Rapid developments in technology are changing our educational landscape; and for schools, this change offers the opportunity to use modern tech to drive genuinely inspirational learning. But with students often more technology-savvy than educators, many teachers have some catching up to do.
The divide between what is possible and what is happening in schools is highlighted in a recent report (The State of Technology in Education Report: 2017/18). Today’s teachers believe that technology is a necessary part of everyday life and that this should be reflected in lessons. They also agree that technology is an excellent way to engage students using a medium familiar to them. But, despite this, only 5% of teachers feel that they receive full training and support when it comes to the educational technologies at their schools (a decrease of 2% from last year).
A lack of funds is thought to be the main reason for insufficient ICT training. Worryingly, even where teachers are comfortable using existing technology, against a backdrop of enforced cost savings they are concerned that, without regular upskilling, they could soon fall behind. Worse, with edtech key to levelling the playing field for students across the socioeconomic spectrum, for cash-starved schools any reduction in use could see the divide between rich and poor become further exacerbated.
So, at this incredibly challenging time, what can schools do to ensure educators have the necessary skills to harness edtech correctly?
1. Ensure teachers understand how technology can help them and their pupils
Technology in schools is still primarily used in STEM classes by STEM teachers, with too many teachers viewing ICT as an activity that is confined to the computer room. In response, digital champions must look to educate teachers on the day-to-day benefits of the technology-enabled classroom, across all subjects. Without such awareness, any investment in technology made by schools could go to waste.
For example, teachers need to know how edtech can be used to boost assessment targets, how it helps improve pupil behaviour, and how it can save valuable time. Take the Promethean ActivPanel – an award-winning device which allows teachers to incorporate existing content such as videos, PDFs, images, etc. into digital lessons in one easy solution. Bringing educational content and classroom interactivity to life, the ActivPanel is transforming how knowledge is created and shared.
2. Ensure teachers receive training on digital literacy
Concern about security is a key barrier to adoption when it comes to using technology in the classroom.
“I’d like to use it more, but security and e-safety are a barrier to me experimenting.”
Teacher, The State of Technology in Education Report: 2017/18
To help alleviate such fears, it’s vital that schools do everything they can to protect pupils and teachers. This includes:
- Ensuring there is an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) in place
- Carrying out regular training for staff and pupils to ensure that everyone is aware of the online safety rules and expectations
- Making sure teachers are acutely aware of issues such as online grooming, sexual exploitation, cyberbullying, and sexting and establishing robust reporting measures to respond to any incidents.
The more teachers are aware of the risks, and how to mitigate them, the more confident they will be when using tech in the classroom.
3. Invest in your IT staff
While teachers need training to keep up with advancements in technology, there is also growing concern from IT staff within schools about managing an influx of new and emerging technologies. So, to save costs, schools should look at investing in specific training for ICT staff who can then share this knowledge internally.
At the same time, while IT departments play a vital role in our technology-centred educational environment, their representation at a managerial level doesn’t always correspond. To help alleviate this issue, schools should consider giving ICT leaders a seat at the table. Reflecting how IT is perceived in the wider world, with this approach, IT leaders will be better placed to provide valuable insights to help schools overcome their budgetary, regulatory, training, and strategic challenges.
4. Access free ICT training resources
Finding the budget for ICT training is a recognised issue in most schools. To combat this problem, edtech providers must do more to help heads provide more practical training in their schools. For example, supporting teachers across the UK, ResourcEd is a free to use platform which provides a plethora of ideas and insights on how to build more engaging and collaborative learning environments using tech. This includes practical and straightforward tips that teachers can implement quickly and easily.
Today, just 3% of all educators don’t use technology very much, and don’t feel that it is necessary to. But while teachers do see the value technology brings to lessons, the impact of budgetary pressures are having on use cannot be underestimated.
Without proper training teachers won’t be able to deliver the modern educational experience pupils need, and ultimately this could damage their own careers and their pupils’ chances of future success. But, with a plethora of technology now available to educators – including VR, apps, robotics and cloud-based platforms – it’s almost impossible to train teachers on everything, even if the budget was available. In response, a more holistic approach is now urgently required.