



Technology and innovation:  New and existing technologies have the potential to transform society’s impacts on the environment, how we minimise those impacts and how we carry out our business more cost-effectively. From remote sensing to DNA analysis, from big data to the ‘internet of things’, we need research to help us exploit these benefits

daibarnes [8:28 AM]  

uploaded and commented on a file




Click to view


extract from this doc

Student 4 [8:29 AM]  

Here sir

daibarnes [8:30 AM]  

no @Student 1 yet as usual


he’s gone green!!??


@channel On the GDoc, place generic links for surface articles ## at channel notification pings everybody with short instructions


then create a doc per pair and link to it once you have done the research

Student 2 [8:32 AM]  

commented on daibarnes’ file Collaborative_Research_Priorities_for_the_Environment_Agency_2016-2020.pdf

this is quite a dense document

daibarnes [8:32 AM]  

to work fast you will need to paste extracts and sources in your docs


it is – use CTRL+F


Student 4 [8:36 AM]


9 technologies that promise to clean up the planet

Whether working on better maps or organic batteries, these firms are at the forefront of developing tech to help the planet. (85KB)


Student 4 [8:36 AM]  

sir would preventing rather than solving be better?


daibarnes [8:37 AM]  

same sort of thing @Student 4 but yes


daibarnes [8:38 AM]  

@Student 1 good morning! 


daibarnes [8:38 AM]  

over to the doc please? let’s get this party started




@channel okay – let’s split off into our pairs please.

Student 4 [8:43 AM]  

@Student 3 @Student 5 this might help


Ecological Impacts of Technology

Research about the negative and positive impacts of technology on today’s society.

daibarnes [8:43 AM]  

Itchy brain – love it.

Student 5 [8:43 AM]  


daibarnes [8:44 AM]  

you will notice it is hard to actually find stuff on google – the algorithms do not help much – you have to experiment with your keywords


this is what can happen when so many web pages are written – google starts to show how useless it can be – we should do a test sometime to see how our search results differ if we search the same keywords.


@channel you have 15 minutes to do your deeper dives – return at 0901

Student 2 [8:49 AM]  

Student 6 and i r working on a separate doc if youre wondering where we are

daibarnes [8:49 AM]  

I assumed you all are! _fingers crossed nervously_


Student 5 [8:59 AM]  

there are alot more articles against technology than there are for technology saving the environment

daibarnes [9:00 AM]  

@channel okay – back in the room please


Can you share your work onto the Google Doc so everyone can access it? ## pupils pasted their findings in the outcome doc linked to earlier


@Student 5 that is true and tells its own story



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Another Remote Lesson on Slack and Google Docs

School Prefect Social Media Policy Workshop

Disclaimer: Although the sketch of this plan was drawn up in collaboration, I have not yet cleared the detail with my school and they may well indeed suggest amendments or another approach entirely.

In two days I will be leading a workshop for all school prefects to help kickstart a Social Media Policy for our independent co-educational boarding school. Social media usage within such an organisation is not easy to measure or monitor. Pastoral teams all have incidents to recant about what happened when it all went wrong, but I am prepared to be told that we grown ups are making a fuss about something that is not of great concern to young people right now. That’s not to say I wouldn’t put a policy in place, only that I’m open to hearing what I, and others in the teaching body, perceive as potentially harmful is actually over-egging the pudding. Mostly I want to listen.

So, here is the plan…

The prefects will be having dinner in five tables of five whilst we work. I’m going to do an intro, throw in a curve ball or two about my own experiences, break the ice – I’m new so none of them know me – and hopefully raise a smile or two that might ease everyone into the evening. Also, I’ll be instigating the Chatham House Rule (as far as it is applicable in these circumstances, i.e. within safeguarding) and asking the participants to share their thoughts and experiences, including an invitation to contact me or another teacher if there is something they would like to discuss in private. Then there will be a mixture of discussion points and post-it activities. Post-it’s will be stuck onto categorised (categories TBD) oversized post-its stuck on the walls around the room.

Discussion point 1

Share with your table the last three times you used social media.

Question 1

What four separate words best describe your experience of using social media? Write each word on a separate note. Pick two of your four to stick on the wall and discard the other two.

Discussion point 2

Do we need to provide social media guidance for our pupils?

Question 2

Have you ever, or someone you know well, had a negative experience using social media?

