Cupboard of Shame

We've all been there. Caught off guard by a salesperson who promises that their product will revolutionise teaching and learning in your school, in a moment of weakness we succumb to their siren call and agree to purchase their wares. Even with training, strategic buy in from leaders, teachers and technical staff they just don't take off and end up wedged in the back of a store room, or festering behind a link that is only ever clicked accidentally.

The products on this page have been consigned to the cupboard of shame, a dark and murky place inhabited by spiders, old overhead projectors and that weird bloke called Martin who everyone thought had left.

If you find a product that you love (or heaven forbid, sell) on this page and want to argue the case in its favour then please get in touch with us. We'd be delighted to be proved wrong, it happens more often than we'd like to admit.

Season 2

Episode 2.16 - The Need for Clear Handwriting - Dom Norrish



Episode 2.15 - Misspelled Hashtags - Joe Dale

Not just pushing Joe’s pedantry buttons, the whole concept of hashtags relies upon the ability to enter a correctly spelled term in order to retrieve the results that you are looking for. As someone who works tirelessly to provide resources to his subscribers, it is irksome to Joe, particularly when, as Andy points out the first part of the MFLtwitterati hashtag is spelled out for us!


Episode 2.14 - Stigmatising Discussions on Mental Health - Seth Wilkins


Episode 2.14 - Unfair Secrets of Hypnotic Selling With NLP - Alec Grimsley


Unfortunately Alec had other commitments which meant that he didn't have time to share this with us on the episode but his reasoning is thus:

"The reason this one is in the shame category, is like many other leadership, management and influencing books, they offer techniques which don’t treat the person your doing them to as a human being. They treat others as objects to be manipulated under the premise that its being done for their own good, when its usually only or mainly about what the deliverer of those techniques is wanting."

Episode 2.13 - Locking Everything Down - Jamie Portman


Episode 2.12 - Technology Extremists - José Picardo

Oooh! A shiny thing! Let's buy 300 and put them in classrooms! How will we use them? I'm sure we'll figure something out.

Ugh! A shiny thing. It'll be crap. No, I'm not interested in your well thought out and researched plan for implementation or the excellent training, or that it will have a positive impact in learning. I don't want to learn how to use it. Now where's my stone tablet and chisel....

Jose eschews the typical polarisation of debate around tech so often found on social media in favour of a more balanced approach that nothing is ever all good (apart from biscuits, obvs) or all bad (except mushrooms).

Episode 2.11 - Zoom Backgrounds - Patrick McGrath

It's your fifth zoom meeting of the day, your eyes are going square and you're on with Gandalf. Or someone who's inside a fish tank. It was funny at first, but by lockdown 3 it's starting to wear a bit thin.


Episode 2.10 - Government Supplied Unorthadox Connectivity Methods - Suggested by Andrew Walls

The most reliable broadband is cable, so why are disadvantaged students being provided with expensive, unreliable mobile dongles that mean they have to lean out of a window to get a signal? It's not fit for purpose, just run a cable to the house.

Episode 2.09

Technology for the sake of technology - Suggested by Adam Wright

Oooh, shiny boxes. Let's get some of those! What for? We'll figure that out later, that school down the road has some so they must be good!

Labelling people at an early age based on academic achievement - Suggested by Tim Buckle

Failed your GCSEs? Didn't go to uni? That's you done then. After all, nobody ever did anything or developed after the age of 21, so best forget about those ambitions there kiddo.


Episode 2.08 - Hardware that cannot be repaired or recycled - Suggested by Laura White


Ever tried to replace an iPhone battery? We have. Three hours with YouTube, a tiny screwdriver, the world's smallest screws and lots of swearing. Laura White consigns the ethically dubious and environmentally disastrous practice of not making tech field reparable to the cupboard of shame.


Episode 2.07 - An outdated view of apprenticeships - Suggested by Al Kingsley

The GCSE/A Level. The gold standard. Even if an apprenticeship would be more suitable, lead to increased engagement, more relevant learning and a more suitable career path. Al Kingsley rails against the view that apprenticeships are just a safety net for those who 'couldn't hack' exams rather than an equally valid pathway through education.



Episode 2.06 - Lack of Email Etiquette - Suggested by Olly Lewis

Picture the scene. In the middle of deflecting a myriad of tasks and responding to a tsunami of emails, there is one that sticks in your craw. An email with no preamble, no niceties, no attempt whatsoever to curry favour with you, the recipient.

With no 'Dear...', lacking in the passive aggressive 'as per my previous email' and featuring a complete absence of any regards whatsoever, let alone the kind variety, the blunt email is a blunt butter knife thrust betwixt the shoulder blades of your inbox.

There is no excuse for it, no matter how busy you are. If you wouldn't speak to Dame Judy Dench in that manner then don't speak to me that way.

Many thanks in anticipation of your speedy response...


