Technology is increasingly being used to augment learning in schools and this is undoubtedly a good thing, offering a wealth of new possibilities and preparation for the hi-tech world our students will enter.
But it’s important to ensure that the products used are effective and offer good value for money, and this can be a challenging process. So what should you be looking for? And what should you steer clear of? Edtech expert Neil Jarrett gives his top tips.
Buy high-quality products
Well-established brands are usually my go-to, even if the upfront cost is a bit higher than with others. My school uses Lego WeDo robots with the younger children, for example, and Lego Mindstorms robots with the older ones.
We chose these because they had excellent reviews and good word-of-mouth backing. Above all, they are robust, which is very important when they are being used on a daily basis by children. And once you have made the original order, you can update the software for free.
Move to cloud storage
Upgrading to this type of infrastructure means that, instead of having to invest in expensive hardware, you can use cheaper devices that can access cloud-based platforms, such as Microsoft 365 (which has online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and so on) and Google’s G-Suite (which has Google Docs, Google Sheets and others).
These kinds of programs have benefited my teaching during writing sessions, for example, as I can now click on students’ work and start adding comments as they are working, enabling them to see my suggestions and edit on the go.
Make use of free technology
There are a lot of of free education programs out there, and many are excellent. My favourite at the moment is an app called SeeSaw; an online class journal that your whole class can access.
Parents can be linked to each child (if you wish), and then you can post messages, notifications and even children’s work. Students can also post work, which makes collecting homework a doddle.
Instead of paying large sums upfront, explore rental options; monthly payment plans allow for regular updates of equipment and include support for any difficulties you may encounter. It also means the technology can be kept current, relevant and sustainable.
Companies like XMA can help you set up such arrangements and they can also help with part-exchange for older devices, helping budgets to stretch further.
Experiment with new tech
Take time to try new tools, but be sure to evaluate their impact on learning. I have found myself teaching lessons in which the children are having lots of fun using an app, but, on reflection, I’ve realised that they weren’t actually learning much at all.
Kahoot! is an example of a really useful and engaging site with educational value; you can make quizzes or choose from millions of pre-made ones to assess learning. It then takes your questions and answers and turns them into a whole-class competition.
Ask the experts
When making a big new tech purchase, it’s worth looking into companies that can support you in making what can be a tough decision. There are always lots of options, and, unfortunately, lots of schools do make poor investments.
Take interactive whiteboards, for example. In some cases, these have been implemented and integrated well, but there are many examples where they have not, and – mainly due to a lack of training – the interactive aspect is all but ignored.
Enterprises such as XMA, a business that is expert at installing edtech in schools, can give you guidance and help you to improve efficiency and reduce costs. It offers training sessions for staff, and is just a call away if something goes wrong with the hardware or software.
As technology becomes more and more prevalent, it’s vital that the education sector stays up-to-date. Many schools are moving away from pen and paper; this not only prepares children for the future, but also saves money on paper, photocopying and printing resources, as well as offering myriad environmental benefits.
Getting the right technology in the classroom can be a daunting prospect, but it’s needn’t be something to be apprehensive about. Get some support in picking the right products and you will find edtech a breeze.