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.

Raising Standards at #BETT_2014

It’s easy to get blinded by the shiny when you visit BETT. Acres upon acres of fantastic equipment, software and services feast your eyes. Eager young sales-people yearn to catch your attention. Each one wants to show you how their product will change your school.

I know I’ve been blinded by the shiny in the past. I’ve come across products that I’m convinced will make that one amazing difference to my students. But when I’ve invested the cash, actually they haven’t. Staff and students have been disappointed instead.

The problem with technology is that with every failure, a significant number of staff within a school are disenfranchised. Education, which is essentially a simple process involving teacher and student, is sometimes not served by extra layers of technology. And when technology becomes a barrier certain teachers are put off, sometimes for good.

So this BETT I get to do a short talk myself. I’m on at the leader’s summit talking about raising standards. If you’re there at 1:15 on Friday January 24th you can catch what I’m going to say, which is essentially the story of using technology well to raise standards. I’m concerned about the amount of money that gets spent on technology without this focus and my story is one of success with limited budgets, where children achieve even in deprived circumstances. I’ve entitled my talk Raising Standards with technology: How to make the most of Pupil Premium Funding, but I guess I could have entitled it Raising Standards in Austerity Times.

Hopefully see you there!