In a time of rapid technological development and some of the most exciting innovations that history has ever produced, amazing new possibilities are finding their way into our schools. In particular, the education sector is experiencing the most significant shift that will see positive change in everything it will do in the years to come.
An increase in equitable access to technology has already begun to really break down and reconfigure the traditional model of teaching and learning. Social, personalised and mobile learning, wall-sized screens, and immersive virtual reality are now just around the corner. Bigger questions will be asked, new and more profound answers will be discovered. The death of email will see memos distributed over unified communications networks. Through technology, teachers will become even more effective conduits to higher order thinking and costs will be drastically reduced in administering all of their outcomes and deliverables. New benchmarks in student concept uptake through enhanced engagement and interaction will be achieved. Full mobile content deployment over designated and BYOD platforms will be realised. It has never been more exciting to be in amongst it than it is today.
As we continue to map the future of technology in schools, we broaden the conversation to an extended panel of those at the cutting edge. The developers, integrators and drivers of innovation in schools right now discuss some of the work that is left to do in order to determine how close we really are to teaching and learning in the most exciting and evolved classroom environments the world has ever seen.
There is absolutely no question that everywhere we look in the school today, we see undeniable progress. It is truly amazing to see how far we have come in such a relatively short span of time when we consider the school environments in which we ourselves were pupils.
Mobility Sales Director Lincoln Goldsmith, from Acronis, reflects on a recent visit to his high school.
“It was incredible to see how much the school had transformed since I was last there. When I was a student walking those halls, I was carrying around those thick hardcover textbooks covered in plastic, between classes I stacked them in my old fashioned locker. Walking through that school today, you can see that the school now has something like 300 wireless access points around the campus and at the end of most of the buildings, there are brand new computer charging lockers. Everything is centralised under ICT so there are no longer any televisions and videos in the classrooms. Instead, what they have is access to educational content through streaming from a central repository. More and more we will see schools migrate to that end of the scale to really embrace technology and there are plenty of schools out there that want to embrace technology in the same way – they just don’t yet know how.”
The road ahead brings us a multitude of learning opportunities and viable possibilities. Getting it to all work together more or less in harmony will be the key which makes integration, compliance and governance arguably one of today’s most significant hurdles. Once these issues are negotiated, the future becomes much brighter. The teething pains and difficult questions that schools are now faced with will be relatively distant speed bumps in our rearview mirror.
Looking at the average technology user in a school, the typical student is, on average, bringing with them 2.5 BYOD devices. This means integration is going to be even more important. Digitised classrooms mean that students are able to communicate and collaborate more globally, and the modes of communication are changing too. Document Management specialist Mike Dooner, from Konica Minolta, agrees. “Email is dead. If you look at what kids are using to communicate with each other, it is anything but email these days. As Social Media becomes the norm and users, both students and parents alike, are already doing most of their communicating over these platforms, so schools are going to need to start looking at the platforms they use to communicate with their communities.”
Bridging the gap through training
As the classroom becomes increasingly digitised, there will be a strong reflection of the same dynamic outside of the school, where kids will be coming to class as some of the most proficient users of the software and devices in the room. In the short-term, this means there will be a learning curve on the part of the average classroom teacher whose natural fallback position is to see most technology as a ‘time-sucker’ rather than a ‘time saver’.
Lenovo’s Education Industry Leader Paul Hutchings explains, “The world is changing at an exponential rate and it’s only going to get faster. Kids going through school now will not know or remember a world without the Internet. Our children will never know the contempt of running with a Discman. It’s a completely different world in which we operate, so the expectations of the student are going to be different and we have all seen some trepidation around that. However, I genuinely believe that in today’s classroom there isn’t any real intent to be anti-technology, it’s just a matter of not being comfortable with it and seeing the value in it enough to allow oneself to really get comfortable with it. Let’s be fair, some teachers would argue that technology for them is an impediment in the classroom – and who could blame them? If you look at what happened specifically after the Digital Education Revolution, without any ongoing value added training you could quite conceivably have thousands of potentially capable users using high quality laptops as typewriters. Any time there’s a problem, it’s easy to fall back into the old paradigm. What we need to do is help teachers understand how they can augment, modify or redefine that task, if it’s appropriate.”
David Saltmarsh, Educational Evangelist at JAMF Software, agrees. “The average teacher today isn’t going to necessarily feel secure or confident in a technological environment. This is what we are working to change. We are finding that 10-20 per cent of teachers really ‘get it’ straight off the bat. Naturally these are the early adopters. It will typically be the other teachers who need extra support.”
Opening of Information
The school of the future will have implemented a strategy for tiered access to information and services at various stakeholder levels. Schools that are now looking more closely at how they can make their technology as accessible to all user groups as it possibly can, are that much closer to realising the future. For schools that are just starting that journey, the information and sharing also needs to be secure and accountable.
Kimbali Harding, Director of Education from Musica Viva agrees. “Accessibility is one of the most important boxes to tick for technology providers to schools. Resources and products have to be accessible to all, while at the same time recognising that each school right now has an individual level of need. Another box to tick is that the technology you choose will increasingly need to be multi-platform.”
Device versus Delivery
Now more than ever before, questions around the prolific use and access of tech devices that students will use in the classroom of the future are part of the conversations teachers are having around the future of technology in schools. Will the device diminish the value of the work or effort on the part of the student to achieve the learning outcome? Does the future of technology in your school relate to the ‘device’, or is it about the delivery model your teachers use in the classroom?
Paul from Lenovo says, “When calculators were brought in, it was stipulated that calculators were going to spoil math learning outcomes for children. Realistically, however, it was about finding the right application for that calculator. Times tables don’t disappear; we still learn that as a fundamental skill. Today if you have a look at what has come out of computer science and mathematics through quadratic equations and beyond, you can clearly see that what we are able to achieve today is phenomenally greater through the use of that tool.”
Richard Ashley, National Manager of Government and Education Solutions, Konica Minolta, explains, “With the kinds of applications both students and teachers now have available to them, schools will be looking for more flexibility from their providers, so it’s about taking a view that enhanced access can still mean that budgets and cost allocation can be distributed appropriately to individual users and departments. It’s exciting to get school users to think differently about the services they’ve got and start thinking beyond the ‘device’. More than ever, the stakeholders in the schools will be enjoying the benefits of the services they want without having to understand the science behind the inner workings of that technology.”
The nature of change that technology brings can, however, seem disruptive to the equilibrium that teachers aim to achieve in their classroom management strategies year in, year out. As the classroom of the future begins to take shape, inevitably there will be some adjustment on the part of the teachers to adopt their strategy and commit to learning as well. The technology that schools acquire today should ultimately be complementary to facilitating the student’s superior learning experience. Should we not ask: How will it improve the learning experience or the way our students engage with their learning?
Saltmarsh interjects, “Instructional technology has been used in education for almost 30 years and so many initiatives have started with tons of excitement but then the excitement fizzles out after two years because traditionally, as useful as the latest technology can be, often you will see the use of devices struggle to move beyond the teachers known as the early adopters. In adopting new technology devices into their classrooms, deep down, teachers will be asking the question ‘How is this going to save me time and how is this going to reduce chaos in my classroom?’”
Paul from Lenovo agrees. “The computer, the laptop, the tablet, and where they are each going on an evolutionary scale are exponentially greater insofar as what they can deliver but it’s all about asking where it is appropriate and where can we add functional improvement to the lesson through the device.”
That concludes Part 2 of this article. Part 3 of the article will be available in the next Issue of ETS, as we continue to map the future of technology in our schools.
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