Don’t break the bank

A common misconception is that latest technology will eat into the schools already stretched budget, says Richard Wells

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?

Over the course of the last year we have noticed a real desire to embrace and utilise the latest edtech in schools, particularly in the area of E-boards, 3D and educational software, and App-based programs. While the desire is there to use edtech, we have found there still to be a perception that edtech is expensive, with schools believing they will not have the funds available to invest in the solutions. 

The issue is a lack of understanding that in many cases these edtech solutions can be acquired at low cost (or in some cases, no cost at all) and often their existing tech can be enhanced to host new software with multiple apps constantly being made available. 

Suppliers such as Kyocera, Samsung and Xerox all provide useful free and low-cost apps available off the shelf, or through our Danwood in-house app writers who can assist a school by creating bespoke, self-financing apps which can dramatically improve the value on previously made investments. 

In the area of display, AV and large screens E-boards can replace cumbersome and difficult electronic whiteboards but far from requiring capital expenditure these can often be provided and supported at or below the cost of maintaining current equipment. 

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?

Budget remains a huge factor in schools, with a natural reluctance for schools to invest capital budgets in the latest technology when there are always so many other urgent requirements for a school’s finite resources. 

This is often demonstrated as a digital divide between students who are aware of the technology available and the school which may not be providing the latest innovations that the students are so keen to use. The best example of this is BYOD (bring your own device) as students are used to having access to tablets, chromebooks and other smart tech such as wearables at home, but cannot use them at school. This tends to be most visible with schools lacking print solutions that are compatible with personal devices. 

The common misconception is that the latest technology will eat into the schools already stretched budget. However, the reality is that schools are constantly spending large sums of money maintaining and running old equipment in an effort to ‘make the most of their money’, when it would be far cheaper to scrap the old, faulty, and run down equipment and replace it with state-of-the-art efficient technology with a revenue service and rental expense. 

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?

It’s always difficult to try and pin responsibility of keeping up with edtech developments on either the school or the educators themselves. As with many aspects of school life, I believe there is joint responsibility for the school to create and maintain an environment where staff can excel and deliver the most to students, but it is the responsibility of the staff to be aware of the resources they have and maintain them to the highest possible level.

A school culture that encourages staff to share any concerns when additional needs are not met in order to allow them to perform at the highest level should be encouraged. Whether that be suggesting the need for additional resources, flagging the desire for retraining or highlighting a more efficient use of the edtech already in place. 

Do you think tech suppliers should, as standard, supply teacher training on their technology products?

It should never be assumed that when it comes to training on technology products that one size fits all, with a standard level that will suit every school and every teacher. A sensible standard package should be delivered and included costs to provide a base level of understanding, with optional additional training available at either an advanced level or to reinforce the base level where and when required. This additional training should remain an available option throughout the life of the contract.

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?

Embracing social media use it is all about context.  Being over familiar when using social media is dangerous and should be avoided, but not embracing and using a preferred communication platform of many students can be just as damaging and may have a direct impact on the quality of education delivered. 

Training and guidance should be made available to teachers, supported by a social media policy endorsed and promoted by the school and governors (or Trustees). Policy should be formed following input from staff, students, parents and other directly connected parties giving a shared ownership feel which should assist implementation and adherence.

Richard Wells is Group Schools & LGEM Sales Manager at Danwood