ICT Use Divides Schools

Last night I was handed an article from the latest copy of the SEN Magazine www.senmagazine.co.uk which we read at home with both a professional and personal interest to try to keep up.

The article is very short (scanned into this post below) but unusual in this magazine because the piece has an ICT focus and comment from both NAACE Chief Exec Mark Chambers & the British Education Suppliers Association BESA on a critical issue in schools.

Typically it’s another flavour of the ‘digital divide’ theme but critically it is absolutely right in saying, I paraphrase, that where technology is least loved & appreciated you’ll find poor infrastructure (cables & clever boxes) and little hope in ICT as an enabler at leadership level & I’d add, almost by default, class teacher level too.

 This conjures up a rubbish Christmas tree in my mind.
Nice baubles - pity about the tree
Nice baubles – pity about the tree
This following scenario isn’t unheard of

A school buy a class pack of iPads and then try to hang these new ‘shinies’ onto their aged school network. It’s an unwelcome surprise when their investment appears to lack much impact over time as people get fed up with slow speeds online, wi-fi unavailability, time consuming app management, printing fever and more. Kit starts to go home and usage drops.  School leaders begin to wonder; “What can we do to make people use this kit on a daily basis?”

Why might this happen?

Nice baubles-pity about the tree.  The impact of the ‘boring cabley bits’ not being right is far reaching.  We know cables & clever boxes are sometimes overlooked for understandable reasons like the fact they’re invisible and parent’s can’t see them like they can see a shiny iPad.  Let’s be honest. “School Gets Latest Super Router 1.9” doesn’t exactly get parents’ juices going compared to “1-1 iPads in Year 6”.

Time for a reality check par’dner

  1. There have been times when the education ICT Support/solutions industry has been like the wild west. Schools made decisions in good faith and were often guided by wider LA strategy that may have been a compromise for their setting.  Where school leadership was more confident they’d go independent with ICT support and sometimes it’d work and sometimes it wouldn’t but either way the responsibility fell to the school to sort it with the service provider.
  2. Schools who opted to stay with local authority infrastructure support did/do, I’m told by some Heads, still feel a level of reassurance that no matter what the Authority will always be there to be accountable.  If things aren’t ideal in school then it’s because they’re with the Authority *rolleyes*.  It’s a challenge to avoid inadvertently slipping into a semi-comfy position of learned helplessness as opposed to grabbing the thing by the baubles when you know deep down that change is needed root & stem.
  3. Not being able to speak techie has always been a bug bear for many school leaders. It’s not what they joined up for.   The answer to this is to communicate in scenarios.  “I want all all our children to be able to easily keep evidence of….”  A good provider can interpret, understand and also offer scenarios based on experience that maybe school has not arrived at yet.  If they can’t speak so you can understand what they’re offering or bring ideas and innovations based on experience – find someone else who can.
  4. TRUST. Some schools have had quite a run of having their trust, shall we say, abused?  It’s a horrible word to have in the same sentence as ‘schools’.  Trust is something that an official framework can’t magically create. It comes with people doing what they say they’ll do and maybe doing a bit more besides without soliciting a red carpet thank you for doing it. It’s a human thing in my mind and honestly you should get a good feeling from every point of contact with a  supplier – not just a ‘front man’.
  5. ICT and it’s boring invisible bits are only one part of a large, complex and pressured environment in school. However, done right it could really help everyone shine.
Who’s out there?

It’d be pretty crass to name names here but do email me if you like and I’ll pass you details of at least one thinking company doing, in my opinion, a class leading job in the north west and beyond. [Update 6/11/14: I’ve had a re-think & decided life’s too short & people are too busy so here’s a nugget for you: Virtue Technologies ]

Here’s the SEN Magazine Article

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