To answer yes, use a yellow note and write one emotion you felt at that time on the note. To answer no, use a pink note, and use one of these words to explain why you think you haven’t: abstain, careful, private, carefree, or other.

Discussion point 3

Accidentally or deliberately, have you, or someone you know well, ever used technology to cause someone to get upset or feel bad about themselves?

Question 3

Close your eyes. Think back to your first day in school and how you’ve changed and how you’ve stayed the same. What advice would you give your younger self? [open eyes]

If you could, would you let your 11 or 13 year old self know anything about how to behave online? Using as few words as possible, write this advice down on a note. One point per note. As many notes as you want.

Discussion point 4

What would you, as a senior pupil and a prefect, say to a younger pupil who approached you because they are worried about something that has happened online?

Question 4

What do we need to do to support you in situations of this sort that you might face this academic year? One point per note but as many notes as you want from your table.

Discussion point 5

Do we need to stop skirting around the issue and talking to you and drafting policies and simply get a bit tough-love about all this and start enforcing some hard line rules?

Question 5

Having spent the evening thinking and reflecting on the matter, where do we go from here?

Thank yous and goodbyes.


All post-it notes to be collected and assembled into a debrief document to be discussed by a pastoral development committee.

Hopefully this should fill the sixty to ninety minute window set aside for this event. Please let me know if you see a missed opportunity or I’m pitching something wrong from what you’ve read?



School Prefect Social Media Policy Workshop

(How) should we tackle pornography in schools

Disclaimer: all opinion in this post, and indeed all my posts, is nothing whatsoever to do with my employers, past, present or future. It is, however, safe to read at work (SFW).


Hardcore pornography is readily accessible by anyone with an internet device. Pornography has been one of the catalysts of the Internet and web content. Check out this infographic published last year showing USA stats on porn. And a more balanced examination of such stats from the BBC, as well as this article exploring research about the harm that porn can do, which includes an analogy of porn to alcohol, saying that for some it’s a problem and for others it’s a pleasure. [NB: schools do educate about alcohol]

So, should we be doing anything in school about pornography? And, if so, what should we be doing? I have been discussing this question with colleagues and the answer is not clear. It’s not an easy subject to talk about. Imagine the potential outrage as students hurry home to discover what all the fuss was about? Those not exposed to such material may venture to satisfy their curiosity and the school will ultimately have led them there. Unacceptable, right? So what might we be able to do about this without leading our cohorts to the content we are advising them to avoid?

Should we do anything at all? This New Statesman article argues that there are ten more important sex education issues to deal with than porn:

  1. Where and how to get contraception
  2. How to use that contraception
  3. Consent
  4. Basic anatomy
  5. How to put it in
  6. ‘When a man and a woman don’t love each other very much…’
  7. Sex positions
  8. Orgasms
  9. The Morning After Pill and Abortion
  10. The sexual double standard

You may agree with them or not. Although it is just an opinion piece, it is prioritising the importance of practical facts, sort of. A young persons (mans? womans? boys? girls? childrens?) relationship to pornography is a complex one, and there will undoubtedly be many people better qualified and experienced than me to explain this in more detail. I find that it is similar to the body image issue which I often feel lacks sufficient complexity when presented to young people because it never explains how you – and I and them and us and we – are in the game. The impact of media-distorted body image (both self and others) is so entwined in our thoughts that effectively disentangling ourselves from admiring the beautiful (desired?), and superficially judging the occupant as an object, is much harder than it seems. Brangelina are the perfect couple, aren’t they? In an attempt to do this without doing it, I teach a unit of work called ‘Digital Media Decoding’ whereby the pupils use graphics packages to alter photographs. But, might it be necessary for schools simply not to get involved? Maybe this stuff is so wrapped up in the double binds of life that each of us must unravel these for ourselves; is it not this that defines who we are? Bob Dylan, discussing songwriting, says:

First of all, there’s two kinds of thoughts in your mind: there’s good thoughts and evil thoughts. Both come through your mind. Some people are more loaded down with one than another. Nevertheless, they come through. Source:

So, how can we dictate, or even determine, how thoughts (and the potentially distorted thoughts that an individual may have after subjecting themselves to pornographic material) might manifest in the intimate relationships our children are having or will have? Will these thoughts change actions? Will the absence of hands gently finding each other in streamed online media actually mean our young people will not work this tenderness out for themselves? Do we really think that they will not understand that our/their media-distorted expectations are irrelevant, and that the physical embodiment of connection between two people is so much more valuable, more beautiful, than what they watched online? Will there be a Generation XXX?

