Upgrading your tech: how to make a long story short
By Ian Curtis, Promethean Head of Western Europe, Africa & ANZ
When relying on technology – whether it’s your personal smartphone, or a school’s technology system – the fact is at some point you will need to either upgrade or replace it. Nobody likes change, especially when it comes to technology – it brings with it a need to spend time reviewing what’s available, what’s right and what fits the budget. These five simple steps will help guide you through the process:
1. Assemble a team of decisions makers
Choosing to upgrade the current tech at your school is more straightforward than you think. The best starting point is to assemble a team of decision makers, as this ensures the responsibility doesn’t lie with one individual. It’s essential that the senior team are involved but it’s also important that teaching staff and IT/ICT managers are included. It is the teachers who will be using the equipment day-in and day-out, by involving them they are far more likely to be engaged with any changes. Additionally, the IT/ICT Manager is a valuable asset in assessing compatibility with the IT infrastructure.
2. Consider your options
Do your research. The internet is a great place to start, but this is no means the only place; you should attend events and will find that there are many held locally that will give you useful insights. Industry bodies such as BECTA can also be a good source of information. Talk to your local IT/AV supplier – they will be able to offer you guidance and advice. Also speak with your peers in other schools, even pay them a visit to see what IT strategy they have in place and talk to them about the pedagogical value it has brought to the school.
3. How to replace when budgets are squeezed
When working with a small pot of money it’s often hard to see the wood from the trees when it comes to prioritising spending. However, there are also growing expectations on schools to consistently provide students with the very best learning environment to equip them for the outside world. So how can your school do this while getting the best ‘bang for your buck’? The simple answer is that it’s all in the planning. Firstly, don’t feel like you have to replace every system at once – consider your IT spend as an investment in the longer term. Draw up some short-term objectives – is any tech broken beyond repair? Work with your IT/ICT Manager to develop a policy on what absolutely needs to be replaced as a priority. Then look at what you would like to achieve in the long-term. By gaining an understanding of your long and short-term goals, you can ensure you’re aligning your IT strategy with the needs of the school, resulting in the right IT investment decisions.
4. The Power of Pilot
A great example of this is the relationship Promethean has with Aquinas College in Stockport, via our channel partner CDEC. When moving to a brand new purpose built facility in 2009, Aquinas College implemented over 90 Promethean ActivBoard 500 systems to give students access to the very latest interactive whiteboard technology. The college is now at a point when it needs to think about upgrading the technology, except this time it’s not starting with a blank canvas and a dedicated capital expenditure budget. Instead, Aquinas College is faced with the challenge of a phased implementation, i.e. the logistics of swapping out existing systems and finding the budget to actually upgrade the technology.
Striving to be proactive, and avoid having to make knee jerk decisions in the event of systems failing, they are undertaking a methodical evaluation exercise to assess which teaching technologies to invest in next, while preparing a strategy for the roll out of these. With this in mind the college is currently piloting the ActivPanel while it prepares to put in place a long-term upgrade programme. Schools should always look to their local IT, AV supplier for support and advice on pilots such as these.
5. Choose the right partner
You’re not alone in making decisions, and it can be a challenge to find the time, so speak with your IT/AV supplier who is a bank of knowledge on what is currently available and what is suitable. They will be able to guide you through your options and together you can agree on a package that will meet your needs – and budget. What’s more, by working in partnership you will be building a support network, you’ll also receive accredited installation for hardware and software as well as an aftersales service that will help with any queries you or your teaching staff might have.