A hybrid IT approach

How do we ensure classroom devices are in sync? Fujitsu’s Ash Merchant explains all

From iPads and mobiles, to whiteboards and projectors, how do we make sure classroom devices are working correctly together? 

For Fujitsu this is really about a hybrid IT approach. With edtech having been one of the fastest growing tech sectors across Britain through 2015, and forecast to continue growing into 2016, it’s vital that establishments have the right back end infrastructure solutions to support a multitude of front-end devices. Flexibility to support more personalised teaching and learning styles can be achieved through a range of technologies, but it’s about having a clear view and strategy from the start. Organisations like ours can of course provide the technical expertise to support this, but it’s also about education establishment having the right, multi-disciplinary team in place internally to ensure teaching and learning teams are comfortable with the devices in the classroom, trained in how to use them confidently, and that the IT team are aware of what needs to be achieved in the classroom, and can ensure access and reliability of technology to support this.

As technology underpins the entire concept of the ‘modern classroom’ how can schools use the student’s engagement with edtech to shape new pedagogies? 

We envisage more digital disruption taking place and our young people leading the way with this. One is example we’ve seen over the past 18 months is the rise in gamification. In our work with education establishments we’re hearing about the successful outputs that this kind of student driven approach can drive and it’s really stemmed from the establishments being willing to listen and respond to their students – understanding what really captures and inspires them and looking at means of driving greater freedom to learn. That’s the first step and the next step is the establishments giving this feedback directly to technology companies that they’re engaged with, so that education and enterprise can combine to drive new and innovative approaches that we know will engage and inspire students. 

An example of this that we envisage rising over coming years is the Internet of Things (IoT). This is an area where we and our partners, such as Intel, are investing a lot of resource, as we see IoT technology as something highly relatable for the digital generation, and transformative from an accessibility, collaboration and creativity perspective.” 

Is it difficult to get classroom technologies to work together? 

This is absolutely what needs to happen to ensure the focus in the education environment is on the teaching and learning and not concerns around the technology all working together, and we are starting to see this happen successfully. My point of view however, is that it does require a strong partnership approach between technology companies and education. It goes back to my previous point in that there needs to be a clear strategy, linked directly to teaching and learning outcomes, and then it’s about implementing a hybrid IT approach.

Considering this on the level of both teachers and students is also vital. For example, for a teacher, utilising programmes like Office 365 or just a handful of Microsoft’s education app portfolio, in conjunction with the right devices for them, are guaranteed to support a teacher in reducing time spent on menial tasks and allows for more time focussed on student engagement and creating an engaging learning environment.  In some cases teachers work 60 or 70 hours per week. Technology can support a system by which students go home and complete work in their own time, freeing up the time during the day for teachers to focus on face-to-face interactive teaching. To achieve that it’s also about considering utilising cloud based learning solutions so students can log-in from anywhere, anytime to access their work, or provide access to multiple teachers to ensure a ‘best fit’ teaching style for each student.

Are suppliers on hand to help?

Absolutely, suppliers should always be on hand to support the establishments on that journey. Our view, as I mentioned before, is that it’s about a partnership approach. It’s not a change that can be achieved over night, but through the close working of education establishments and IT solutions providers the vital steps, such as clarity on the strategy and objectives, pre-implementation training and support for teachers, can be taken, and the establishment ensures that their technology investments are utilised to their full potential and empower teachers and students.

How can schools and universities ensure they are getting the most out of their different edtech components?

A core part of this is ICT training for teachers and CPD. 83% of ICT teachers say that they don’t receive regular ICT training or CPD. That’s the evidence for organisations like us that there is still a long way to go to make educators comfortable in teaching with technology, and for us that really is a key element to get the most from different edtech components. Overcoming that is about a collaboration between education, industry and government. Our continued approach to this is to collaborate with institutions, enabling us and our business practice leads to understand and address the needs around training, so we understand where we can support.

Ash Merchant is Director of Education, at Fujitsu UK & Ireland www.fujitsu.com/uk