Roundtable: Does tech in schools always need to be new? Ant Mellor answers
In the third in our series, Steve Wright finds out if schools and universities always need to go after expensive new tech, or if they can learn to better harness what they already have?
Ant Mellor is FE, HE and public sector & framework lead at Stone Group
Q. How can tightly budgeted schools and universities work with the tech they already have, to improve learning outcomes without spending more?
One of the main challenges facing a college is space versus IT use. A room containing 30 PCs that only gets used twice a week is not an efficient use of the estate.
However, colleges have been making recent improvements as purse strings have become tighter. Actions such as adding in SSDs, extra RAM, etc, are always an option – but improvements that can be enacted cost-free will make a real difference. There seems to be a downward trend in institutions buying new kit these days, and a lack of a justification process underpinning why they need it.
Q. The temptation will often be to view the latest generation of tech as the most effective. Should educators approach this notion with some scepticism?
No, not really. The whole concept of ‘latest generation’ tech is that improvements are made over the old tech in order to ensure better performance, security, reliability, functionality and user experience. The cost needs to be considered, though. If the new tech costs considerably more, but the institution wouldn’t benefit from many of the new features, then why upgrade?
One of the main challenges facing a college is space versus IT use.
Q. Where can schools and universities go (online?) to find advice and examples on how to repurpose, recycle and refurbish their edtech?
At Stone, we take the time to clean up an institution’s old devices and sell them on to a second market. If the devices have value, the institution will get a rebate. To know more about the rules and regulations surrounding recycling and disposing of old equipment, take a look at the ICO’s guide to IT asset disposal for organisations.
However, schools and universities need to be aware of the pitfalls when looking to repurpose their old technology. They are essentially working with someone who is going to be handling their data. They need to ensure that whatever company they use has all the relevant accreditations. At Stone, for example, we don’t move anything to third parties: it is all done in-house, removing any risk.
Q. Can you cite any key tricks for using existing edtech in new ways?
I would recommend cascading older kit into less intensive use cases: for example, using older or end-of-life PCs to run signage solutions and undertake less intensive tasks.
You can run a media streaming service on any device running Windows. You can also keep older PCs in less-used spaces, so that the impact of low-usage old tech is less of an issue. That gives more access to devices for students who need low-level services like web browsing and means that these spaces get used more. Some schools we have worked with have dedicated tech recycling to teachers’ devices, using refurbished HP devices with a RAM/SSD upgrade and a three-year warranty. This way, even if an institution chooses to recycle its old tech, another institution can make good use of it.
● Jisc: Building Digital Capability – www.jisc.ac.uk/building-digital-capability
● Amazing projects in Microsoft Excel – mashable.com/2014/08/19/microsoft-excel-cool-projects
● Learning to Code with Swift Playgrounds – www.macworld.com/article/3268086/learning-to-code-with-swift-playgrounds-as-an-adult.html
● Using Scriptable for shortcuts – www.macobserver.com/cool-stuff-found/scriptable-powerful-shortcuts-siri
● ICT Evangelist blog: Is that edtech tool pedagogically valid? ictevangelist.com/is-that-edtech-tool-pedagogically-valid
● Stone Group: IT Recycling – www.stonegroup.co.uk/solutions/recycling-services/it-recycling
● Information Commissioner’s Office: IT Asset Disposal for Organisations – ico.org.uk/media/fororganisations/documents/1570/it_asset_disposal_for_organisations.pdf
● Association of Network Managers in Education – anme.co.uk
● Edtech Impact – www.edtechimpact.com
● Jisc 3D scanning service – www.jisc.ac.uk/news/from-atoms-to-bits-free-3d-scanning-on-demand-09-sep-2019
● De Montfort University Square Mile Project – www.dmu.ac.uk/community/public-engagement/communities/fosse.aspx
● Edugeek forum – www.edugeek.net