When buying tech for your school, there’s a lot to consider, but in my experience it tends to boil down to two factors: cost versus need. Finding that balance can be tricky. Whatever situation a school might be in, though, one question can be crucial in weighing up your options: is the technology you have already being used to its full potential?
A survey conducted by Canvas, a cloud-based learning management platform, suggests the answer to that might be “no” in many schools. Apparently, 46 per cent of teachers rarely use the technology that’s already available in their classrooms. I would suggest this is something to address before finding the cash for any more.
Of course, there is the possibility that the reason some tech isn’t being used is because it’s so old that it’s not working, but I’m willing to bet that’s not what is going on in most cases.
So what can we do to reduce that 46 per cent and ensure that the tech we do have is put to good use?
Make tech easy to get hold of
The most crucial thing you should do is to move the tech into the classrooms. Let’s be clear, I’m not against ICT suites, but if you have some older, unused machines hanging about in a central area like an ICT suite, as well as newer machines, get the unused ones into the classrooms.
Make it easy for a teacher to grab, if you can, and you might find they are more inclined to reach for it.
Size doesn’t matter
Having 1:1 – a device for each pupil – is not the be all and end all. When I first started teaching, I had a Year 4 classroom with two old desktop PCs plonked on a trolley at the back. They were slow, but they worked and they were in use a lot. I’d pick out two children to blog about different lessons throughout the day and I’d give pairs of children the chance to read other class blogs during guided reading. You can still make use of one device in a classroom, just in a slightly different way to if all your students had access to a device.
Check out the free software that you could be using on old devices: a computer might have seen its best days, but if it still works, you can do some interesting things with it. It doesn’t cost anything to set up Google Apps for Education or Microsoft 365 for Education or to use the plethora of free online tools, like Scratch. If a device is connected to the internet, the ways you can use it are endless. It doesn’t need to be a tablet.
Train the teachers
Regardless of what tech you have got, if the teachers lack training or knowledge they aren’t going to be inspired to use it. And the thing to remember is that such training will probably need to happen on a rolling programme and be repeated.
I just realised myself that many of our new staff need training on some software that I’d originally delivered a couple of years back.
This is an article from the 12 February edition of TES. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here