Digital Strategy for Schools


Digital Strategy for Schools

Since Minister Bruton announced the new grant for ICT and suggested that all schools prepare a digital strategy plan, I have been asked for my thoughts on the future of technology in education.

I like to think that I am clued in to what is happening in the Technology field. But by its very nature, technology changes at such a fast pace and it’s hard to keep up. Making it accessible to students, teachers and other interested parties is an ongoing challenge.

So what is the future? Is it tablets, interactive whiteboards, new software?

I think the future is about access, anywhere learning and collaboration, both locally and globally. I attended the BETT show in London this January I got a strong feeling from the seminars I attended that this is the way we are heading. It has been suggested that teaching and learning is going to be social, Schools of the future could have a traditional cohort of students, as well as online only students who live across the country or even the world. Things are already starting to move this way with the emergence of massive open online courses (MOOCs). Khan Academy etc.

For me the future of technology is the cloud.

Technology can often be a barrier to teaching and learning. I think the cloud will go a long way to removing this barrier. Why? By removing the number of things that can go wrong.

Schools will need a fast internet connection and a very good local network. Network Infrastructure will be very important to the future of technology in education.

We don’t know what the new ‘in’ device will be in the future. What we do know, is that it will need the internet and Wi-Fi to use it. Schools will need to futureproof their network infrastructure as best they can.

This should be happening now. If you want to start to use mobile technology in your school, whether it is a tablet program or a bring your own device (BYOD) program your connectivity must be fast and reliable. Student and teacher satisfaction is so important. If the network is slow and things are not working properly students and teachers will not want to use the devices. Make the sure the infrastructure is there before the devices.

Teachers will use the cloud to set, collect and grade work online. Students will have instant access to grades, comments and work via a computer, smartphone or tablet. Many schools are already doing this. Services such as Microsoft Classroom offer this for free.

This is where devices come in. All devices, not matter which ones we will use in the future will need to access the cloud. Each student will have their own. Either a device specified by the school or one they have chosen to bring in themselves.

School classrooms are going to change. Thanks to the cloud and mobile devices, technology will be integrated into every part of school. In fact, it won’t just be the classrooms that will change. Games fields, gyms and school trips will all change. Whether offsite or on site the school, teachers, students and support staff will all be connected.

In an ideal world, all classrooms will be paperless. Printing and paper costs eliminated or at least significantly reduced. I was surprised recently when someone told me what their paper and printing cost were for a year. Surely that’s money that could be spent elsewhere. It could be your schools strategy, “Paperless in 5 Years” . This would feed into every other decision made about digital engagement over the 5 year period.

With the cloud, the world will be our classroom. E-learning will change teaching and learning. Students can learn from anywhere and teachers can teach from anywhere.

The cloud can also encourage independent learning. Teachers could adopt a flipped classroom approach more often. Students will take ownership of their own learning. Teachers can put resources for students online for students to use. These could be videos, documents, audio podcasts or interactive images. All of these resources can be accessed via a student’s computer, smartphone or tablet. As long as they have an internet connection they are good to go.

Rather than being ‘taught’ students could learn independently and in their own way. There is also a huge amount of resources online that students can find and use themselves, without the help of the teacher.

Shared applications and documents on the cloud, such as Office365 will allow for more social lessons. How often do students get an opportunity to collaborate productively using technology in the classroom? It isn’t always easy. However, students working on documents together using Office365 apps is easy. They could be in the same room or in different rooms or indeed in different locations.

These are all good skills for students to have. Of course, these collaborative tools are also very useful for teachers.

What we must remember is that when schools adopt new technology and services, they must be evaluated. This way you know if they are successful and what improvements are needed. Staff will also need training, you can’t expect staff to use new technology if it they are not confident users or creators. Any initiative is doomed to failure without some members of staff well trained, confident staff who can see how technology can support and benefit teaching and learning. Always look for IT Champions to drive this change.

Plenty of schools have already embraced this, but there’s still a way to go to ensure all schools are ready for the future of technology. It is time for all schools to embrace the cloud.

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