Tag Archives: technology

Technical planning and implementation – whose responsibility is it?

It’s an all-to-common issue that new technology arrives in school, usually generating a buzz among early adopter staff and is proudly trotted out at open evenings and via various publications to impressed looks and knowing nods of approval, but what then?  In fact, what happens a month, term or even year later?  Recently I’ve been doing a lot of research into tablet computing and something that comes up again and again is that it’s very much a technology that relies on the user putting significant time into considering the possible uses that the gear can be put to.  But where does this come from?  If a school is fortunate, it will enjoy an element of the staff who actually embrace and revel in the opportunity to see how things can be done differently,however in many cases there are plenty of teachers and support staff for whom change has to be managed carefully to avoid fears of alienation or being considered somehow ‘preachy’.

So, do we leave it to the techno-enthusiasts to get things going?  In my opinion, not at all.  Enthusiasm gets you a long way, but it can make you blind to the real-world benefits of certain technology, and possible alternatives.  How can we motivate as many staff as possible to get thinking about the possibilities of new equipment?  Here are some of my thoughts:

1). Build a project team, but mix it up – ideally a blend of technical and teaching staff.  The whole team don’t have to be involved with the day-to-day running and reporting of the project but you’ll find answers easier to come by if there’s a broad skill set on tap.  Senior Leadership involvement would naturally be of a benefit but there’s plenty of opportunity to empower other staff by giving them the chance to make a difference and shape the future of the schools’ technological adoption.

2). Be transparent – don’t make a secret of trials or plans.  Make the mission statement and list of ongoing projects available to all, invite contributions and actively seek interaction outside of ‘the group’ – this will help to avoid the feeling that the projects could become ‘personal’.  Consider using ‘public’ forums, shared documents and public demonstration sessions to develop this.

3). Don’t be afraid to fail.   Personally, I’d rather spend £500 now to save £10,000 later.  Consider purchasing trial equipment and sharing it out where possible, but keep ‘prodding’ for feedback and results – if the equipment languishes in a drawer, move it on.

4). Stop ticking boxes.  Chances are, if your project begins with ‘we need iPads’ then you’re already on shaky ground.  Take a step back and look at what you’re trying to achieve and relate this back to real world goals.  If the equipment you’re considering purchasing cannot be evaluated against the schools’ wider aims, then the project is unlikely to be giving useful results when considered to be complete.

5). Be aware of factors outside of your control.  Let’s go back to ‘we need iPads’.  Okay, we hear you!  So what does this mean for infrastructure, deployment, lockdown and management?  Do we need to investigate the purchase of additional equipment, software or training to support the equipment?  If so, what is the TRUE cost of this and in what order should these be approached.

6). Factor in resistance.  There are a million reasons why staff, and even students can be indifferent to the introduction of technology – it can be viewed with suspicion, fear or even plain ol’ ignorance.   Users often need time, exposure and repeated encouragement to come to their own conclusions regarding the usefulness (or otherwise) of technology but sometimes these need challenging via the circulation of best practise and the showcasing of exceptional implementation elsewhere in the institution.

7).  The most important part?  Have a plan.   This shouldn’t really be a point on its own but it’s so important that it surely justifies its inclusion.  It’s not possible to evaluate technology using the same metrics year on year, things change and your projects should reflect this – think of it as a 360 degree appraisal!  Projects should be reviewed not just as a means of concluding them but to allow them to develop and morph into future projects – this WILL help those involved develop a greater understanding of how these things fit together.

As usual this is just my own personal opinion, but thanks as always for reading and I hope you found it useful!

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The transparency of technology…?

Why do I get angry with technology?  When it gets in the way.  The whole point of to deploying technology in the classroom SHOULD be to make people’s lives easier.  So why is the case that so often it doesn’t seem to happen?   There’s a few issues at play:

1). Unreliability.   For me, technology has to be reliable.  Therefore, if equipment cannot be trusted and staff have no confidence in it, it is destined to fail.  What can be done?  Repair/replace/retrain!  In many cases, if the system is genuinely faulty then pull it!  But is it the case that the users’ expectations don’t match what it was intended to do?  In that case retraining is the answer – what better chance to get genuine, real-world feedback than from talking to your users about their exact requirements and see how close the system is to serving them?

2). Inflexibility.  Technology should be flexible.  Humans behave in mostly predictable patterns, but one of the most fascinating thing about working with children is their ability to think with unclouded vision and mis-use (NOT often in a negative way) equipment.  If it’s a students’ instinct to use a system in a particular way, and it supports the educational goals, should we not consider how we can adapt to make this possible?

3). Transparency.  The best technology is the kit that you don’t realise you’re using.  When electric kettles were introduced, I’m willing to bet it was a big deal!  But I’m also willing to be that they didn’t require intensive training sessions.  Technology SHOULD be the same, and it’s heading there – look at the Nintendo Wii.  It’s the first games console to make controls intuitive, utilizing real-world motor skills to achieve tasks that would have required arbitrary button-presses via ‘traditional’ control methods.  Of course, using these skills to decapitate zombies is one thing and hopefully unlikely to have any real world benefit, but the Wii is also teaching people to cook, stay fit, even the basics of improving their mental agility with titles such as Big Brain Academy.

So, where does technology go from here?  The answer is ‘anywhere we want it to’.  As those tasked with supporting teaching and learning, technical and support staff need to spend time talking to students, teachers and each other and try to understand what people want to achieve.  Could the lesson take place without technology in the classroom?  In most cases, to a degree yes, but can technology be deployed to engage and enthrall students without the destabilising nature of intensive training all round?

Time will of course tell but technology is already moving in the right direction – it’s up to everyone involved to help deliver a future where its use becomes more transparent.  The next time you use a kettle, consider how neatly the technology suits the purpose!

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