I swore I wasn’t going to get ‘political’ when I setup my own blog but the recent announcement from Education secretary Damian Hinds is something I just feel I need to comment on.
Firstly I have to wonder whether Mr Hinds, or anyone at the DfE for that matter, has even bothered to look beyond the end of their desks because I can guarantee you that there are already a lot of very good schools using technology in immersive and engaging ways and getting very good results. Simply search for Apple Distinguished Schools and you will see what I mean. Putting my Apple Bias aside for a moment there are also a great number of schools and education institutions that are using things such as notebooks and google suite to great affect as well. I find myself asking the question: when did they take a look at such schools and think, how can we use this practice? I fear the answer is simply never.
Apparently, and I am quoting this from an article on the TES, (https://www.tes.com/news/hinds-calls-edtech-revolution-schools)
“The DfE listed the five “key opportunities” where the tech sector could “create a step change in education, improving teaching and slashing workload”:
- Teaching practices to support access, inclusion and improved learning outcomes for all;
- Assessment processes, making assessment more effective and efficient;
- Methods for delivery of teacher training and development by upgrading educator support so they can learn and develop more flexibly;
- Administration processes to reduce the burden of “non-teaching” tasks;
- Solutions to lifelong learning to help those who have left the formal education system to get the best from online learning.
Upon my initial reading of these points I was quickly able to go down the list and give simple answers to most of the points, namely:
- iPad (Great accessibility features, a lot of schools already doing it)
- Nearpod, Kahoot!, Plickers, Explain Everything
- As a government, you gave the profession a lot of these mundane tasks, don’t now sell technology as the golden-bullet to get rid of them.
Now before we go any further, I know what your thinking: A) well it isn’t as simple as one word answers for these things A) technology costs.
Let’s start with point B, which seems odd, but hopefully it’ll make sense later: Yes technology costs. It is expensive. I am a signed up Apple fan but even I’ll be the first to admit that the tech is expensive. Therefore we have to make it worth it. There has been lots of talk about how interactive whiteboards were actually a waste of money and didn’t actually do much, if anything, to improve teaching. How could they ever have been expected to? My experience was, of being given this new board and then zero training on it. Absolutely nothing! Technology was shoe-horned into nearly every classroom up and down the country and very little training was given to cover the benefits of it at all. I often speak to teachers today who didn’t know that you could do infinite cloner on Smartboard, or how to make the screen on your laptop extend to the whiteboard. How has this been allowed? This is why Smartboards were seen as a failure: namely because the companies selling them made loads of money putting them in and then the teachers were left to try and work it out – sound familiar?
This time I fear the approach is not correct again and if we are not extremely careful history will repeat itself. The wording of the announcement struck me. Namely that Mr Hinds has challenged the edtech sector to create the revolution – not the educators themselves. Now the government may have spoken to many educators and schools, indeed I hope they did, but there seems to have been very little consultation with schools that use technology already. As practitioners we are constantly learning from each other – why not let us do just that? Point out those schools of excellence, flag them up and let others go and see what they are doing and how it can be adapted – oh, and make the money available for that to happen.
(Now this is the really cynical bit, so you might want to skip this paragraph.) Something else that nobody seems to have called the Government out on is the timing of this announcement. It could be purely coincidence that this has been announced less than a week after Apple was valued as the worlds first trillion dollar company, it could be, but it doesn’t look like it from where I am sitting. With Brexit looming (incase you’d forgotten) doesn’t it seem a little too well timed that our Government are now courting the worlds most valuable company and using education as the excuse?
Now back to point A) If you’ve got this far your probably still thinking about money and the fact that it really isn’t as simple as just dumping iPads in the classrooms. You’re quite right, it really isn’t. Schools need money, that much is certain. To me, what this announcement really needed to be was that the government were making money available to schools for technology, or for the training on how to use such technology (I know there is massive debate about school budgets and pay and that is for people much cleverer than me).
What I really hoped for was that the DfE would realise that there is already very good practice going on in their schools and look at how this can be beneficial to all. I hoped that if they felt the need to court big technology companies that it could be in the fashion of seeking lower product prices or deals for schools or educators – thereby making the technology more accessible. I know, through my own work as an ADE that there are a lot of Apple Schools in the country that share their knowledge and training for FREE and I am sure that there are a number of other institutions that use other products and share their knowledge as well.
Yes children need to be using technology and they need to be able to see how it can help and improve their learning but so do the teachers. Don’t forget, we were told that interactive whiteboards would change the world….