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It’s unfortunately pretty common for schools to invest in technology having not considered what the desired learning outcomes are.

In a recent blog post I did on common problems primary schools experience with IT, I discovered that many techs bemoan a lack of knowledge and confidence that teachers have with the technology available to them.

At a governor’s event we held last year, we heard education consultant David Mitchell tell a story of a school he visited who had made a pyramid out of their iPad boxes. Not the empty ones though. The iPads were still in there. When he asked why, they answered “well we haven’t got any WiFi so we can’t use them”. That’s not directly related to learning, but it’s still a face palm-inducing moment, and a clear example of an investment being made without the implications being considered.

In a report last year, the OECD concluded that “technology does not improve pupil results”. Well no not on its own it doesn’t. You can’t just plop a kid in front of a laptop and abracadabra – A*. It’s the teaching and learning methods that utilise the technology to its full potential that will see an improvement in results.

What can be done?

Well the first thing to do is ask yourself all the right questions before making the investment. David Weston of the Teachers Development Trust has written a great article on this. Basically, it’s all about putting the desired learning outcomes first, above everything.

But even once you’ve successfully asked yourself and subsequently answered all of those questions, it’s absolutely vital that delivery and installation of your new kit isn’t the end of the story. What are you going to do with it once it’s in? And how are you going to do it?

CPD is the answer

Without consistent, outcomes-based CPD for your teachers, technology will not improve learning outcomes. It’s all well and good giving a teacher a tablet to use in their lessons – but how will they use it? Do they know how to use it? And even if they can open email or take a picture, what is this adding to their teaching skillset? Think about it – you wouldn’t just give a toddler a pencil and in a few months they’ll be writing a novel. Training, teaching and practice is required (we’re not comparing teachers to toddlers).

Eventually I’ll stop exploiting my teacher friend for the purposes of this blog – but I don’t think she’s going to read this, so I’ll carry on. In her last school she was given a laptop and an iPad. Out of genuine interest, I asked her what she used her iPad for: “I don’t really. But the kids have all got one so I’ve got one.” That is by no means a failing on my friend’s part. She’s got her own iPad, she knows how to use one. The failing is with the lack of training. She spent a year doing a PGCE in which she learned how to teach, not teach with technology. Why should the onus be on her to figure out how to use the iPad effectively in her lessons, when she’s still learning how to keep thirty 7 year olds under control?

Don’t forget the basics

There’s also the issue of actually knowing how to use the technology itself. While swathes of NQTs might be pretty nifty with an interactive whiteboard, a teacher of 20 years might be used to a more traditional way of doing things, and would be forgiven for not having a clue how to use a Promethean Activ Panel. Functional training and support is just as important as pedagogical when it comes to technology in the classroom.

The SAMR model

SAMR, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, is a model “designed to help educators infuse technology into learning”. It’s been reproduced in many forms, but we happen to like the coffee analogy, developed by Tim Holt and illustrated here by Jonathan Brubaker.

The SAMR Model

Without CPD, investing tech is like going to Starbucks and ordering a regular old cup o’ Joe instead of having one at home – a substitution for the traditional, with no functional change. A coffee for a coffee. So instead of writing things for the kids to copy out on a whiteboard, Mrs Smith writes the same stuff on an interactive whiteboard with the help of a £40 pen.

In an ideal world, you want to get to the Pumpkin-spiced latte end of the scale, where technology has completely redefined and transformed the way pupils learn in your school.

But even a latte is a step up – where technology is augmenting the learning experience, and you’ve put in some changes to processes and methods to aid this. Mrs Smith is still writing things on her whiteboard, but she’s now inviting children up to drag and drop her words to make grammatically correct sentences in English, or equations in Maths.

To really get the most out of any technology investment for the classroom, the teaching and learning process needs to be transformed and shaped by the technology. And how else are you going to do this but engage with the feet on the street, the soldiers in the trenches – your teachers?

Tech them up

That’s why structured and focused CPD needs to be initiated around technology. You should be engaging your teaching staff with the latest tech and how to use to shape the learning experience. It’s only by doing this and gathering regular feedback on the effectiveness of an implementation that technology in the classroom will truly succeed. Here’s another great post from the Teachers Development Trust on what makes CPD effective.

The objectives and desired learning outcomes will vary from school to school, depending on all manner of things including performance, class size and level of knowledge and experience in teaching staff. So it’s really up to you to figure out the hows and whats of technology training for your teachers.  But I hope this has inspired you to ask the question “Could training up our teachers in tech transform the way we’re educating and engaging our students?”

Cool stuff I mentioned in this blog post you should check out

Tim Holt’s blog on the SAMR model –

Dr Rueben Puentedera’s slides on SAMR –

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