Is technology delivering in schools? Our panel debates

The Guardian reports that from interactive whiteboards that aid language learning to virtual reality headsets that demonstrate Newton’s laws of motion, technology has the potential to yield strong results in the classroom. And yet the benefits are far from universal. Some teachers struggle to get the most out of expensive gadgetry, meaning schools risk investing thousands of pounds in hi-tech apparatus that fails to deliver, as reported by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2015.

Meanwhile, school technology budgets are falling. The average ICT budget for 2017-18 is forecast to be £13,800 for a primary school, a 4% decline year on year, and £58,230 for secondaries, a 7% fall, according to the British Educational Suppliers Association (Besa).

“We’ve gone through 10 years of device fetishism,” said panellist Donald Clark, founder of technology in education company PlanB Learning. He said schools had been investing in tablets for their pupils, despite evidence indicating that they are poor teaching tools.”

Success depended on the context in which technology was used, said panel member John Galloway, an advisory teacher who used technology with children with special educational needs. If the iPad was used for the wrong activities – such as writing or coding – it would give poor results, he said. Used in the right way, however, it could be a powerful teaching tool. “One of biggest barriers to technology adoption is teachers being given the time to be trained to use it,” he added. Research published by Besa in January revealed that about 60% of teachers had made training in technology one of their key aims for this year.

Naureen Khalid, a school governor and co-founder of @UkGovChat, a Twitter forum for school governors, said governors are demanding rigorous evidence before splashing out on new technology. “Schools are poor and funding isn’t going to get any better. We are custodians of public money and as a governor I can’t commit to doing a trial and then writing it off.”

The panel discussed whether a centralised procurement approach – whereby an overall body collected evidence on the educational benefits of different devices – could help streamline the process. But concerns were expressed that some teachers might struggle to trust technology recommended by another teacher and would insist on trying it out themselves.

As schools face yet more budget cuts, governors and heads will have to make some stark choices – but technology is certain to play a part in the classroom of the future. And while there was much debate on how decisions should be made, it seems that finding ways for teachers to share information about what works will be key.

Read the full article Is technology delivering in schools? Our panel debates

Have you had adequate training? Does new technology put you off? Is it essential in todays classrooms? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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