Q. Is there still a reluctance to embrace technology in schools from a teaching point of view, and what can we do to help promote the use of edtech in all schools?
I don’t think there is a reluctance to embrace technology in schools as such, but there’s certainly an apprehension about making changes and adapting to new systems. The risk for the UK system is that we stagnate with increasingly ageing technologies rather than maintain the cutting edge in practice for which we had established an excellent international reputation. Also, because of the fragmentation caused by current education policy, it means that unless schools are in well-organised school led organisations, such as academy chains or clusters, it’s up to them to find out what others are doing. Sadly, far too many schools are increasingly isolated and as a consequence are losing any momentum they had in driving forward the acquisition of digital competencies required for the third millennium. Schools need to work together to share advice and guidance on the best education technologies; Naace developed initiatives to bridge this gap and increase collaboration, which are being very well received.
Q. Are budget restrictions a major factor as to why we are seeing a digital divide between teachers and their students? What can we do to improve this?
Continuing budget reductions are a real constraint for the vast majority of schools, but the reductions affect schools differentially. Strangely, the digital divide is more prevalent in the schools that don’t receive the pupil premium as they have a more privileged intake and therefore less disposable income than those schools that do qualify for it. However, an even greater influence than budget is the fact that far too many teachers are still stuck in outdated teaching methodologies that fail to incorporate the radical skills that young people should now be developing. To improve the budgetary situation, we recognise that budget increases are entirely unrealistic. There are things that can be done. The first is to improve collaboration. A simple example might be schools working together on procurement to drive down costs. Another example is that we can avoid wasting money by sharing what works. A third example is using technology to create working efficiencies by school communications with stakeholders.
Q. How often should schools look at training teaching staff to use the latest edtech, or is it more important that educators show initiative and take responsibility in keeping up with new developments?
A combination of both training and independent responsibility is the best approach to take. The important thing to consider is how edtech will enhance learning; this must be the first consideration before any money is spent on training. In my opinion, it’s not about the frequency of training, but more about developing an understanding of how differential impact is created using technology. Once teachers understand this, they will begin to see huge benefits.
Q. Do you think tech suppliers should as standard supply teacher training on their technology products?
I think training should definitely be included. Training is one of three key things that schools need: they need to purchase the right technology in the first place; to be fully trained on how to use it and finally, on-going support, in case anything goes wrong. But they are very unlikely to find the appropriate skill set in a tech supplier, to show the school how to maximise the impact of the purchase. What needs to happen is that the school, in making a purchase, needs to be satisfied that the tech supplier has the appropriate partnerships with learning specialists whose services can be built in to the school investment, so that the impact is understood and achieved.
Q. How important is it that teachers embrace social media rather than shy away from it? Do the benefits of using Twitter and Facebook to engage with students outweigh the potential risks?
It is not so important that teachers embrace social media, but instead, the most important thing to recognise here is children’s attitudes towards school and learning. If they cannot see that their school is making progress and staying relevant, they are less likely to be engaged in their learning and find it appropriate to them. Learning must remain applicable to real life and social media is a huge part of any young person’s life. It should be used appropriately in schools to support learning. Also, the only place young people will learn appropriate competences is in schools who therefore have a huge social responsibility to teach the safe use of technology.