What technology is right for my school?

A successful VLE is indicative of the involvement of staff and students (as well as parents and external bodies) of the technological health of the school.

4.1.2

When trying to integrate ICT into the classroom, there are a number of things that inevitably have to be considered. A good school looking to implement ICT into the curriculum should think about the following questions:

  1. Who should be involved in choosing technology or digital content for a school?

Choosing technology for a school is definitely a school wide effort. I have previously spoken about Internal, External and Academic factors that dictate the decisions made by schools with respect to the use and integration of ICT within schools and established that more often than not it’s the External factors that usually supersede all the others (i.e. the views, concerns and demands of external bodies and stakeholders i.e. school governing body, local council or businesses etc).

So who should be involved? Well interestingly I do feel that external stakeholders should indeed have a say in choosing technology and digital content for the school; after all they are probably going to be the ones that fund it…right? However, I hasten to add, that such decisions should draw in internal and academic influences (i.e. the school management and more importantly the teachers and their students). In my opinion, a bottom-up approach that goes from students (and their learning needs and expectations) to the teachers (and their ability to cater for the demands of students (and their parents) to the school’s management (and their vision) to ultimately the external stakeholders and their capabilities.

This grass-roots approach should allow everyone to have a say and allow views and expectations to be refined as they move higher up the ladder. A top-down approach may dictate a particular way of doing things whereas the bottom-up approach will make appropriate suggestions that will ultimately give all more scope and understanding of the requirements.

  1. What criteria do you think should be the most important to be considered when choosing new technology or new content?

So taking my ‘bottom-up’ approach, we firstly need to address the academic needs and requirements of the students and in turn go onto asking the following:

  • Is the technology needed to serve a particular area of the curriculum?
  • Will the technology allow students to develop necessary skills? Which ones?
  • How will introducing the intended technologies affect the way teachers deliver the curriculum? Will it generate more work?
  • Will training be required or provided by teachers to effectively deliver the curriculum with the technology? Will this be factored into the overall cost of the technology or will it come out of the CPD budget?
  • Will the investment be a cost effective one?

Clearly these are some of the questions that should be asked at every step of the process and refined as you mover closer to the external stakeholders.

  1. What are your plans for further extending the digital environment of your school, or your schools? What should a school be aiming at?

Following an extensive independent report of my current school, it is clear that use of ICT throughout the curriculum needs to be extended and promoted. Currently the school is working hard to deliver ICT CPD and promote the use of it’s FROG Virtual Learning Environment. This unfortunately, in my opinion is going in the opposite direction (i.e. motivated by external factors rather than the school starting it’s pursuit from where it matters; addressing the needs of the students).

I am a supporter of VLEs (when they are used correctly and the infrastructure to handle the user demands is adequate enough that the system doesn’t crash every time it’s overloaded with users)

Schools must embrace a technological vision. Technology, if not implemented carefully (often it is introduced prematurely) will not only go unused, but will also be a potential waste of valuable school budget and resources.

So what would I do to improve technology use within my current school and what should my school be aiming at?

Firstly, I feel that the school should address its curriculum expectations, look at the courses it is delivering and assess the need for ICT. This can be done through a detailed audit of the schools technology. Details like Computer to Student ratio etc. is an essential first step; establish what you are working with.

Secondly, the school should see whether its current ICT infrastructure is well equipped to deal with CURRENT expectations. If the ICT cannot meet current demands, then it will have no chance against any ‘improvements’

Thirdly, teachers need to be asked about their expectations by way of surveys etc. as to what they would like to do and whether they will benefit from newer technologies. It may be the case that they do not require any technological developments and their subjects are actually doing well without additional technology.

Finally, the school must embrace a technological vision. Technology, if not implemented carefully (often it is introduced prematurely) will not only go unused, but will also be a potential waste of valuable school budget and resources. A vision for the future is essential – everyone should be aware of this vision and work as a collective body having their input in every part of the process.

At the very least, all schools aspiring to be ‘future schools’ must be in the process of, or have already fully implemented a VLE. A successful VLE is indicative of the involvement of staff and students (as well as parents and external bodies) of the  technological health of the school. It also indicates the health of the staff and their abilities and can inevitably open doors to a wealth of cheaper (and even free) resources that can be used by all curriculum areas in the schools drive to be a 21st century school.

Ultimately, in my opinion – collaboration and an open mind is key!

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