Episode 2.05 - Go-backery - Suggested by SJ White

During lockdown the teaching community adopted new ways of working to overcome the barriers that Covid put in place, particularly the issue of not being in the same building as learners. There were teams of people working on MS Teams, entire classrooms worth of learners being taught via Google Classroom, teachers dusting off old YouTube accounts (and in some cases hastily deleting the ill judged contents that they found within), and even some 'down-with-the-kids' types dipping their toes into TikTok.

Once the virus has been defeated though, there will be an elastic band of educators who are desperate to go back, to re-embrace their beloved whiteboard pens and bombard the reprographics department with requests for all of the worksheets that they haven't had the opportunity to inflict upon learners this year. This is what must be avoided, we need to embrace these new ways of working as a driver for change and an opportunity to innovate. We must identify and cherish the silver-lining of the Coronavirus cloud. There must be no go-backery.

Episode 2.04 - Social Media - Suggested by Damian Hughes

Social media has brought people together, enabled learning to take on new forms and even powered revolutions. However it isn't always a force for good, triggering binary responses, shifting perceptions of the world, forcing us to take extreme positions, mistaking feelings for facts, and becoming an echo chamber for those who share our beliefs. Damian describes it a similar to the Wild West due to it's lack of regulation or ethical standards. You can follow Damian on Twitter at... oh, no you can't as he's practicing what he preaches and has removed himself from social media.

A sea squirt, yesterday

Episode 2.03 - Teachers who do lip service to online teaching - Suggested by Cat Lamin

Teaching online is NOT the same as teaching in the classroom. Whilst there are some similarities, it's far easier for learners to disengage when accessing online learning. We all know that it's not easy for everyone to transition to online learning, but as Cat and Andy explain, the use of good teaching techniques online can still have tremendous outcomes, and make the new way of working bearable and even enjoyable for students and teachers. Oh, and the crustacean that Andy refers to is the sea squirt.

Episode 2.02 - Brand Ambassador Programmes - Suggested by Mark Anderson

"Teachers giving up their time to run training sessions or special projects is great, but it's still work". Should self respecting educators really be willing to go to work in return for a pen, a mug or a t-shirt? Maybe tech companies could find more transparent and meaningful ways of supporting schools. An intriguing suggestion, but those twenty pound notes aren't going to move coffee from the pot to my mouth whilst proffering a humorous play on a company name are they?

Episode 2.01 - Generic CPD - Suggested by Jake Miller

Oh good. It's the first day of term, you've only just remembered all the jobs that you've spent the summer ignoring and your to do list runs off your desk, onto the floor and away into the distance. What you really need now is a whole school training session on the use of juggling as a pedagogical tool. Followed by compulsory inclusion in your lesson plan and learning walks to ensure that you are using it in class.

Jake argues that effective staff training identifies individual needs and addresses them, rather than adopt a one size fits all approach.

Season 1

Episode 10 - ShameFest

Our end of season 1 bumper shame special saw the cupboard bulging at the seams with awfulness suggested by our incredible listeners. Here's the rundown of the top 10 as judged by ourselves, Ben Whitaker and Dan Fitzpatrick from the Edufuturists.

Third Place - Lazy Facebook Searchers - @rangathetrainer

Let me google that for you. No please, I insist.....

Joint Second - SIMS.net - @abidpatel

Ten minutes as a user, or 30 seconds as an admin and you'll know why.

Joint Second - Staff who have their whole life on a USB drive with no backup - @drvandermast

The main reason that Dave owns a soldering iron.

The Ultimate Entry of Ultimate Shame - IT professionals who don't know that customer service is important - @msetchell

Every judge put this as their number one. Says it all really.



Episode 9 - Exam Reference Language - Suggested by Miles Berry

The Esperanto of programming. These languages are there to standardise exam questions and answers for students who may have learned different, actual, useful programming languages during their GCSE/A Level courses (because programming skills are examined on paper at GCSE, but don’t get Andy started on that can of tangled USB cables).

In reality it means that students spend time learning a language specifically to pass an exam, but that has little to no practical use anywhere else. This also serves to confuse the issue between the real programming languages they learn and the reference language. Fortunately, exam boards are starting to accept answers written in proper code, but the questions are still in reference language. Hmmmmm.

Episode 8 - Cold Callers & Scammers - Suggested by Zaitoon Bukhari

Whether it is warning us that our Amazon accounts have been hacked, helping us to remove (install) malware from our home computers, or assisting us with a pension investment into a mysteriously undocumented offshore company, the initially philanthropic gestures of people calling us in the middle of our evening meals all too soon turns into a right royal pain in the ass. As Zaitoon tells us in the podcast - they need a proper job.

Episode 8 - Techies who provide poor customer service - Suggested by Dan Manley

Dan showed his creative use of technology by seeking suggestions for his Cupboard of Shame entry via Twitter. It was so successful that it spawned the idea of a Cupboard of Shame special (watch this space). One common suggestion which resonated with Dan was the breed of school technical support engineer who perpetuate the surly, unhelpful blocker stereotype that we are trying to eradicate at LearningDust. If you recognise that description in yourself, or in the techies at your school then we prescribe a healthy course of listening to the LearningDust back catalog. That ought to cure it, or lead to an epiphany of being in the wrong job, at least.

