Public sector technology expert John Greenhalgh of Brother
The lives of most young people in the UK today revolve around technology. Between entertainment, and communication with friends, frequent interaction with devices is second nature to the vast majority of teenagers and, increasingly, younger children too.
With this in mind, the use of technology in the classroom to enhance teaching and learning makes sense. This is important not only in terms of ensuring pupils remain engaged, but also to equip them for further education and workplaces where the ability to work with technology is vital.
The range of potential applications of ICT in education is wide and varied, including presentation aids like smart whiteboards and tablets, video and social technologies that allow distance learning, and even virtual-reality equipment offering a highly immersive experience.
All of these approaches, if used effectively, can help keep pupils engaged and ultimately make a teacher’s life easier. What’s more, when there’s accord in the classroom, it’s so much easier for you as an ICT manager to implement your own initiatives.
Efficiency in education
It’s not only teaching staff that can benefit from technology, but also the administrative teams that support them. Storing and sharing pupil records is a good example, and management tools like Capita’s School Information Management System (SIMS) software can deliver impressive efficiencies and cut down on clerical errors. Also, in the years since it was launched, services and solutions designed to integrate SIMS into school office workflows have begun to appear, such as Brother’s Direct Scan desktop solution, which offers one-touch digitisation and upload of paper records.
However, in the busy school environment, staying up to date can be a challenge, even when the budget for equipment is in place, and one of the biggest barriers can be getting teachers engaged with and excited about technology you’ve researched, provided and implemented for them.
So what can ICT managers do to help teachers find ways to integrate technology in the classroom and help admin staff make the most of ICT in the back office?
Probably the most important point to consider is that technology should always be viewed as a means to an end. The ultimate objective should never be simply to introduce a new piece of technology. Instead it should be to tackle a teaching challenge or improve the learning experience through the introduction of that technology.
Managing change when introducing new technology
The start point is to understand teachers’ needs in the classroom so that the solution can be tailored to meet them.
So, for example, a teacher should never turn up on Monday morning to find a smart whiteboard in the classroom and be left to work out how to use it on their own. Instead, the process should be collaborative from the outset, and the specific teaching scenarios in which the new technology will be able to help should be clear both to the ICT manager and the teacher.
Buy-in from teachers will only be possible if the new technology is clearly an enabler rather than another time-consuming ask that feels as though it gets in the way of already very pressured schedules.
Managing the change in behaviour that is needed for technology to work well is another critical part of the process, and the time and training required to do this must be factored into any budget from the start.
Providing a thorough induction – delivered by an expert on the application of the technology in the education sector and closely aligned with the specific setting in which it will be used – will help ensure the tools are used efficiently and correctly.
It’s then important to provide ongoing support to iron out any teething problems and prevent bad habits from creeping in.
Technology has made a lot of exciting things possible for teachers and schools as a whole, but the benefits of using ICT in education will only be realised if solutions are integrated effectively into the real-world education environment. ICT managers have a critical role to play in making this happen.