To deliver a relevant educational experience in a digital age – one that meets the needs of modern learners, teachers and employers – investing in educational technology is essential.
Schools across the UK are turning to technology to augment traditional teaching methods and do things smarter. But finding the right tools to set schools up for the long run can be a challenge. School budget cuts and decreased government funding mean that almost one in three council-run secondary schools are now in deficit, according to the Education Policy Institute.
So, finding the budget to invest in technology can prove tricky. What’s more, with a plethora of choices on the market, it can be difficult to differentiate between what is just a fad and what will enjoy longevity.
Making smart edtech choices
Budgetary constraints and austerity measures don’t mean that schools should abandon investment in new technologies. But they must invest in the right technologies.
In response to the financial reality of modern teaching, it’s vital that educational leaders choose products that support pedagogical approaches. And to do this, schools must assess the benefits that each piece of equipment brings, as well as understand how it will be used in the classroom.
Maximising ROI from the most common educational technology
Software can help with a vast range of educational tasks, and in a time of tight budgets, investing in cloud software is a compelling option – particularly as this comes with fewer upfront costs than new hardware.
But not all software is created equal, and schools often spend money on software that turns out to be poorly managed, so you have to be careful where you invest.
To ensure ROI from your educational software, put tracking and management processes in place to identify which software is being regularly utilised. You should also avoid purchasing software without a high-level goal in mind, or any key metrics to track success.
When evaluating a potential purchase, schools should establish whether the software…
- is compatible with their existing IT infrastructure
- can be paid for through a monthly subscription
- will require software upgrades – and whether these are paid-for or free
Without careful consideration, the costs could soon mount up, or the software will quickly go out of date.
It’s also essential to find out if there is training available from the software supplier. Without a learning program or at least a detailed induction, it is unlikely that teachers will even use the software in their lessons, which would mean you don’t see any long-term success from your investment.
Teachers have long used front-of-class displays to share knowledge and illustrate complex concepts.
In 2019, front-of-class technology remains popular, with over a quarter of educators identifying it as a critical growth area for their schools (as stated in the 2018/19 State of Technology in Education report).
However, if teachers are using front-of-class tech just to do the same things they used to do on blackboards, that won’t deliver ROI.
On the other hand, tools such as the Promethean ActivPanel – designed by teachers, for teachers – can foster collaboration and active learning by transforming ‘traditional’ classrooms into environments infused with imaginative, interactive experiences.
By capturing student attention, such technology helps to inspire student collaboration, creativity, engagement and critical thinking. And, ultimately, it boosts those all-important results.
Crucially, with front-of-class displays like the ActivPanel, schools also benefit from a vast, ever-expanding world of educational apps, and the ActivPanel specifically boasts the world’s first upgradeable Android-based interactive display, with free remote firmware updates to further maximise ROI.
Tablets and iPads
Many teachers are using iPads and other tablet devices in the classroom to enhance their existing lesson delivery and better engage pupils. But without training and guidance, tablets can become little more than expensive notebooks. There is little value in turning analogue tasks into digital ones just for the sake of it.
To maximise ROI, teachers must be given the time and resources to learn strategies to differentiate their teaching methods using a range of tablet-friendly tools.
When it comes to ROI, educational technology purchased for ‘technology’s sake’ rarely delivers the long-term value your school needs. So, when you’re outlining your next tech investment, you should consider the following:
- What type of learning environment you’d like to create within your school over the next few years
- How your tech investment will support your school’s strategy and objectives
- How technology can be used to reflect changing teaching methods
- How you can add value to your existing ICT
- Whether you can access flexible pricing or payment options
- How any tech investment will support your staff (e.g. free them up from the burden of marking, help improve student behaviour, etc.)
- How confident your staff are in using technology, and what training you need to provide to support them
- Whether your staff understand the benefits of edtech, and, if not, how you can turn them into digital advocates
- Whether you need any additional resources to make successes out of your tech investments
- The long-term costs of any investment (e.g. regular updates, licences, etc.)
- Establishing a plan and a set of processes to ensure your edtech rollout is a success
Classroom technology can make lessons more engaging for pupils, and it has the power to improve learning and retention.
But schools must utilise their budget wisely and make fully informed decisions – because, without a strategic approach, the novelty will soon wear off, leaving schools with expensive technology that fails to support their desired educational outcomes.