Well I’m not certain about what to do, but my research on the matter led me to this video which is the best thing I have seen so far (NB: if you know of anything suitable, please get in touch?). The video is a TEDx talk by Ran Gavrieli from Israel: ‘Why I stopped watching porn’. I recommend you watch this young(ish) man explain his experience. He is earnest and humorous and sensitive.



(How) should we tackle pornography in schools

Tablets 4 Schools 2013 Twitter notes on Storify

I didn’t attend this event. I was lucky enough to receive a personal invite but had already committed myself to another tablet event (much smaller scale) with a company called Jigsaw24 who have some innovative ideas on how to roll out iPad in schools. On the train home I read through the tweets and found Tony Parkin had impartially documented the gist of what was presented. I was going to write up the notes (they’re in my notebook) but time is against me, so here is a storify of the key tweets. All are worth reading from beginning to end, but it is long so I’ll say goodbye here… comments at the bottom should you feel the need!

PS: remember to click *Read next page* link at bottom of storify embed.


Tablets 4 Schools 2013 Twitter notes on Storify

Restrict Screen Time: Dr Aric Sigman comes to school

Yesterday, 12/06/13, Dr Aric Sigman came to our school to talk to pupils, staff and parents about various issues, prompted by some difficulties presented by the partially anonymous social media website Sigman specialises in presenting his published work around the world including school talks for PSHEEC covering alcohol, body image, electronic media (screen time), parenting and more. For our school he had been asked to cover all or most of these in a whistle-stop tour of his research. I warn you there may be inaccuracies in this post but I have omitted areas I felt unsure about. It presents a flavour of the overall presentation.

Dr Sigman at school
Dr Sigman at school

Dr Sigman is an articulate and charismatic speaker and all our audiences enjoyed his presentations and many felt inspired, or at least had their interest piqued, by what he had to say. The over-arching message he left was that, for young people (<19), recreational screen time (gaming, videos, social media) is averagely at 6.1 hours per day and should be limited to 2 hours. The argument is presented with a research evidence-base about the chemicals that are released in our brains from specific activities and that too much passive screen time that does not stimulate good brain development. In fact, it is very possible it is bad for you when your body is going through important growth stages. Among the examples of actual impact that were cited was France banning any television media aimed at <3 year olds; screen time for very young people should be kept to an absolute minimum.

I photographed many of Sigman’s slides but he challenged someone filming him to make sure it was for private use only. His concern was because, if publicly distributed, it may cause a backlash from organisations that want us to be using screens or alcohol more, not less. This made me a little suspicious. If research is robust it can withstand scrutiny and counter-research. Enter Dr Ben Goldacre (props to @simfin for the pointer) who authors and was recently invited by the Right Honourable Michael Gove MP to examine how schools might improve the use of evidence to inform practice. Goldacre appears in a Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman and Aric Sigman in 2009 where the latter’s report is challenged because it led to Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield, then head of the Royal Institution, making claims that led to the Daily Mail headline: ‘Social websites harm children’s brains‘. The interview is embedded below:

Goldacre grinds his research evidence standards axe regularly. This is partly how he earns his crust, so, take from it what you will.

I was concerned that there was going to be a distorted message being given to my school community. My concern was not unfounded. Sigman clearly enjoyed the fact his work is perceived by many as contentious, and he let the audience know he was being invited by governments and the like to address important people around the world. And that some audiences are more receptive than others because they serve a specific agenda.

I am not in a position to scrutinise the validity of Sigman’s claims, but I wanted to try and make sure that his message was clear. When he says ‘recreational screen time’ maybe people hear ‘screen time’ without the qualifying distinction. I felt obliged to seek clarification in the Q&A sessions. Was he only talking about screen time spent on recreational activities? He was, and added that he only meant passive screen time; Wii games employing physical actions like bowling did not count. It was important to me to make sure that the audience were very clear that screen time for learning does not contribute to this process. Sigman aligned reading a book to stimulating imagination about sensory perception in the mind. This was a complex process deemed healthy for the brain, and, therefore, ‘kindles’ (for which I think yo can substitute ‘reading on any device’ since the introduction of kindle fire). The chemical release can be stimulated from reading on a computer or working on research or an essay. Obviously, there are a lot of grey areas here (some research is watching YouTube etc.) and Sigman stipulated that recreation meant gaming, youtube and social media. He also asked the audience to imagine hunting and similar activities that caused stress hormones and cortisone to be released back in the early days of our development. Our bodies are designed to release these chemicals during physical exertion but playing the adrenaline inducing first-person shoot ’em up will cause the same chemical release whilst the recipient is relatively motionless.

