The integration of meaningful technology is kept at arm’s length by many schools, but it is the key to survival. Not only will it realistically prepare our students for the world in which they will work, but with the correct training it has the potential to solve many of the issues we are facing. Good teachers using proven educational technology will improve the outcomes of students, reduce workloads of teachers and maximise ever decreasing budgets.
Haven’t schools been using technology for years? Yes, look in most schools and you’ll encounter electronic whiteboards, a computer on the teacher’s desk and a symphony of pings emanating from the emails landing in everyone’s inbox. Kasey Bell from Shake Up Learning, on episode 3 of the podcast explained that most technology we have in schools belongs to the teachers, however we must put the learning tools in the hands of students.
The world in which our students will work is becoming less recognisable by the day. As automation sets in across industries, high level ICT skills will become a requirement for most jobs. A farmer of an automated farm is not skilled in ploughing a field, but in programming a computer to plough a field. Our children in primary school will likely never need to pass a driving test because of the impending boom of driverless cars. Cloud computing platforms that allow for increased collaboration and productivity are being adopted by companies across the globe. Google’s cloud platform G Suite is now being used by over 3 million businesses, including Morrisons, the Department of Health and Whirlpool. Google’s educational version G Suite for Education is available to all teachers, students and schools completely free.
In recent weeks the Education Secretary Damian Hind has pledged to reduce teacher workloads, the only problem is that once we cut through the political rhetoric there don’t seem to be any solutions. There is no doubt that teachers are struggling to give students their best due to unrealistic workloads. It is even more worrying when recent reports are suggesting that stressed teachers can produce stressed students. Duplication of data, marking and planning seem to be the most time intensive; all of which are easily solved using technology tools and cloud computing. A friend who is a maths teacher had to mark hundreds of papers last weekend, which meant he missed out on a day trip with his wife and children. All he did for two days was tick or cross answers, added them up and inputted the data. There are tools that would have done all of that automatically, without him even having to be in the room. I could have wept for him.
Like many in the education sector I was not surprised to read last week that 37% of head teachers have had to reduce staff or their hours. The ‘Breaking Point 2018’ poll of heads by (NAHT), also found that 71% of heads believe their schools will be in the red this year. We can no longer afford to spend our budgets on unnecessary costs. It is estimated that on average schools spend around £60,000 per year on photocopying (I know of one school that spends closer to £100,000). A school with one to one devices for students and a clear pedagogical strategy, that includes technology, could make this cost almost obsolete. Cloud computing also eradicates the need for huge servers, saving thousands of pounds. Computer rooms can go, because the students already have devices. No need for paper textbooks, paper exercise books or even that electronic whiteboard. Cloud platforms, such as G Suite for Education, can also provide free technology tools that some schools pay for, such as Show My Homework and Firefly
Gone are the days when technology in a school can be led by an IT manager. It would be like letting a mechanic choose your new car, just because they are the one who’s going to service it. Pedagogically focussed technology is here to stay. A lot of it is free, it will save time and most importantly it will improve student outcomes. It is estimated that G Suite for Education already has over 80 million users, with the majority of these in the United States. Our schools need to take action, before it’s too late.