While technology potential when it comes to improving teaching and learning has never been greater, the fast-moving ICT landscape makes it hard for schools to keep up. So, what can you do to make sure your school is on the front foot when it comes to keeping your educational technology secure, cost-effective, and working hard for you?
Five things to consider when giving your IT setup a health check:
1. Look at what technology you have available.
Start by creating a detailed inventory of all your classroom/school technology. Then, consider what is working, what is failing, and how any technology is (and isn’t) being used. Establish how your existing IT is both helping and hindering teaching and learning at your school.
“While older generation tech is being used extensively in schools, newer technology – while widely available – is not being put to good use.”
The State of Technology in Education Report 2016-17
You should also document any existing warranties and identify what has/is about to run out. Make sure you know the model, age, and performance of each piece and when equipment needs upgrading. Look at where it might be more cost-effective to replace rather than repair (e.g. panel tech requires little if no maintenance compared to the cost of replacement lamps/bulbs/projector parts over the lifetime of the tech).
2. Assess the compatibility of all your current technology.
One of the best ways to maximise your existing technology is to ensure the cross-platform compatibility of all your devices and software. For example:
- Microsoft Office Suite benefits from Cross Platform Compatibility with Android, IOS. OSX and Windows devices
- Google Docs benefits from Cross Platform Compatibility with Android, IOS. OSX and Windows devices
- ActivPanel allows you to bring all devices into one place and works as a ‘hub’ of the classroom.
Review your technology and look to unify this wherever possible. Not only will this help to support collaboration, but it will also make complex IT systems easier to manage.
3. Assess the security of all your current technology.
More and more schools are embarking upon a digital transformation journey. But, with a rise of internet-enabled technologies comes an increase in cyber threats. To reduce the risk, look to update or retire outdated tech and systems. Not only are these legacy systems holding you back when it comes to getting the most out of your IT, but they can also leave you open to viruses and malware. You should also deploy an antivirus system that will cover all you different Operating Systems, and make sure that sound backup procedures are in place.
To keep your IT in good health, be sure you also undertake a systematic and regular review of online safety policies. Once done, establish monitoring and evaluation processes and make sure that staff, parents, and pupils are aware of the safety rules and expectations.
4. Establish whether you need any new technology
Consider which technology needs upgrading in the next 12 months; both at a classroom and school level. For example, do you require any new hardware (e.g. tablets, laptops, ActivPanels, etc.)?
Shockingly, a recent article by Elementary Technology reported that 46% of schools have either not upgraded their classroom display technology in the last five years, or do so ad-hoc as and when required.
“34% of respondents claimed their pupils cannot see their lessons clearly without darkening the classroom, and 39% thought their display could do with an upgrade.”
University of Huddersfield Study
So, too many teachers are putting up with ageing projectors and interactive whiteboards, despite the fact that the latest classroom displays have a massively positive effect on the classroom environment, with clarity of display driving up student motivation.
“The ActivPanel has also been a great solution for overcoming the daylight versus screen projection dilemma in classrooms. As a North/South facing school, we no longer have to use black-out blinds for content on the screens to be legible lots of natural daylight shines through which can only be a positive thing for student motivation”
Anthony Smith, Vice Principal, Walton High
When bringing in new technology, look at how best to maximise your investment. For example, consider whether there is any free software you could use (e.g. ClassFlow, apps, etc.). Where you are buying tech be sure to consider the total cost of ownership. A higher upfront cost could save you money in the long run if it requires less maintenance and has a favourable warranty. Likewise, technology such as the Promethean ActivPanel uses upgradeable Android technology. This means it is upgradable over time and extends the life of the ActivPanel.
5. Establish what training you need
One in five teachers have never received training on how to use interactive touchscreens and associated software; despite this being their most vital teaching tool. So, teacher training must become a priority if we are to maximise the performance of technology and how it affects teaching and learning.
“We need to ensure all teachers and learners have the access, the knowledge and the opportunity to use the latest education technology to deliver outstanding teaching and learning”
University of Huddersfield Study
When it comes to educational technology, conducting a regular health check is a must. Not only will this maximise the performance of your existing tech, but it can also help to lower your ongoing costs, make your systems more manageable, and – ultimately – improve your school’s educational experience and learning outcomes.