4 ways to regain control of edtech after Covid chaos

The pandemic led to rushed edtech decisions in schools last year, but now is the time to take stock, says Sarah Ford
27th January 2021, 12:52pm
Sarah Ford

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4 ways to regain control of edtech after Covid chaos

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/4-ways-regain-control-edtech-after-covid-chaos
Coronavirus: How Schools Can Take Stock Of Their Edtech After A Year Of Upheaval

When the pandemic arrived, school leaders were faced with many decisions to make - and quickly.

One of these areas was technology; how would we provide distance learning? What tools would help us? Which devices did our learners need? And there were many more questions. The edtech companies knew it as well - free trials, free subscriptions or free use for a limited time deals were everywhere.

Unsurprisingly then, when it came to selecting the tools we needed, decisions were made at speed based on what seemed to work, and then we got on with the business of teaching.

Now, though, as we gain some perspective again, we need to take stock and look at what we are actually using: is it still free? Is it data compliant? Is it the best tool for the job?

Coronavirus: How to review your edtech use

This is how I am taking back control of our technology use after the past 12 months.

1. Auditing what we have

Going through the process of finding out what we have and what works is vital.

This is about finding out what hardware we have in the school: desktop computers, laptops, smartboards, of course, but also smaller gadgets: cameras, headphones, iPads, tablets, hand-held recorders, just to name a few.

Are they all in working condition, or do they need replacing or updating?

Software licences, too, can often come with unknown extra resources - but do we spend the time to find out the benefits? Do we make full use of what we already have? Do we even know what we already have?

This can help to save money and identify key areas of future investment.

2. Re-establishing control

It's understandable if usual chains of command have broken down and decisions have been taken without the usual sign-off, but we need to return to normality.

So it's important to re-establish the responsibilities that lie with different staff members and where true expertise lies. We shouldn't just be letting anyone buy anything but instead be turning to the staff who have the skill set to help us make the most informed decisions.

This also includes refreshing our knowledge of data protection regulations and ensuring that we are strictly compliant: pandemic or not, ensuring all data is safely secured by any third-party tool you use is vital.

3. Return to the plan

It is important that the "big picture" plan is brought back to the fore when it comes to technology, so that decisions are made with the best long-term view in mind, not short-term necessity.

For us, a good example of this was the addition of the digital portfolio tool Seesaw. It was something that several staff already wanted, while others were unsure.

As such, we discussed it with middle leadership and, after due deliberations, went ahead with a rollout.

This was done slowly, though, to bring everyone on board, so we ensured that the improvement was across school and it boosted the quality of learning and teaching for all our students - it wasn't just done so that we could say "we use Seesaw" without it having any material benefit.

We are still welcoming staff suggestions for new tools, of course, but we are ensuring that any ideas are context-specific, add value to teachers and pupils alike, and will be used.

4. Make time for technology training

Training in how to use new tools was not something we could give due focus to when we first shifted to online learning, but it did become more prominent over time.

We are now looking to ensure that we continue to provide staff development time that allows staff to share activities that worked well, online teaching tips or insights on a new technology tool to ensure we get the most from what we have

Staff who attended webinars in their own time on how to use certain technology tools are asked to share their learning with others and help others who are less confident.

And as with so many new initiatives or resources, it is key for school leaders to approach new ideas with cautious excitement, to ensure that we balance the need to embrace new innovations when it makes sense and avoid rushing into foolhardy deployments. 

We must avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater and, instead, continue to build a strong basis for the innovations of post-Covid education.

Sarah Ford is the elementary principal at Danube International School, Vienna, working with students aged 3-11 in an IB World School

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