Keeping up with the Joneses

Simon Pridham, director of Aspire 2Be, talks about the essential place of tech in the modern classroom, and how teachers can adapt
  • What holds education institutions back from adopting technology in the classroom?

It has to start from the top, with a vision and strategy from the senior leadership team. Without this support individual teachers will always struggle to keep up with the latest edtech developments. This backing is important because it ensures edtech is embedded across the curriculum, that essential infrastructure like wifi is in place, and that there is equitable access to resources, kit and training. In terms of the individual teacher, the most important qualities are courage, confidence and a willingness to keep learning. You must not be concerned if the pupils in front of you know more about technology than you.

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

At the most basic level teachers should keep pace with edtech developments for the sake of their own professional development and so they can better understand and engage with their pupils. All teachers practicing today were born in the 20th century – all their pupils were born in the 21st. The teacher used to be the font of all knowledge, but now “let’s Google it” or “let’s YouTube it” are part of their pupils’ vocabulary. It is vital to keep up to date and relevant if you are to keep the interest of your pupils; if you are not switched on to edtech they are going to switch off.

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

Funding is essential if the adoption of edtech is going to be done right. Without adequate funding it’s going to be very hit and miss, there has to be investment from central government and local authorities to fund edtech in schools. This funding has to be allocated for digital infrastructure, kit and most importantly, training.

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

There is a huge opportunity with MATs to share edtech knowledge and expertise across multiple settings. The days of the ICT coordinator are dead; today teachers need the support of a strong digital team, including an e-learning manager, an e-safety coordinator and an e-training manager. Each member should have different digital specialties and skills they can share with the team; not everyone has to be an expert in everything. This is easier to achieve in a MAT with one team overseeing everything and working with all the member academies. If you can get it right across the Trust you will have consistent and equitable provision for pupils.

It is vital to keep up to date and relevant if you are to keep the interest of your pupils; if you are not switched on to edtech they are going to switch off.

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

Absolutely. In my opinion it is essential that edtech, and particularly digital competence, is an integral part of a teacher’s professional development, right from initial teacher training to ongoing CPD. It’s about evolving into the 21st century educator.

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

I think every teacher needs a basic level of digital competence to be able to perform in the modern classroom. Ultimately there’s no magic dust in the back of these things, it’s how you use them that makes the difference. Some of the greatest teachers I have known wouldn’t know the first thing about how to use an iPad but they have been willing to learn.

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

The teacher has to remain in control of whatever tech they are using. It’s about understanding what tools are available to you as a teacher and which ones you are confident using. The moment you start stepping out of your comfort zone by engaging in unfamiliar tech or applications like Snapchat you are on shaky ground. I think teachers can get round a lot of this by having the confidence to allow their pupils to lead, by setting up pupil digital leader teams. These teams have to be responsible for more than just giving out and switching on devices at the start of lessons; they have to have the responsibility of actually being digital leaders in the classroom.

  • Some schools and teachers are still skeptical of the benefits of tech.  How could they be engaged with the benefits that tech brings?

We can no longer afford for educators to be skeptical of the benefits of technology. Technology is a fact of 21st century life, and the classroom cannot be separate from that. We are raising a generation of pupils who have grown up in a digital world. We are failing to properly prepare them for the future if we don’t understand that world. It’s important that every part of the education landscape is engaged in promoting and sharing the benefits of edtech, from the government down.

Simon Pridham is education director of award-winning edtech company Aspire 2Be. A former headteacher and professional digital adviser to the Welsh Government, Mr Pridham has advised schools throughout the UK and Middle East on adopting new edtech.

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