Tech it or leave it: John Haslam

Is the teaching profession keeping up with edtech? With John Haslam, Business Development Manager of Stone Group

Broadly, is the education sector managing to stay on top of the current rapid advances of technology?

It’s a mixed bag (although I’m sure some schools will prove me wrong). We are seeing lots of customers embracing technology such as virtual reality (VR), 4K and ultra-HD AV, but the projector has not yet been consigned to the scrap heap.

It will be interesting to see whether VR will be a game-changer for the classroom, or just another ‘nice-to-have’ just as 3D printers were a few years ago. A lot of schools are embracing 1:1 devices and bring your own device (BYOD) which is driven by cloud technology, but there is still an air of scepticism around the ownership management of such devices – especially regarding security.

Not all education institutions will want or be able to afford the very latest technology. Often, what they really need are cheaper alternatives when it comes to refreshing devices. We have definitely seen a growth in the market for refurbished offerings for older devices, as well as schools looking to extend warranties for servers.

Do schools, colleges and universities need to work hard to stay abreast of all these advances – or is it more a question of knowing where to focus their energies?

Certainly, within multi-academy trusts (MATs) we are seeing the roles of IT Manager or Director rapidly gaining in importance. And, ideally, they should be road-mapping their schools’ tech use to ensure the implementation of innovative technologies.

This is especially crucial if you are onboarding new schools with all the necessary new devices that will need to be purchased to ensure a smooth transition.

Can you point to any UK (or overseas) institutions or sectors where advancing technology is being harnessed to great effect?

The Microsoft Showcase Schools programme is a great example of a global community of schools pushing the envelope. For example, Whitcliffe Mount School has integrated its AV solutions with devices to encourage students to get more involved in lessons, to find answers for themselves, and to work together. This all helps to provoke a deeper sense of learning. 

“We are seeing lots of customers embracing technology such as virtual reality, 4K and ultra-HD AV, but the projector has not yet been consigned to the scrap heap.”

Are developments such as gamification, bring your own device (BYOD) and virtual learning environments (VLE) being harnessed effectively?

BYOD is fantastic, especially 1:1 school schemes such as AccessAbility. Each student gets the opportunity to choose the right device for their learning style, which is then paid for by parental contribution. With this there is now far more equity of access, and working in a cloud environment really helps to bridge the digital divide, especially with students who find traditional classroom learning difficult. It also simplifies the learning process, allowing pupils to work in real-time collaboratively on any device beyond the classroom.

However, I believe that VLEs such as Frog, Fronter, Moodle and Firefly have had their day, especially when the likes of Office 365 and Google give students what they need for free. Most VLEs are now virtual graveyards.

Do you foresee any changes to our use of technology in education, in the wake of Brexit?

There are no foreseeable reasons why partnerships between technology suppliers and educational institutions should change, as most UK schools and universities have global partnerships beyond the EU. However, Brexit could impact the cost of buying and supporting IT, as the value of the pound fluctuates during negotiations. 

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