Episode 7 - President Bolsonaro - Suggested by Mariana Martins

We’ve had to buy an extra padlock for the Cupboard of shame this week as we’ve never hosted a head of state in there before. Mariana has suggested President Bolsonero of Brazil be granted the ‘honour’ of a place in the Cupboard as a result of his outspoken comments and, shall we say ‘questionable’ policies. In December 2008, Bolsonaro said that "the error of the (Brazilian) dictatorship was that it tortured, but did not kill". Reminds me of a dinner lady from my primary school days.

Episode 6 - Humblebraggers - Suggested by Jamie Smith

Humblebraggers. People who use online mechanisms to humblebrag (i.e Oh I am so blessed to have won yet another award but the real credit goes to my team - who are not referenced or mentioned)! In order to avoid being branded as Humblebraggers by Jamie, LearningDust has won a grand total of zero awards. Should the unthinkable ever happen and that number change, we’d like to put on record that any awards we do win won’t be due to the hard work of others, they’ll be down to pure fluke.

Episode 5 - 'Zoombombing' and Knee-jerk Bans - Suggested by Emma Pass

Having an uninvited visitor to your online meeting, particularly one who shares inappropriate material has understandably hit the headlines recently during the massive upsurge in the use of videoconferencing tools. Often, however, our own students (and occasionally teachers such as our very own Mr Colley) can succumb to the temptation of interrupting the lesson too. Some organisations have taken the approach of a blanket ban on the use of these technologies to prevent this happening, but often this removes an otherwise valuable tool from being utilised to support teaching and learning. A combination of well judged policy, proper training, education on the etiquette expected in meetings, and good old-fashioned classroom management updated for the digital age can allow us to use these tools effectively and safely.

Episode 4 - Standardised Testing - Suggested by David Price OBE

If teachers could change one thing about education to improve the experience for students, the majority would remove standardised testing. There is a culture of only valuing what we can measure so skills such as collaboration, leadership, communication and presentation which employers are crying out for are often overlooked by schools in favour of teaching to pass the test.

Episode 3 - Branded Teachers - Suggested by Scott Hayden

Scott describes these as people who are seduced by the 'cool kids of the playground' putting an arm around them and encouraging teachers to evangelise about their product and their product alone. Many of us have been asked by one or more of the Big Boys to present or speak on their behalf and whilst it is flattering we need to be careful not to eschew the products of competitors just to stay in the gang. Remember that we are custodians of the future of our learners and we should be careful no to do them a disservice.

Episode Two - Fixed Mindsets - Suggested by Georgina Dean

Everyone who works in education has come across someone whose immediate response when asked a question is to say that it's impossible. Let's be honest, that's what the LearningDust premise is all about challenging. It is fitting therefore that Georgina consigned those with fixed mindsets to the Cupboard of Shame. Now is the time to rise above the naysayers and doubters and drive education forward to a glorious future, a sentiment that makes this the most positive entry into the CoS so far.

Episode 1.5 - Cold Callers - Suggested by Dave

At the best of times these uninvited interruptions to our daily routine are an annoyance, but as the world and his dog gets used to working from home for an indeterminate period we are seeing a rise in unsolicited calls and emails determined to flog you the solution to all of your problems. These magic bean hawkers are jumping on the bandwagon of companies offering genuinely useful products for free to support schools and colleges, but are targeting stressed out decision makers and trying to make a fast buck. As you may be able to tell, they are not my favourite people; I understand that you have a living to make, but doing so by conning our receptionists that you were just on a call to us is likely to lead to us wanting to tip the entire Cupboard of Shame onto your obsequious, smarmy heads. Ahhh, I feel better having got that off my chest!

Episode One - Wireless Earphones - Suggested by Ben Whitaker

Although I probably sound like a dinosaur, these contraptions are beginning to grate on me! The white earphone hanging out of someone's ear when you are aiming to have a conversation with them, or even worse, when said person has two of them in sheathed by hair or other desirable head coverings, is downright rude. I have some wireless earphones but they are taken out when in public (so it's not really the earphone but more the ubiquitous wearing of such in public gatherings!)

Episode 0 - Hand Held Video Cameras - Suggested by Andy

These little gadgets were all the rage in the days before iPads and smartphones. Herds of marauding youths could be seen lurking in corridors all over the school in the name of creativity. The early models in particular ate batteries for breakfast, filled up the 16Mb CompactFlash card in a..... flash, and at best produced a few usable seconds of grainy, giggly, teenage angst.

Once the filming was completed the teacher had two options. Spend a week's worth of lunchtimes copying footage from SD cards, or really cheer up the technicians by asking them to do it instead. Workplace harmony guaranteed.

At a time when a decent video camera cost around a thousand pounds and smart phones were just a twinkle in Steve Jobs' eye it could be argued that they filled a niche, although that niche was probably giving a teacher a chance to catch up on marking for half an hour whilst students were busy trying to come to terms with the awesome power that they held in their hands.