Is this pseudo-science? Well I don’t really know. Sigman substantiated his claims with research. He did not permit his slides to be published but I can publish all the sources I managed to capture. This is the last of what I have to say on the matter other than a couple of Year 9 boys approached me today to let me know their Mum’s had removed their gadgets as soon as they got home. We all have to learn how to manage our screen time. I’m not convinced Dr Sigman has all the facts in his presentation. I hope he has not set fear alight in our parents and teachers. I guess a passionate and urgent message is always a danger with showmanship spotlight research presentations. My feeling is that we need more dispassionate research to unravel this evidence base, similar to that Goldacre has bothered to assemble on his website. Maybe we may see another analysis of Sigman’s work by Goldacre. After all, it seems to be a hobby of his.

Below is a sample of his quotes that I managed to note; many are missing.


Salivary Cortisol in Relation to the Use of ICT in School-Aged Children. Wallenius (?), M., et al (2010) Psychology, 2010, 1, 88-95. ‘Adolescents rarely describe gaming and surfing in the Internet as stressing activities but, instead, as a way of passing time, getting experiences, and social communication.’

The World Unplugged, (2011) University of Maryland. 1000 students in 10 countries on 5 continents. Study to give up tech for 24 hours. ‘A clear majority in every country failed.’ ‘many students employed the rhetoric of addiction, dependency and depression when self-reporting their reactions to going unplugged for 24 hours… many students also reported both mental and physical symptoms of distress.’ ‘they physically craved the actual devices themselves.’

American Journal of Drug Alcohol Abuse (2010) 10.5% change in dopamine release ‘in the caudate after playing a motorbike riding computer game.’ ‘Computer game playing may lead to long-term changes in the reward circuitry that resemble the effects of substance dependence.’

Microstructure Abnormalities in Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder (2011). ‘multiple structural changes’ deep within the brain. ‘several small regions in the brain were smaller, in some cases as much as 10 to 20 percent.’ Surface-level brain matter appears to shrink according to how long you’ve had ‘internet addiction’.

American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (2009). Surfing internet – areas of the brain associated with empathy showed virtually NO increase in stimulation. ‘Young people are growing up immersed in this technology and their brains are more malleable, more plastic and changing. As the brain evolves and shifts its focus towards new technological skills, it drifts away from fundamental social skills.’

Mirroring Others’ Emotions Relates to Empathy and Interpersonal Competence in Children. Pfeiffer et al. Neuroimage (2008). ‘stimulated by face-to-face interaction.”stimulation related directly to children’s: level of empathy; social skills.’

Meta-analysis of 72 studies 1979-2009 by University of Michigan, May 2010. ‘College kids today are about 40% lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago’ ‘We found the biggest drop in empathy after the year 2000… 1) The increase in exposure to media during this time… 2) Recent rise in social media.’

Couldn’t see the source of this but here it is anyway, discussing mental health: ‘Children’s Screen Viewing is Related to Psychological Difficulties Irrespective of Physical Activity: ‘Children who spent [more than] 2 hours per day watching television or using a computer were at increased risk of high levels of psychological difficulties and this risk increased if the children also failed to meet physical activity guidelines. … Limiting computer use and television viewing may be important for optimal well-being for young people.’

Facebook Depression, American Academy of Pediatrics (2011) Guidance for the Clinician: The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families: ‘Facebook depression … develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.’

Increase in Loneliness, Children Talking to Childline about Loneliness report by NSPCC (2010): ‘Among boys: 500% increase in calls about loneliness from five years ago.’

Computers in Human Behaviour, Kirschner & Karpinski (2010): ‘Three-quarters of the Facebook users said they didn’t believe spending time on the site affected their academic performance….’ But Facebook users’ grades were 20% lower.

Harvard Medical School (2012) did a systematic review of parental interventions on screen time: 29 studies ‘achieved significant reductions in TV viewing or screen-media use.





Restrict Screen Time: Dr Aric Sigman comes to school