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How to stretch the tech budget

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Technology has long played an important part in the way schools educate their pupils, but it’s increasingly essential to their overall strategic goals. That’s according to the State of Technology in Education Report 2019/20.

Almost 40% of SMTs say they want to use technology to enhance their school’s collaboration (nearly twice as many as two years ago), and nearly half want to use tech to boost engagement (up around 35% in the same period). 

Yet one issue remains firmly on the agenda—budgets. As we’ve seen each year, most school leaders agree that budgets will make it difficult for their schools to realise their strategic objectives. If technology is higher on the agenda, the cost-effectiveness and longevity of investments will be paramount. 

Here are four questions to ask before making any new edtech investment:

1. Does it support your schools’ goals?

Investment in a top-range piece of equipment, like a 3D printer for example, may look impressive but does it actively contribute towards your school’s strategic goals? In reality, can pupils regularly get stuck in, use it and learn from it?

The biggest influences on their strategies, according to SMTs, are pupils’ needs and the curriculum, so it’s a good idea to map each potential investment to these and your other strategic goals. 

To stretch the tech budget, therefore, schools should thoroughly assess the benefits of each new piece of equipment, as well as understand how it will be used day-to-day. If learning techniques are not adapted to these new technologies, the investment may see little return.

2. Can it support teachers’ workloads?

Our annual report has identified that over 80% of teachers believe that workload is contributing to high levels of stress in schools. This up almost 20% from last year. Daily tasks such as marking, lesson planning, assessment and reporting are particularly time-draining.

Luckily, there are technologies available that can tackle these issues directly, as well as meeting schools’ other strategic needs. A Promethean ActivPanel, for example, can boost interactive learning as well as streamlining reporting and feedback processes for teachers. So, if your investment can go some way to addressing this growing problem as well as meeting your school’s wider goals, your tech budget will be stretched twofold.

3. Can your infrastructure and resources support it? 

Before making a weighty tech investment, ensure your IT infrastructure and network can support it. Schools notoriously have problematic broadband and network speed, so loading a whole fleet of interactive devices, such as tablets or smartphones, may actually slow down learning rather than accelerate it. Adding one interactive front-of-class display, for example, may lead to better use of your budget. 

What’s more, some low-budget technologies may require additional resources. VR, for example, has become more accessible and is increasingly popular from a learning perspective. However, the cost-effective headsets still require handheld devices, so either pupils must bring their own or the school is obliged to make an additional investment. If you’re unsure, perhaps speak to your IT manager.

4. Have you planned a training scheme?

No tech investment is worthwhile if there’s a significant roadblock to adoption. 

Any change in processes may be perceived as a drain on time, even if the change is designed to streamline workloads or learning techniques. Make sure you’ve considered how to communicate the clear benefits, as well as providing ongoing training and support to your teachers and other staff.

If more of your staff understand how these new technologies can genuinely help them, they will be invested in making the most of them in the classroom and for their own administrative processes. What’s more, they may serve as champions and potential trainers for staff who are less convinced. You could also check whether the edtech manufacturer offers tech training and support before making your investment. 

So, if your school is looking to invest more heavily in technology, as is the trend for the coming year, these pointers could help maximise the budget before and after it’s accounted for. For more insight into the views of classroom teachers and educational leaders, download the latest The State of Technology in Education 2019/20 report.

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