The students in the classrooms of tomorrow will be our tech innovators of the future, and head teachers must equip schools with the IT infrastructure and technology to handle the growing needs – and expectations – of their pupils, whilst also ensuring it’s affordable and secure for everyone.
We are already seeing great strides in tech innovation within education. 2018 research by Ranstad Education highlights that the schools that have already adopted the latest tech do have higher pupil engagement, as classrooms are beginning to reflect the life that pupils have outside of school. It predicts that lessons will become more creative and project-based, with more interactive content to engage pupils – and much of this can be aided through the use of schemes such as BYOD (bring your own device).
BYOD schemes are found to allow pupils to feel responsible for their own devices, preparing them for more technologically advanced workplaces and making them active information-seekers; it also encourages pupils to work cooperatively. Lessons will move from being teacher-directed to pupil-driven, as teaching become less about information transfer and more about giving pupils the tools to sift through vast amounts of data to find the knowledge they need. Having their own devices will mean pupils can take charge of their learning, giving teachers more of a facilitator’s role as they pose the questions for them to research. Working collaboratively sets pupils up for better communication skills and project work that prepares them for the workplace. Despite the clear benefits, these schemes still have points that schools must consider and respond to.
For example, welcoming a host of new and different devices into the school can compromise cybersecurity, something that is of utmost importance in a school environment. Everyone from academy trusts to head teachers and schools as a whole must be aware of new problems that arise with the constantly changing digital world, and act accordingly with companies that can organise the installation of safe IT infrastructure. Without, the risk of BYOD schemes could be larger. Schools must consider IT security and digital advancement close together when making decisions about how pupils should learn in the future.
Educators must enforce a strict policy of what kinds of devices are brought onto school premises, where they are purchased from and at what cost. Insurance must be considered, and all of this must be weighed up against the significant benefits that BYOD can offer both pupils and their educators. Schools must also consider the cost to the family of the child, and ensure that children are not left out due to financial reasons, by organising monthly payments schemes and allowances for low income families.
We must also focus on delivering tech advancement in the classroom that improves the lives of our teachers, who are often burdened by overcomplicated admin processes. Technology can automate parts of the marking process, help teachers to design tests more easily, and keep better track of pupils’ work. Teachers can also give immediate feedback, important for the fast-paced pupils of the internet age. The more time we give to teachers, the more time is given to the pupils – who will be more engaged if we give them the devices and the digitally connected education they need. According to Randstad, 75% of teachers feel that their workload has become unmanageable, so allowing pupils access to their own technology – and teachers too – will ease the strain, and modernise the classroom alongside it.
Gone are the days of the dark, stuffy IT suites of the past. With pupils in many schools across the country already accessing netbooks, tablets and some even permitted to use smartphones for certain tasks, access to learning online is no longer limited to a single classroom.
Educators must recognise the need for technology to enable learning, the potential for it, and what kinds of products and services can be offered in response to the growing need. The importance of digitally savvy schools cannot be overstated. Equipping classrooms for the tech innovators of tomorrow should be a priority.