Pedagogically driven purchasing in school ICT

Recently I was asked about revamping school ICT – what technology ‘should’ we be exploring to improve pedagogy, and learning in a school.  The question wasn’t about content delivery, or flashy content – but about general technology to support pedagogy (processes?).  It’s a really interesting question in part because the default position of many (not unreasonably) will be to say “the tech is falling apart/outdated – this is our shopping list”.  But whether we have an infinite budget, or (realistically) a minimal one – it’s the use that matters. I’ve been thinking a bit about moocs recently too, and I wonder if some of the school-relevant things below are relevant to them too…

Some questions I started to think about were:

If a school had 0 budget to revamp its technology, what could it do to improve it?

What Questions could we ask about purchases? “We use this for x, and that’s great pedagogically” or “we’d like to x in class for good pedagogy, and for that we’ll need this tech”

What Training needs will have to be met?

How is the tech (currently) being used?  How can we change/develop/build on that?

How could pedagogy drive technology purchasing?

At the moment, a lot (by no means all) school ICT is still driven by a model based on: “pupils sit individually, in rows” (or around the edges of a room to make monitors viewable). While there’s value to lessons in that sort of space, given the value of collaboration and dialogue and the increasing availability of ‘on demand’ (but temporary) access to the web, it probably shouldn’t be the primary model. Of course, it’s also cheaper to provide only 1/3 a class of computers, but it’s only worth it if they’re used.  Tablets are an interesting case for me because they’re clearly not designed for long periods of use (e.g. a whole lesson), but they might be nice for bits of collaboration (and 121 use?).

I wondered whether there might be a set of principles to guide decisions. I’m a bit sceptical about these sorts of thing normally, they’re often just a bit glib, vague, ignored, or markety…but anyway, I had some rough principles such as looking for ICT that:

  • Allows students to take ownership of their work, at home and school, and across the curriculum (pedagogic implications, also requires home access, program access(?), etc.)
  • Encourages students to work together to improve their ideas, to build on their work together
  • Encourages students to collaborate, to work together and develop their ideas
  • and that staff should be able to do the same – share ideas, tools, training, etc.

Of course, small things can have a big impact, for example, I worked at one school which stopped having all those horrible small local printers, and had big server printer/photocopiers instead, which printed cheaper (although they were rented and I don’t know the cost of that), involved less admin (for replacing cartridges, etc.) allowed scanning to the server, etc. Of course, there were also bigger issues when they broke down…

I’m also interested in things like how departments share ICT, and particularly whether or not old ICT can be repurposed – can old laptops be used (as thin clients?) for short-term, group based, research tasks in place of buying lots of tablets?  Could a laptop sit on each group of desks as a research station? Or even tied to the interactive whiteboard or other class-feedback system, as a research and display station?  It’d mean no access to files (except cloud based), but might be useful for engage in short complex research based tasks

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This Post Has 4 Comments

    • RJCanning says:

      Hi Simon

      I’m really impressed with your views on this topic. I’m a Director of ICT in a secondary school and agree entirely with putting the practice before the purchase. I’ve seen too many examples where resources are employed to implement the technology, only for it to stand largely idle. We’re about to start a tablet project with approx 50 students and the guiding principle is that they must enable demonstrable progress.

      I’m also working on a commercial venture web-based application to try to improve the progress of individual students through informed use of stored and real-time classroom data. I wonder if you’d be interested in taking a look at my site and giving me your views on this.

      Would be good to hear your thoughts.


      • Simon Knight says:

        Hi Richard, thanks for the comment – glad you like the post. Are you the Richard Canning of SWCH/my ex employer by any chance? Hope all’s well there if so!

        I like the concept, and the site’s nice – I guess a lot will depend on how it works practically though (and pricing!), be particularly interesting if it could help with seating plans (I used to hate doing ppt/doc ones) or/and the group-names could feed into other systems e.g. setting up group-moodle space for the users in any particular group for whatever activity was being done. I’d love to look again once it’s developed – do keep in touch! Email’s on my profile

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