One of the hardest things to do as a teacher is to take time. Teaching is a time-pressured occupation where every second counts. Particularly when it comes to Computing, or even embedding technology in every-day teaching and learning across the curriculum. Too many schools and teachers rush into decisions and jump on to technologies without really understanding WHY they do or do not need them.
In bygone days there were Local Authority Advisors (I was one) who could take the time to step back from the technology and pressure, were not under any obligation to sell schools anything and who could take the time to summarise the pros and cons of the various technologies. If schools were very lucky these advisors would also know the schools, staff and pupils well enough to make personalised recommendations based on their experience of the individual setting. On the whole this has disappeared from most of the English education system.
The loss is felt beyond just the schools. Companies used to know that if they had a product they belived in they could send it to the local authority who would review it impartially and who would then recommend it to schools which it fitted. This gave a route to market for the companies, and also a buffer to the schools.
There are some independent advisors who can still be employed by schools to give them impartial advice. Some who work with specific schools on a regular basis and know the schools and what will and what won’t work for that specific school. Schools also rely more on their own social networks, recommendations from other schools, colleagues, Twitter…
Despite this we still regularly experience schools who have bought often very expensive technology without really knowing WHY they needed it and WHAT it would do to enhance their teaching and learning.
This isn’t a local phenomenon, there are well publicised high-profile cases where whole school districts in the US have done exactly this and then been lambasted for it in the media. Surely this is putting the horse before the cart?
Every schools NEEDS to have a regularly updated technology plan (for want of a better term). This plan needs to consider HOW the school sees its teaching and learning developing over the coming few years. They need to understand how their use of technology should develop over the next 3-5 years. This plan WILL be out of date after 12 months and will need revising every year. The plan needs to START with the educational outcomes that the school desires and NOT with the latest, best kit or what the neighbouring school has just purchased. With the clear vision schools will understand what they want to achieve to then find the best way of achieving it.
If a school can explain their vision for HOW the piece of technology they want to purchase will enhance teaching and learning, explain how they are going to train staff and impliment it and how they expect the technologies use to develop over the next 3 years then there is a fair chance that technology will be used.
Unfortunately schools don’t often take the time to do this. They jump on some technology because someone else has it or someone recommended it. They buy it, it’s put in cupboards, no training is given, it gathers dust… because no-one takes the time to ask what do I want to achieve BEFORE asking how can I achieve it…
Technology is not the goal but a means to an end…