Edtech is a resource that has established its place in our schools. However, all too often it’s viewed in isolation, and as an additional cost. In the September issue of Education Executive, Royden Gothelf, an independent IT advisor working under the RightICT name, considers how embedding technology in your wider school development plan can unlock its true potential
When talking to school leaders about technology or ICT the first reactions I get are usually, ‘We need to make savings,’ ‘We don’t have the budget,’ or ‘Can you reduce our costs?’ What I hear less often is, ‘We want to improve our curriculum offer, how can technology help?’ So, is technology seen only as a cost and where is it heading?
In isolation it’s a cost; however, it’s also a valuable resource – and we can’t deliver outstanding school outcomes without the correct resources. If we only focus on reducing technology costs we risk holding schools back at this time of change in education.
A shift in perspective
When talking to educationalists who operate outside of schools we hear that the UK is leading the growth of education technology, with hundreds of start-up companies delivering a range of platforms and services to digitise education. Academics are enthused about how teaching will progress from instructional learning to experiential learning through the use of educational apps. There are apps readily available to support subjects such as maths, while virtual reality is primed to change science learning by bringing into the classroom experiments too dangerous to actually do.
How does this outside view sit with the lack of money in schools? It’s a challenge. School leaders need to be able to make use of these new technologies in their schools – students will start to expect this as they will be using them outside of school and, eventually, in the workplace. A mind shift is needed – from seeing technology as an expense to a resource to invest in. Leaders must take a strategic approach, not by having a year-on-year digital plan to make this obsolete and upgrade that, but by linking their technology to whole school outcomes.
Strategic IT planning is best approached by looking at the whole school strategy
Mission: whole school outcomes
Consider this scenario: the school network manager is told to reduce costs although they’ve been requesting investment to upgrade the outdated infrastructure causing computers to run slow. The school’s struggling to justify expenditure and find the funds. At the same time the leadership team has been working on the three-year plan, part of which includes the improvement of STEM education; they know they must give staff training and equip classrooms. They believe STEM will attract the best teachers and students to the school and add value for the existing students.
The finance manager is assessing the costs and asks the network manager what’s required to support the plan; they propose a network upgrade and are wondering if something can be done for the science rooms, rather than the whole school. Funds may be raised as capital investment or taken from another faculty; importantly, now, technology is not seen as an isolated cost but one that is required to deliver the STEM plan.
Strategic IT planning is best approached by looking at the whole school strategy, seeing where technology contributes to that strategy and working out technology costs on that basis.