Despite the rapid growth of the Educational Technology (EdTech) industry and support from the DfE many UK schools are yet to experience its benefits. The DfE unveiled their Education Technology strategy in April last year, which aims to pioneer modern solutions to common challenges faced by schools. Ultimately, they plan to reduce staff workloads, better student learning and assist those students with special needs and disabilities through innovative technologies.
So, what challenges are schools faced with when looking to adopt new technologies?
1. Tight Budgets
Despite financial efforts by the DfE schools are still finding budgets limiting. RC Components Report found that half of the teachers from public, academy, private and specialist schools feel there is not enough in the budget to support EdTech. They also found 37% of teachers have taken it upon themselves to supply students with EdTech, by purchasing equipment using their own money.
2. Dated IT Infrastructure and Connectivity
Without the necessary requirements to support or use these new tools how are schools expected to use them.
According to a report by the DfE’s, at least 500 schools throughout England struggle with a slow connection. Without a suitable connection schools are limited in their ability to adopt even the most basic EdTech available today. While the government hopes to have full-fibre connection nationwide by 2033, this is a major factor holding schools back from the EdTech revolution. Thankfully organisations like the London Grid for Learning are removing this barrier entirely but nationally there is still work to do.
Infrastructure is just a fancy way of referring to the bits of IT that live in cabinets and art cupboards or high up on walls and ceilings.
Each new flashy, super simple, easy to use system actually demands more from your infrastructure than the last. Unfortunately, the importance of spending money on the essential infrastructure to support new technologies is usually forgotten, disregarded or misunderstood. Many schools are working on dated setups that are simply not suitable or capable of supporting new EdTech. Often this factor is overlooked by schools either because:
- It’s not something a non-IT professional would think to consider
- The excitement and want for EdTech surpasses the essential but mundane background updates.
- Government guidance, peer pressure and a lack of funds drive decisions towards what’s visible rather than what’s necessary.
If schools are encouraged to continually adopt these new technologies without updating the infrastructure, they are likely to spend the entire integration process putting out fires (figuratively) or worse, have compromised the outcome. This can damage staff confidence in the IT and make them more reluctant to adopt the new tech. It can also be more expensive to resolve retrospectively. Plan the infrastructure right in the first place, and you are setup to succeed (technically speaking)
3. Lack of Strategy
The push for schools to adopt new technology is surpassing their need to take time to consider important factors that will ultimately determine if it will be a success.
EdTech over Vison: Does this technology support our school vision?
As incredible as EdTech can be, its important decision-makers stop and consider if it supports the schools’ vision. What works for one school may not work so well for another; the marketing pitches may not be entirely accurate. As EdTech is very much new territory for most, it’s easy to become swept away by an idea and overlook the practicalities. Certain products will be more suitable than others and schools should remember to consider their school vision before they decide.
Best Practise- How are we going to use this technology effectively for our school?
While the DfE is making efforts to uncover EdTech best practise in schools and colleges, there are still limited case studies to lead from. This means decision-makers and teachers have to be proactive in their efforts to theorise and uncover best practise themselves.
Planning & Leadership- What’s the plan and who is going to lead it?
Introducing a school of any size, to technology of any kind-is not achievable without a strategic leader and a well-structured plan. Without a strategy, schools are likely to hit multiple speed bumps throughout the integration process and limit the potential of their investment. Equally, if there is no leader committed to keeping the strategy on track it may lose momentum and become stagnant, forgotten about or lose all direction and become an unorganised waste of time.
Time- who in the team has time to commit to overseeing this project?
With the need for strategy and leadership also comes the need for time- a luxury most within education do not have. Building and managing a strategy is a commitment that takes a lot of time, energy and work. Understandably, most schools don’t have someone able or willing to take on the demanding responsibility.
Training- How much training will staff need and who is training them?
Research by RS Components found that within academy schools 3 out of 5 teachers feel there is not enough training provided to teachers when new technologies are introduced. A similar opinion was echoed by public school teachers, with 54% agreeing not enough is being done in the way of training. If teachers have the tools but lack the understanding/training to effectively use them, it doesn’t matter what EdTech it is-it’s a wasted investment.
4. Technology Overload
To says schools are spoilt for choice when it comes to EdTech would be an understatement. With so many options it’s easy for schools to pick the wrong product, be wrongly influenced by aggressive marketing and make decisions based on research exhaustion instead of quality research. Let’s be honest here- there is such thing as too much of a good thing.
5. Technology Divide
While technology may come naturally to some it doesn’t for others. More accurately, users who have grown up surrounded by technology are likely to grasp the fundamentals and potentially leave less technologically aware people behind. Additionally, some families may not choose to push technology in their homes and therefore have strong opinions of its use in schools. This is only amplified by the highly publicised risk children/young adults can be exposed to by using new technologies.
EdTech provides new and exciting solutions to common challenges faced by schools at every level. However, they come at a price; a price that is only as valuable as leaders research, planning, strategy and commitment allow it to be. We recommend contacting your IT Manager or supplier for professional unbiased advice before you get too far in your planning process.
Remember, it’s not always about having the latest and greatest, you can often achieve better outcomes by using what you have more effectively.
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