Making the most of your ICT budget

Shaun Eason explains how to get the best out of your technology investment when budgets are tight

According to the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) and Naace’s report in January, which explored schools’ views in relation to investment in technology, there is still a clear divide between school wants and needs in relation to technology. The findings revealed that only 39% of primary schools and 45% of secondary schools felt their budget was big enough and that they were likely to maintain their planned ICT investments. The report also found that 46% of all schools feel they are unlikely or definitely not able to maintain their spending in ICT. Shaun Eason, assistant headteacher and computing lead at All Saints Catholic School in Dagenham explains how to get the best out of your technology investment when budgets are tight… 

As outlined in the BESA Tablets and Connectivity report in June 2015, only 38% of primary schools and 21% of secondary schools have successfully integrated tablets into lessons. This still leaves a large majority of schools that haven’t used these devices to their full potential for teaching and learning. The truth is, there are a variety of ways that tablets can be used so that all schools can benefit from mobile learning, without necessarily having to find the budget for a full 1:1 tablet program. For example, why not arrange your students into small groups of four or five so that they can work together, using one tablet between them? There are a variety of free web-based resources that provide fun tests and quizzes, which will encourage collaboration between the class as well as boosting confidence among those students who may struggle to voice answers in front of the whole class.

YouTube is another useful resource that is completely free. The platform can be used to demonstrate concepts across a range of subjects, helping students to make their own interpretations through visual illustration and representation, rather than relying solely on a teacher’s explanation of the topic. TED Talks are a great example of videos that can be easily applied to classroom practices. They provide viewers with insightful and thought-provoking commentary from experts in various fields and there are thousands to choose from so teachers can always find something that fits with their lesson plan. However, it’s important that video is used to complement, rather than as a replacement for a lesson. Clips should be short and offer insight that the teacher wouldn’t be able to provide through more traditional methods. 

If I was able to create my dream classroom, of course I’d love to have access to robots for programming, 3D printers, panoramic video technology; the list goes on. However, the reality is that it’s not about which technologies you have, but how you use them

Another technology resource that’s great for the classroom is Skype; it allows pupils to communicate with communities all over the world and learn first-hand what life would be like as a child in another country. For example, rather than asking your pupils to research different cultures on the internet or read up about them in a book, social media can be used to connect with other classes that might be looking to do the same. You can then conduct a Q&A session from one country to another. 

It’s also an important resource when gaining real-life insight from businesses or organisations. For example, if a group of students are conducting a project and they want feedback from a company in that particular industry, it can be arranged so that technologies like Skype give them the opportunity to reach out to professionals they may not necessarily have access to otherwise. 

Additional savings can also be made in areas such as school trips, all thanks to the power of technology. For example, Google Earth enables classes to go on ‘virtual field trips’, where they can select a particular location and explore it online, using Streetview. Students can still learn everything that they need to know about a particular area or attraction, without the cost of travel and the loss of teaching time. Alternatively, Google Earth can be used to preview a location before taking a physical field trip. 

Teachers are able to show their students the journey from the school, the route they’ll be taking and what landmarks they will pass on the way, which will ensure they’re engaged and stimulated by the idea of the trip, before it happens. It can also help to plan activities that can be carried out whilst visiting the particular attraction or location, to ensure your students get as much out of the trip as possible. 

If I was able to create my dream classroom, of course I’d love to have access to robots for programming, 3D printers, panoramic video technology; the list goes on. However, the reality is that it’s not about which technologies you have, but how you use them. 

It’s no good simply owning the latest gadgets if they’re just going to sit unused and aren’t effectively improving teaching and learning. Knowing exactly what you want to gain from your investment in technology is vital. 

It’s clear to see that there is a place for technology in any classroom, no matter what the teaching and learning goals are. It’s a huge part of a child’s everyday life, so it’s important that schools integrate it where possible, into learning across all subjects, in order to remain current and relevant to the students’ lives. After all, if the children feel that their education is relevant to their everyday lives, they’re more likely to be engaged and motivated to learn, and teachers will get the best out of them. 

W: www.allsaintsschool.co.uk