The future of education technology and IT in schools

It’s no surprise that the education sector is constantly evolving and changing to keep up with the demands of the 21st Century, and to address what we believe students need to be equipped with to thrive in life after education. When we look back over the last 10 or so years, so much has changed; no longer are we blown away by a whole suite of Mac computers and technology gadgets or scrambling to try out the new interactive whiteboard in the classroom. These once ‘exciting’ technologies are very much now common place, with most children already being accustomed with how to use them.

However, with so many resources and tools available to schools, how do we work out which ones are going to have a truly valuable impact on students’ learning? Surely it would make sense to have one overarching advisory board, or a policy to advise schools on their use of IT and education technology? Yet, it seems that the Department for Education (DfE) hasn’t really provided much support or strategy when it comes to spending around education technology and schools IT.

However, is this all about to change?

In consideration of an article by Merlin John, it appears that the DfE has held a number of meetings with various education representatives and stakeholders in recent weeks with the aim of providing guidance and support when it comes to using technology in schools and colleges.

After believing that this guidance should be a priority, the education minister has given the responsibility to senior civil servant Emran Mian who said: “We have been more absent in this space than we should have been, but there has been a shift in leadership in the DfE and we have had a very clear and strong steer from the Secretary of State. Now there is alignment between political leadership and civil service leadership on this issue.”

Anyone would be right to be sceptical, after all, there has been a clear lack of guidance over the last few years, leaving schools and teachers to work out which technologies function best in the classroom and whether there is clear value and impact on students’ learning.

Over the last couple of years, budgets have tightened and spending pressures around the UK IT sector have meant that schools have been downgrading their IT investments, as reported by BESA in its ICT in Education 2016 research. More than half of schools have identified securing funds to spend on IT as a key challenge over the next 12 months (55 per cent of primary schools and 56 per cent of secondary schools).

And in addition to these investments, the lack of standardised support and guidance around education technology has meant that IT leaders have continued to record a significant proportion of teachers requiring training in the use of digital content. Even more schools have identified the need to ensure teachers have adequate training in the use of IT resources (57 per cent of primary schools and 60 per cent of secondary schools).

However, if the DfE states exactly what they are going to do and outlines the steps school should take when it comes to implementing technology to aid and improve learning, then perhaps all hope is not lost.

There are people that are welcoming the shift, as Merlin mentions in his article. Mark Chambers, education technology expert, says: “Now at last — and I need to add just in time — we might have an initiative that can make the difference to young people’s entitlement to a real and relevant educational experience that truly equips them for life, for work and for leisure. I just might feel like starting my career again!”

Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel. Clearly education technology is here to stay in the 21st Century learning environment, so let’s watch this space…