Keeping up with edtech

Fear is holding schools from embracing edtech, says University of West Scotland’s Tony Gurney

Tony Gurney, Lecturer at University of West Scotland discusses the importance of implementing edtech in the classroom.

What holds education institutions back from adopting technology in the classroom?

In the early days of Edtech the main inhibitor to adoption was money. Devices, software and their associated infrastructure were prohibitively expensive. The inability to adequately service the needs of all students hampered efforts to help some. Now that, in the main, most students have suitable personal devices and the institutions have perfectly adequate infrastructure the main inhibitor is fear. Technicians fear the use of untested devices on their networks, management fear the use that may be made of their systems and educators fear that technology will be used for reasons other than those prescribed in the curriculum.

Why should educators keep up with the rapid pace of edtech change? How do they do it?

If an educator takes their job seriously then they will make time to keep up to date in many different fields, both professional and personal. Good teaching requires making bonds with students and those bonds can come in multiple ways. (For example, research has shown that the optimum number of jokes per hour of teaching is three to four.)

As most educators are inquisitive at heart, keeping up with technology should be a pleasure rather than a chore

Keeping up to date with technology is necessary and, as most educators are inquisitive at heart, should be a pleasure rather than a chore. Indeed, being slightly behind the curve can lead to some interesting exchanges as students educate the teacher.

Teachers and lecturers are busy, and time poor. If they only have ten minutes a week to stay up-to-date what would you suggest?

Don’t bother. Ten minutes a week is too little to do anything. It’s the time it takes to go to the break room, boil the kettle and make a cup of tea. Instead keep up to date with your subject and the latest teaching techniques. The EdTech part will come by osmosis.

Will the changes in education funding have an effect on the adoption of edtech? Will less resources mean slower change?

The changes in EdTech are now driven by users’ experiences and expectations. Funding will be less about providing the technology (other than where individual family circumstances require some extra help) and more about ensuring that resources are usable on the array of devices already in circulation. A responsibility that will, inevitably, fall on the educator.

How will MATs affect the way teaching staff use tech?  How will MATs expect teachers to use tech?

Like the French Revolution, it’s too early to say.

Should technology be more integrated with teachers’ and lecturers’ CPD?

Of course. The whole arc of history is following a technology trend that has implications for every area of life. Education is no different. The sooner that technology is regarded in the same way as a white board, which is to say as an absolute minimum requirement, the better. 

Can teachers and lecturers still operate effectively without knowledge of what technology is available?

It depends on what you mean. Do educators have to know about and/or use every piece of technology available? Of course not. Should any educator consciously disregard the benefit that technologies can bring to the learning environment? Of course not. The technology should be used to enhance the teaching, not to show how much one knows about technology. 

How important is it that teachers understand what their pupils use? Should teachers use platforms like Snapchat?

Extremely important. Teachers cannot exist in a bubble, divorced from the real life landscape inhabited by those they teach. That doesn’t mean they have to obsessively use every new service that is available but it should at least be on their radar as being a possibility. (As an aside I always recommend signing up for every new service if only to protect your user name, either for future use or to stop a student grabbing it for nefarious purposes.)

There’s a wide variation in practice and attitudes towards some edtech. Some schools have embraced BYOD, others ban phones. How do we reflect modern life in the classroom with tech?

The question assumes that we have a choice. Technology will bleed into all areas of life, including the classroom. Smart teachers will embrace it and figure out ways of including it in their teaching. Modern day Canutes will scream at the encroaching tide before they’re swept away.

Some education institutions and staff are still sceptical of the benefits of tech. How could they be engaged with the benefits that tech brings?

Staff should be sceptical. There have been far too many blind alleys and “next big thing” pronouncements. It is only when scepticism morphs into cynicism that they should worry. Everyone should keep an open mind – just not a blank one.


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