In this series of posts, I will be discussing a report I have been writing on behalf of Netsupport, kindly supported by Al Kingsley and his wonderful team based down in Peterborough. After a great discussion in September 2018, I have been conducting some research to look at finding some answers to the question, "How do we convince the gatekeepers in schools that we need to invest in technology?" I had the privilege of presenting some of the initial findings and gathering some data with the ANME guys at a number of their regional events and then again at BETT on the Netsupport stand. Check out the NetSupport Radio interview with Russell Prue here (scroll to 1:38:44 to hear my dulcet Northern tones!).
In part one of this series, I will explore who the gatekeepers are and the rationale for writing the report. In future posts, I will look at the reasons why investment has been oftentimes sporadic and mismanaged, and potential solutions to help those of you who are enthusiastic about tech in convincing those who hold the purse strings! I initially started the research asking an additional question ("How can we find digital solutions to examinations and end-point assessments that meet the rigour required for student progression to future education, employment and/or training?") but quite quickly found that there was so much in the first question that the second would have to wait!
It is, however, accepted that these two issues are inextricably linked in that the biggest barriers in convincing a school to adopt innovative solutions are cost implications and the nature of paper-based examinations (“Why would we spend on iPads when in Year 11 they will be writing with a pen for two hours in an exam?” and equally importantly, “Why spend on iPads in Year 11, but not upgrade the Wifi or have a budget for training to ensure they have real impact?”). In order to address the issue of convincing some of the gatekeepers, we need to be able to suggest that digital solutions are on the way! This will require some connection with examination boards too. I intend, if time and/or opportunity allows, to address the second element later in 2019.
Who are the gatekeepers?
In short, the gatekeepers are those who make the decisions in schools. To one extent, this is the end user: students, teachers and parents; indeed, these are the people that we do all of this for - we have to rethink how we spend on technology so that parents believe that we are preparing their children well for future careers and then ensure that students are better prepared for their future, which means that we need to prepare teachers to help prepare them (phew, what a mouthful!) The knock-on-effect of investment is multi-faceted. However, the gatekeepers we are talking about in this report are those who make the decisions, those who hold the finances in schools. Budget holders such as heads of department, or leaders of faculties, do this at the most simple level, so may invest in subscriptions or small pots of infrastructure and hardware. As we progress 'up' the chain of command, Deputy Headteachers, with the remit for Teaching & Learning, Principals and Governors, and leaders of MATs/LEAs/clusters all hold significant sway in how money is spent on educational technology, if at all.
Why convince the gatekeepers?
Klaus Schwab, founder and chairman of the board of the World Economic Forum, said in his work on The Fourth Industrial Revolution,
“On the societal front, a paradigm shift is underway in how we work and communicate, as well as how we express, inform and entertain ourselves.”
To that end, I asked the question about digital skills and the need to train young people for their future in terms of that paradigm shift. Schwab's World Economic Forum believes that by 2020, there will be 7.1m jobs lost worldwide and Oxford University believe that 45% of all current jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. According to LinkedIn, the top jobs in 2019 and 2020 are set to be in data analytics, computing & mathematics (programmers, developers, information security analysts), architecture, engineering (biochemicals, nanotechnology, robotics, materials), specialised sales (mobile advertising), transformational leadership, product design, HR & organisational development specialism, as well as regulatory & government relations (lawyers e.g. for driverless cars!). In a similar vein, according to these sources, some of the jobs that will disappear in the next 20 years include dispatchers (for taxi firms, for example), printers & publishers, farmers, cashiers, travel agents, manufacturers, drivers, waiters/bar-tenders, bank tellers, military personnel and construction workers.
Elon Musk, the pioneer of Tesla and SpaceX as well co-founder of PayPal and The Boring Company, said, "You shouldn't do things differently just because they're different. They need to be... better." So we want to ask the question of why write such a report? Why is it important to convince gatekeepers to spend their money? (and it's not really their money, it is in fact, the public purse, which perhaps means we should be even more concerned as to how it is spent).
The answer is simply because we need to better prepare our schools to better prepare our teachers to better prepare out students for the world in which they will live.This 2018 remix of the cult educational video, Shift Happens, shows just important this question really is.
Check back soon for the next instalment from me on why the gatekeepers don't always listen.