Level-Headed Teaching

September 1, 2016


Sarah Pannell

Sarah Pannell

I need a new phone.

I quite liked my old phone, but recently it has become quite slow with all the photos I take and all the music I have stored on it. I tried to play Pokémon Go on it as well, but it just drained the battery before I could catch my first Rattata.

So, how do I decide which phone to buy?

My Dad (whose advice on electrical equipment I trust unequivocally), has a great phone – he can use it to make phone calls and send text messages, and its battery seems to last forever, but it doesn’t even have a basic camera, let alone the ability to check e-mails from the train.

I don’t think I want to go to one of the high street stores – I want to make my own mind up, rather than be pushed into a “great deal”.

So, where do I find my information?

I could go online and read the phone specifications, compare the megapixels of the camera, the gigabytes of memory, the retinal display qualities, but that doesn’t really tell me what people think of it. I could read customer reviews, but how do I know who to trust? I could watch YouTube videos with tech wizards discussing the pros and cons of the latest models. I could ask my friends about the phones they have; they’ll be honest with me, though might disagree with each other about whose phone is the best.

To be honest, I’ll probably just get the up-to-date model of the phone I had before – I know how it works and how to transfer my address book without losing all the numbers.

Whilst it might sound a trivial scenario (or maybe not, if the phone you’re reading this on is the newest shiniest release that is just so much better than the one that came out three months ago), this is the kind of example that encourages young people to think about how they make decisions. Do they question the reliability of their sources, how do they feel about expert opinion or the marketing efforts of manufacturers? Scenarios like this can help to add a vital context for introducing more complex ideas, as well as getting them talking about which phone they would choose and why.

Over the next academic year, I will be working with the CEBM, supported by a Teaching Fellowship grant from the McCall MacBain Foundation, exploring ways in which we can encourage children to think critically about the evidence they are presented with. If you have a bright idea that you think I could develop further, I’d love to hear from you!

Sarah Pannell is a CEBM Honourary Fellow and Biology Teacher at Lingfield Notre Dame School. She will be participating in a panel discussion: Delivering Evidence-Based Medicine to Schools on Saturday 17th September at 13.00 – register here.

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