Tom Starkey's world of ed tech

1st May 2015 at 01:00

Psst! Here's the top-secret formula for successful ed tech: ease of use + benefits = adoption.

That's it. I want ed tech to work and I want it to help. If it does that, I'm going to use it. I may even chuck you a few quid for your trouble. But if it doesn't have the aforementioned crucial elements, why would I bother?

It astounds me that some teachers are still forced to adopt certain technologies. This may be in the guise of government diktats or orders from senior management, but wherever it comes from, it's beyond daft. Because unless the crucial element of "buy-in" is forthcoming from the people who are supposed to be using the stuff, you've got a bit of a problem. And teachers haven't got the time to be mucking about.

Interactive whiteboards are a classic example of this. Well, they are for me, because I hate them. You would, too, if you had spent untold hours straining limb and sinew to reach the corners with a pen that eats batteries (with the same gusto with which I tuck into a family bucket from my local chicken shop), desperately trying to get the damn things to correlate. All so you can do something that you could just as easily have done with a computer and a projector.

They are expensive, too, which would be fine if they weren't so unreliable. The most painful thing about it is that I was never asked if I wanted or needed one. They just appeared and we were expected to use them because, well, they were there. And they had been paid for. And they are tech, of course.

Nope. Not good enough. I refer you back to the formula at the beginning of this piece. It's simple, easy to follow and incredibly useful (even if I do say so myself). Just as technology should be.

Want to make sure that your shiny bit of tech follows the formula effectively? Here's what you do. At an early stage in the process, bring in teachers and the people they will be teaching. Ask them what they want and need and take note of the various constraints. Create realistic models of educational situations and environments.

If you're part of a management team that is thinking of buying something in, have an open and honest dialogue with the people who will actually be using the tech, and listen to what they have to say. If you don't, you may find yourself spending thousands of pounds on what will end up being extremely expensive paperweights with HDMI ports and Bluetooth capability.

When it comes down to it, just give us things that we need - don't force the things you think we need upon us. Because that hardly ever works. Just like my interactive whiteboard.

Tom Starkey is a teacher based in Leeds. Email or find him on Twitter at @tstarkey1212

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