The education secretary needs to be very clear that the ‘technology’ the DfE seek as part of their ‘education revolution’. Are they looking for an Edutech platform that supports teachers or just more stumbling white elephants?
Teachers will use anything and everything that helps us to share knowledge and experiences with students. We are masters of manipulation, can create lessons from thin air and resources that not only illustrate our point but match the needs of each individual student in our class. I would like to see the DfE recognise that like a good sales person, a teacher can sell almost anything and to support us with our pedagogical practice, Edutech systems don’t necessarily need to go anywhere near the classroom.
I know that impressive robots and 3D laser goggles inspire anyone regardless of age or education. As a Design and Technology teacher and school leader, I have been privileged to share enough eureka moments with students over the years to know that it is not the once a term ‘spectacle lesson’ that shapes so much of their experience. Creating lifelong learners is rooted in positive experiences and building a solid relationship with the education system. It is being taught by well equipped and well supported staff who can facilitate learning at the highest level day in-day out.
Its great that the DfE is open to the tech industry and all they have to offer, they are going to be shown some excellent bits of kit because it exists. I’m an enthusiastic tech-geek and qualified Design and Technology teacher that runs a tech startup, but my experience with EduTech is not a positive one. I have seen the havoc that the kind of open welcome you are suggesting has previously created. My fear is that if this ‘new’ initiative is not handled differently, a new generation of school leaders will find themselves in that same situation.
Beware sir of treating the tech industry as Willy Wonka. With so much choice and not enough focus, I fear the juicing room will await yet again. I implore you Mr Hinds, next time you are in a school ask to see the IT Technicians office. You won’t have to look too hard to find the piles of white elephant bones of short lived and ill-fated IT projects, or the financial footprints that still dog many schools. All of which has led the education industry to become extremely suspicious of initiatives based in ‘new’ technology and IT, to the detriment of our students.
The well respected writer, education trainer and facilitator Mike Hughes, tells us teachers to ‘tweak to transform’. I paraphrase slightly here but he promotes; not throwing the baby out with the bath water and effectively demonstrates how small changes to classroom practice can mean big differences for students. One example might be the humble school trip. On the decline because they are often onerous to organise, school trips offer students unparalleled opportunity into put leaning into practice. A small change could be to develop software that streamlines the process of organising a school trip. The resulting big change could be that a student has an experience that shapes their future life-choices.
Surely, it would be more productive to properly identify these seemingly small issues in education first, then ask the technology industry to address them using their expertise. Think of them as ‘quick wins’ or tweaks, and there are hundreds of small issues that dog the education system.
Rather than asking the technology industry; what have you got? How about we tell them what we want! Commission Edutech that we actually need, rather than what we are told we need.
Technology and specifically IT, are merely tools that used in the right way by the right people with the right skills add value. Technology does not yet do the teaching in a classroom, teachers do! Technology conceived for the wrong reasons, badly thought out and not fit for purpose, can be extremely divisive and damaging. But, harnessing technology for the right reasons can have an extremely positive impact on teachers and students alike.
For the sake of those that will have to finance it, support it and use it. Lets put a bit more thought into this before blindly letting tech inside the black box once more.