The education technology divorce

Who actually makes the education technology decisions in schools?

My authority runs a bus to BETT, the main trade show for education technology in the UK. I have to say I’m rather nervous about getting on the bus, because of who else might be on it. Having travelled to BETT a few times before and bumped into many attendees as I travel, I’m convinced that the majority of attendees from my part of the country are technicians and network managers. I haven’t met many teachers who go to BETT.

So who will make the decisions about future technology purchasing? Network managers or teachers?

I have to say at this point that I have a marvellous technician who works for me at my school. He is always on the look out to develop best practice and is keen to learn new stuff, not just to stick with what he already knows. But I’ve spoken to several teachers who have complained about their technicians or network managers – they complain that the network manager sets the rules about how to use the IT system. They decide what children can or can’t do. They decide the kind of software and hardware that children use.

My fear is that in many schools the technician, or the network manager, has become a barrier to good teaching. The expectation is that technology will be used across the curriculum, and from 2014 a new Computing Curriculum will come into place. Is there an teacher in each school who is ready for this? Ready to make decisions on how best to make it work for our children?

Education technology works best when the technology serves the education: when the tech makes the lessons better. This means that teachers and technicians need to work in partnership, but ultimately it is teachers who need to be empowered to make the decisions about how best to use technology to make a difference for their children. Without that a divide will develop that will result in teachers divorcing the technology from their teaching.

6 thoughts on “The education technology divorce”

  1. I’ve seen both sides of this as an IT teacher and now an IT Operations manager. In schools where practice is good the relationship is strong between SLT, IT Coordinator and tech staff, but even in good schools there can be misunderstandings over legal, safeguarding and technical issues, that some staff may be unaware off. This can quickly turn to mistrust or questioning if the problem isn’t resolved. At the end of the day we’re all here to move the students toward and need to work towards that goal together to achieve the best for the children we teach.

    In a worst case scenario as an IT coordinator I found out the week before halfterm that the suite was being refurbished and the HT had made all the decisions with no consultation with myself or techie staff.

    Birmingham also has the added fun of dealing with the monolithic Link2ict which over the past few weeks has caused annoyance for techies and teachers, with failed updates, poor deployment and awful support causing extra grief for all who work in schools.

    1. Hi John, personally I’ve had mixed experience with Link2ICT – I think their techies are great – they are really interested in developing new stuff, innovating and getting the best deal for students. But because the sales and management level is so Service Birmingham, which is also so Capita, there’s a negative pressure there to make the most profit, and not make the best decisions for individual schools.

  2. We’re an education app developer here in Boston – we’ve found that IT folks are on the look out for apps and then forward them on to the teachers. But there is no shortage of educational apps – so many teachers are suffering from “app fatigue”. I’d imagine it will become like textbooks – central decision making then the teachers will decide to use it or not and then find special resources of their own to augment or replace the recommended textbook or ed tech.

    1. Yes – it’s not too bad on Android at the moment, but there are so many of the same things to choose on iPad, that it can get a bit overwhelming. It all comes down to who you know I suppose…

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