We hear from Patrick McGrath, EdTech Strategist at Texthelp over a series of blogs that focus on the elements of a successful vision and plan for an effective technology strategy.
There are some bold claims around technology in the classroom. Transformative. Redefining. Engaging. We see edtech companies champion a huge range of technology – from devices like traditional Windows laptops through cloud-based Chromebooks to ‘wow’ learning experiences with Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Learning management systems, gamification, drones and green screen have all entered our classrooms. All amazing technology in their own right, and all embraced by our students – after all it’s a part of their life and their reality. But where is the learning?
Technology must support the fundamentals of learning
Technology is certainly an enabler for many things – 21st century skills like collaboration and creativity. Coding can be taught from early years with pupils introduced to computational thinking and problem-solving concepts which build genuine thinking skills. Students now have the ability to create like never before and express their learning in ways that engage and excite them. Technology gives pupils a voice, often on their own terms. It can build confidence and communication skills helping equip them for learning and indeed life ahead. We’ve started to see learning on their terms through the use of personalisation and interactivity through a much wider range of mediums including video and audio.
But – our schools are grounded in reality. The reality of learning; of the system; of the need for attainment and of the inevitability of testing. We can’t simply put these things to one side and assume technology is going to redefine our classrooms. What we must do is ensure that the fundamentals of learning, the scaffolds on which everything is built are considered and supported by any technology.
Take literacy – in all its many forms, the cornerstone of many aspects of learning – helping our pupils understand and be understood. Take numeracy, another of the building blocks that every pupil needs to fulfil their potential and support cross curricular learning. How often are these core areas specifically considered when we think about technology?
It’s not enough that technology is used for the populist edtech agenda – it must be grounded in areas like literacy and numeracy and provide the support that every pupil needs. The technology should enable them to personalise learning, use the tools that meet their needs and support multiple aspects of how they learn. Pupils should be able to use technology as, when and where they need it. Effective technology can underpin literacy strategies, interventions and individual needs. It can support oral, written and reading fluency. In doing so, every aspect of learning, right across the curriculum receives a positive impact.
Technology should only be about three things.
Teaching. Learning. Outcomes.
If it’s not grounded in these, it shouldn’t be considered.
But first, technology must be part of the vision of a school
It’s the role of leadership in any school to make this the case. It shouldn’t fall to the ICT manager, or the ‘tech’ champion teacher than every school has. Their input is important – but choices, direction and decisions must be set by the school leadership.
Leadership doesn’t need to understand the intricacies of tech, or even how it’s applied. They don’t need to get lost in platform debates because companies like Acer can provide consistent experiences across every platform and great tools that will empower, engage and help your students work across any platform.
Instead, Leadership should focus on the same things they focus on in every other aspect of school life and planning – educational priorities. Planning could be as broad as ‘raising literacy standards in Junior school’ and as actions are identified, technology can play a core role. The value of technology is that it can make an impact on almost every facet of school life – but only if it is part of the vision for a school and an integral part of its planning.
Once we have set the desired outcomes, and we are looking for solutions – only ask edtech companies one question – how can this help us achieve our objectives? Wait for the answer. If it’s grounded in pedagogy, move forward. If not, move on.
Planning for outcomes is just the start – Leadership needs to share the vision to the whole school – its teachers, pupils and parents. It should set sensible timelines to implement and to measure impact. It should plan for professional development and to use pupils for the incredible knowledge base that they are. Most of all though, it should look at technology as an integrated part of school planning and provision – not as an aside.
Perhaps we’ve all missed the point on transformation. The real transformation might just be how technology reaches every learner and provides the tools that can positively impact everyone from those that struggle to those with individual needs or those high achievers. Technology perhaps is, at its core, about inclusion and to enable educators to ‘reach every learner’.
Transformation of any aspect of school, with technology or without, requires leadership. It requires a top down approach to set a vision and build a plan, and a commitment to see it through. Above all though, it takes leadership to only focus on the things they know best – teaching, learning and outcomes.
With that focus from leadership, transformation and change is achievable for every school. All it takes is a vision, a plan and a commitment.
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