Working out how best to take advantages of new technologies is not a new problem. Nearly 100 years ago in 1922, Thomas Edison is reported to have said:
“I believe the motion picture is destined to revolutionise our educational system and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks.“
I think very few people would read that quote and think that they were the words of a madman, and we can probably all understand the logic behind the statement. But the truth is that all the reasons that stopped this prediction about the impact of early technology becoming a reality are almost certainly aligned with the reasons why modern, more advanced technologies have a relatively small impact on the way education is delivered.
Imagine a school purchasing a movie projector based on the promise of no longer requiring to but text books. Then realising that they also need to purchase the movie reels to play, and one or two is not going to get it done, but hundreds of hours of film would need to be produced to relay all the information held in just a handful of text books. They would then need to identify a room in the school to house the projector and provide training for staff in how to use it. Having gone through all that, now imagine the response of the pupils who are sitting down to watch their fifth or sixth film of the week.
None of the challenges the motion picture faced have disappeared, and modern technology adds quite a few new ones with so many different options available.
So how do you get a handle on what will work?
In truth, buying a piece of technology is no different to buying any other teaching resource for the school. We know that learning happens best when there is a good, healthy relationship between the teacher and the student. That relationship relies on several different key elements, all of which can be supported by technology, but what technology cannot do is replace that relationship.
When buying into new technology, the most important consideration is how that technology will impact on that teacher / learner relationship. Because every relationship is different, the best technologies to focus on are those that are flexible, that can support many relationships and in a wide variety of ways.
It is also best to go for technology that is intuitive – the more training a technology needs in order to be effective, the less likely it is to be picked up by staff and used well. Remember it is not just your current staff that you are planning for, new staff that join you will not generally not have the same training opportunities as those who are around when the technology is introduced.
Finally, make sure you have a whole school prospective. The best technologies feel natural and their benefit should be obvious. If you are considering a new technology, rather than convincing yourself try to convince a colleague. If you cannot convince them quickly and easily then you are probably not going to win over the rest of your staff and looking at something destined to be store cupboard fodder.
Neil Limbrick is the founder of theEducationCollective and a partner at Limbrick Consultancy LLP with over 20 years experience of leading IT strategy in schools and multi-academy trusts.
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