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 think that over the last 10-15 years a lot of progress had been made in this area. It is fair to say many teachers across the curriculum are now competent users of technology in the classroom. A lot of the current use of technology comes from the original ICT Across the Curriculum (ICTAC) policies. These approaches were designed so schools had access to the technology they needed and teachers were trained appropriately.
On a personal note, I took up the post of ICTAC co-ordinator in a large comprehensive school in 2006 when the use of ICT in all subject areas was high on the agenda in UK schools. I remember teachers of all subjects (even the reluctant ones!) really enjoying being trained in the use of technology in the classroom. They embraced the changes as they could see the benefit using technology could bring to their core business – teaching and learning.
In 2016, the landscape of education has changed dramatically. The good work and foundations laid still stand. However, teachers are increasingly pressed for time and money to implement new ideas. I would love to see the role of ICTAC co-ordinator (maybe rebranded for this decade) reinstated in schools. I think it would improve the use of edtech amongst teachers.
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?
Budgets are definitely very tight at the moment. I have heard numerous horror stories recently about photocopying restrictions, asking students to buy their own textbooks, and SEND Teaching Assistants being cut. I completely understand how difficult it is for teachers in the current climate to invest in tech resources, particularly if they are unsure of the long-term benefits with regards to pupil progress – which is the main focus of their day-to-day teaching.
I think budget restrictions also have had a major impact on CPD, and the time that teachers have available. Budget cuts have meant that in addition to not being able to invest in resources, CPD opportunities are limited and timetables are squeezed. There is no option to have lessons covered meaning that teachers are already ‘snowed under’.
Having said that, there are ways that we can try and prevent too much of a ‘divide’ opening up between teachers and students. I recently wrote a blog on this subject.
Here are (cost free) the ideas I came up with:
- Taking an interest in whatever the latest tech ‘in’ thing is amongst the kids in your class/school – they will love to tell you the details (if not – I find listening in to conversations provides me with lots of interesting info – if not always on topic!)
- Staying up to date on social media – twitter, facebook, and maybe to a lesser extent instagram and pinterest provide amazing opportunities, ideas, networking, company contacts, access to events and more.
- Attending as many CPDs as you can get away with – granted, not always easy in an age of budget cuts.
- Attending events like BETT, again a great opportunity to network and get amazing ideas.
- Teaching yourself! Learning to code or learning a new computing skill in your own time will increase your confidence in the classroom. Codio supports teachers studying for the BCS certificate in computer science codio.com/blog/codio-bcs-partnership/
- Get involved in local networking events such as Computing At School hubs or Coding Evenings
- Invite industry mentors in to your school – STEMnet run an amazing ambassador program. Stemettes will also work in partnership with your school.
- Lots of big tech companies also run community and schools outreach programs, a quick web search should point you in the right direction.
- Run a club like CoderDojo – another way of getting industry expertise into your classroom.
- 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?
I think that it is important to train teachers in the use and benefits of edtech. Teachers gain a lot from training sessions – particularly the fact that time is dedicated to CPD, away from the classroom and a long ‘to do’ list of other jobs. Teachers appreciate being given time and space to learn new skills, along with the ‘group’ aspect of many CPD sessions (sharing ideas and good practice) which is very beneficial. Personally, I feel that I learn much more, and am far more likely to use a new strategy, idea or tool if I have been to a training session rather than having to just ‘go off and find out about it’ by myself.
I believe that it also significantly helps when a lead teacher is involved in ICT and tech. Schools don’t need to send all their staff on expensive training courses. If one person has responsibility for leading on edtech and keeping everyone else ‘in the loop’, this could be much more effective. A lead teacher would be responsible for keeping up with new developments, filtering out what would be useful, and then sharing ideas and training staff. This could be done in twilight sessions or INSET days at minimal cost to the school. However, if this strategy is to work effectively, the lead teacher would need to be given plenty of time and access to resources.
Do you think tech suppliers should as standard supply teacher training on their technology products?
Training teachers on how to use a product is very useful if companies want teachers to get best use from a product, ultimately leading to continued custom. However, I do think this also depends on how and where the product will be used. The training supplied could be as simple as online help and docs for smaller products, ranging to whole school in-house sessions for large tools such as school data management and recording systems.
At Codio, we offer very extensive on-line help and support that enables teachers to train in their own time and on their own terms. If preferred, we offer tailored on-line group and one-to-one webinars to train teachers.
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?
I think that this is a tricky issue, and is best left up to individual teachers to decide. Personally, I find social media is a very useful tool in terms of keeping up to date with new ideas and tools, for networking. But, I haven’t explored its possibilities in the classroom for teaching and learning. I know some teachers have done this very successfully. They have set up moderated accounts so students can take part in ‘virtual exchange’ activities and engaging with other organisations and activities. In terms of STEM and social media, many teachers and classes have become very involved with following Tim Peake on twitter. I think this is an excellent example of the use of social media to broaden horizons and open up communication channels to students.
However, it is worth noting that obviously social media has to be used in a very measured, moderated and controlled way. Teachers have to be fully aware and compliant of school policies and parents’ wishes. Using social media in the classroom can open up a lot of very useful and relevant discussions in terms of e-safety, acceptable behaviour, and the repercussions of online activities. www.thinkuknow.co.uk is an excellent place to start for more information and advice in this area.