Overcoming technological challenges in schools

Schools face a number of challenges when implementing technology. Based on my readings and studies that I have conducted over the past few weeks (and taking UNESCO’s ICT Integration Study as a basis of my findings) here are some challenges that schools face and possible solutions or pointers that they may wish to consider when trying to embed technology across the school and curriculum areas:

Teacher Confidence: Various studies have suggested (you can refer to my previous posts for a detailed look at these) that teachers are often reluctant to adopt technologies as they simply do not have the confidence to deliver their curriculum using the technological tools available to them. Additionally CPD is a problem with many schools who are reluctant to invest money and resources to develop their staff. Online learning platforms are becoming increasingly popular for people wishing to learn about various topics and I feel that they are a resource that are yet to be exploited by schools to ensure the development of their teachers. In order to deliver particular aspects of the curriculum, teachers need to be aware of how to use various technologies and software, one way to do this is to allow them to independently work through online courses and MOOCS that will allow them to improve their skills and collaborate with other teachers and learners to improve their teaching practice and knowledge in a particular area. Sites like Lynda.com, Mooc.com, Coursera, Edx and Udemy are excellent in allowing teachers to learn, practice and ultimately deliver the curriculum with confidence. This is not only a cost effective way of delivering CPD, but also allows teachers to develop their skills in their own time and earn recognised certification from reputable institutions and ultimately build their CPD portfolio.

Money: Schools often do not invest in technologies as they are simply too expensive. Yet time and time again studies have shown that schools that open their doors to institutions and other schools make more progress when it comes to technological integration. Collaboration with organisations and other schools to share ideas, (expensive) resources and good practice is a good way to overcome issues with spending. Sharing of resources is cheaper than buying outright and also allows schools to share the load.

Support: An online Learning Management System (LMS) or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) where teachers can collaborate, help and support each other as well as share good practice will allow teachers to be less pressured when having to deal with areas of teaching ICT and technology that they may not be comfortable with drawing on the experience of others; this however relies on a good school ICT infrastructure (see point below).  There are an array of websites that teachers can and should be using to facilitate their learning. Teachers should assume that schools aren’t going to be helpful (a sad reality of the current system) – however websites (i.e. TES Resources) offer a myriad of free and paid for resources as well as forums to allow teachers to support each other and share good practice. An added incentive for some teachers now is that they can upload resources and be paid for their contributions.

Technology and infrastructure: How many times have we seen our schools invest in the latest technological developments only to see them shelved? This is a direct result of schools and governing bodies not thinking the problems through and wanting to implement quickfire solutions to long standing problems. When implementing technologies within a school, technologies should reflect of the infrastructure rather than the infrastructure trying to keep up with the technologies that the school adopts. All too often schools realize that their infrastucture cannot handle another ICT suite or a class set of tablets/iPads. A strategy that considers the infrastructure before any investment is made will ensure that schools do not waste money and resources and exhaust a system that cannot support. This will also mean less pressure on staff to deliver their curriculum on systems that just won’t cooperate (I am sure many teachers share this frustration!).

Time: All too often educators are battling with time to produce results and get the all important A* – C grades. Quite frankly, teachers do not have time to implement newer technological changes into their subject areas and often favor traditional methods over new ‘improved’ ones (past experience may tell them that these “improvements will be shelved anyway”). To combat this All stakeholders need to work together and share ideas as well as establish long and short term plans. When these issues are discussed, realistic time frames can be drawn that ensure that no stakeholder is pressured into delivering to unrealistic timings and deadlines.

School Management: With adequate training and development of staff, the management of the school and how operations are run will inevitably be streamlined. This will initially take time, but will work in the schools favor in the longer term and take pressure of teachers once better technological practices are adopted. Schools need to remember that change cannot happen overnight!

Family Context: Again, good use and implementation of VLE where parents are aware of what is going on in the school allows them to be more involved and readily share thoughts and ideas making the school more receptive to the family context. Schools should realize that parents are the important link to their students when they are not in the classroom and shouldn’t be treated as decision makers that influence academic decisions.

Ultimately, no school will be able to successfully implement technology  unless they are prepared to lay down the much needed infrastructure and evaluate where they are and where they need to go. The irony here is that most curriculum areas within schools encourage students to conduct evaluative studies of their work and make educated decisions about where they are and how they need to progress to get where they need to be; unfortunately our schools and their senior management teams seem to fall short in implementing such a strategy for development themselves!

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