Working together to get the best from technology in schools

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By Robert Cooper, IT Manager

If you work in a school, you’ll probably be just about into the rhythm of things with the first half term under your belt.

A new school year is always a busy time for everyone and it can be stressful. Part of that stress can be caused by your school technology not working the way you want; your classroom projector has changed since last term, you can’t print your notes for the next lesson; or your PC starts up on your first day back with an operating system you’ve never seen before.

It’s not a good time for big technology surprises.

New opportunities

With over 34,000 visitors expected at Bett 2018, there is clearly a huge amount of interest in edtech solutions.

There is also wealth of choice when it comes to edtech available in schools now, ranging from apps to communicate with parents, games that help kids code, online language labs, to technology that helps teachers manage their classrooms and student data.

All these things provide huge opportunities to enhance the school experience but should be carefully considered to help everyone using them get the most from them.

Technology is there to make things easier; to save time, alleviate stress and to help you achieve exciting things in the classroom. If technology changes are managed correctly, this can be a realistic goal.

Technology should be working with you, not against you. So how does a situation occur when fundamental changes to tech in school can have an adverse impact?

Managing change

For us IT folk, summer is always looked on as an opportunity for big upgrades and major changes, like upgrading all the classroom PCs to Windows 10, or installing new classroom projectors and buying brand new printers.

We’ve got the time to do it and the teachers will love all that when they come back to work in September, right? Experience tells me they usually don’t.

Too much unheralded change to the tools you use day in and day out to do your job can be a headache. Worse than that, it can ruin those important early lessons in September and disrupt further lessons in the first term as you get to grip with all the changes. Pupils can be put at a disadvantage, and teachers are left frustrated.

In short, it can be a nightmare.

Good intentions

Let me firstly leap to the defence of my fellow IT crowd here, who are usually responsible for making these changes.

The changes and upgrades are always carried out with the best possible intentions and the goal is always to make your technology as reliable and up to date as possible.

We like to give you the best technology we can so that you can do a great job. Honestly.

Unfortunately, in all that enthusiasm we can sometimes lose track of the fact that you should be involved in the plans and not just be attending a surprise unveiling on the 1st September.

Working together

So what is the secret to getting the best from your technology? How can you try to make sure that your IT team is there to support your teaching and administrative activities?

It’s simple really – it’s important that the whole school community works together to make sure you’re getting the most from the technology solutions you choose.

Some simple considerations can help make sure you are all on the same page:

  • Need – what need is this technology meeting? What problem does it solve?
  • Cost - does the new tech solutions represent good value?
  • Quality - is it technically reliable and is it accurate?
  • Ease of use - is it something teachers can get to grips with quickly?
  • Implementation - what are the practicalities of getting it set up? Prioritize functionality and user-friendliness to encourage user buy-in.

Teachers should talk with IT staff and work together to ensure technology changes have a definite purpose and are aligned to current education needs.

The changes should be agreed, understood and prepared for. No surprises. Let everyone who will be effected by the modifications know what’s changing, why it’s changing and when the change will happen.

Thinking ahead

All this change can mean devoting serious time to planning any upcoming technology changes and involving everyone in the process.

This involvement can be in the form of meetings, e-mails or newsletters. Choose the best channel for every group of stakeholders. There are no silver-bullet solutions for this, just make sure no-one is left out and in that way you will gather as much useful feedback as you need.

Upgrading to Windows 10, for example, could mean training courses will need to be budgeted for and scheduled. New printers could mean sourcing a new supplier for consumables (preferably before they run out!) and colleagues will undoubtedly need to be shown by IT staff the best way to use those fantastic new electronic whiteboards.

If you all, as colleagues across your organisation work together, driving technology change and owning the process you can have an environment in which your technology is reliable, predictable to use and adds real value to your activities.

BETT 2018

The BETT show is a great opportunity to find out about the latest edtech solutions that can help your school. We’ll be there in January showcasing our latest developments, and we’d love to hear what you think of them.