While the UK government announced it would make additional funding available to support schools through COVID-19 this year, school budgets were a concern even before the pandemic. Indeed, budgets are expected to make next year’s strategic goals harder to achieve, according to our State of Technology in Education 2020/21 report.
Schools often find that IT budgets are first to be stretched, with new, expensive tech deemed a lower strategic priority. Some schools are in the position to upgrade their technology, with front of class tech being high on the agenda. But as this teacher explains – where tech budgets have been cut, despite edtech now being more important than ever – it could be time to do the best with the tools you have.
Edtech is a higher strategic priority
Over the past 5 years, the focus on boosting student engagement with tech has grown by 29%, now a strategic priority for almost 40% of schools, according to our research.
Technology is a necessary part of everyday life, so this should be reflected in lessons, 8 out of 10 educators say. At the same time, a third admit they avoid using school tech because the hardware is often unreliable.
“The use of technology in school at the minute is a frustrating affair. Much of the equipment, both pupil and teacher, is out of date or budget so performance is hampered. Where there is up to date equipment it is restricted by knowledge or held back by outdated equipment.”
Teacher/Senior Teacher, Academy Primary, North East
So, if edtech is an increasingly high priority, the cost-effectiveness and longevity of IT investments is key.
Since lockdown, schools have a new pragmatism around tech use — it’s no longer considered pertinent to invest in futuristic, start-up edtech that has minimal pedagogical benefit. While such tools like 3D printers may look impressive and are exciting to use, educators have learnt that tech is best used when it supports wider school goals and has a lower total cost of ownership i.e. it lasts longer and works with existing technology equipment and infrastructure.
Here are three tips on stretching your IT budget:
1. Assess your existing tools and software
First, it’s essential to run a thorough audit of all your existing technologies. This includes hardware and software, and the status on your warranties and licenses. As part of this, ask questions like:
- Is it in full working order?
- Has it been used this year?
- Is it fit for purpose?
If you have active software licenses that are unused, can they be redeployed for a different use within the school, or a different school if you’re part of a Multi-Academy Trust?
Could unused hardware like TV screens be used in classrooms as second or third displays, perhaps? As part of a rounded classroom strategy, it’s effective to rearrange your classroom with better visibility for all pupils to boost engagement and results.
As this headteacher explains, this is also a good opportunity to ask your staff whether their devices hindered their capability to work well from home or teach remotely. If so, consider upgrading to new devices that can cope with online video conferences, in case they are ever needed again in future.
2. Align with your schools’ goals
The highest priorities for most schools are results and attainment, according to our research. From an IT perspective, the goals are high online safety and safeguarding. So, it’s essential to ensure any investment you make feeds directly into these objectives.
To get better value from your edtech investment, thoroughly assess and document the benefits of each new piece of equipment, as well as understand how it needs to be used day-to-day to work towards these objectives.
For example, will your new front-of-class technology help teachers improve their formative assessments processes? If so, outline how and why, so that it gets used in the most effective way across the board.
3. Plan ongoing training
No IT tool is valuable if teachers and staff feel intimidated or overwhelmed by it. As part of any new investment, it’s essential to plan initial and ongoing training to ensure teachers are getting the most from it.
Any change may be perceived as a drain on time, however, even if the change is designed to streamline workloads or improve learning techniques. So, communicate with staff from the outset — find out their overall goals and their concerns of changing the approach, then address them in specific sessions. If staff understand how these new technologies can help them, they will be invested in making the most of them in the classroom.
What’s more, your staff may serve as champions and potential trainers to those who are less convinced. Consider whether some staff have stronger IT skills than others — could these staff members train those less proficient?
Finally, check whether your edtech manufacturer, like Promethean, offers tech training and support before making your investment. Get in touch to arrange a free, online demo foryour school to see this training in action, and find out how an upgradable ActivPanel can deliver a return on investment year after year.
The State of Technology in Education Report 2020/21
Take a look at our most comprehensive education report to date. Half a decade of edtech, teaching and training trends — it’s a report like no other, from a year like no other.View the report