Over the last year I have lost count of the number of times I have heard someone say to me that their school, or a school they know has purchased X number of (usually, but not exclusively) iPads but they weren’t sure why, they didn’t know what the goal was and they weren’t sure what they were supposed to be doing with them.
A number of schools buy a test set of devices, maybe even as many as 50 or 100, and when you ask their staff what the next move is, they don’t know.
These examples do not enhance the teaching and learning in a school and it is probably fair to say that the energy and drive that might initially result in this early purchase can be lost.
There are really two things to remember when you are at the start of this journey:
1. The iPad and really any tablet, is not a device designed to be shared across many users. It is a personal device. So, the longer you have a system where the devices are not personal, the less likely you are to see the results that you want and the more likely you are to lose staff engagement with the project. You will not see the type of change in results/pedagogy/engagement, whatever it is you are looking for, when you are in the test phase with shared devices. The test phase is about making sure your network is up to scratch, offering training to staff with the opportunity of teaching or observing a 1:1 class, deciding on what your workflow is going to look like, what apps you might like to invest in initially, how you’re going to manage the day to day aspects of updating, pushing apps out, charging etc. This stage doesn’t need to go on forever. A year or so is a good lead in, maybe a little longer if you’re school is inexperienced in this arena. Which brings me on to the second point…
2. Planning is crucial. A clear roadmap of what you want to achieve and when you want to have achieved it by is essential. It strikes me that there are 2 very different end results that you will want to aim for. The first is likely to be a 1:1 rollout. This may be of one device, a range of different (but agreed) devices, or through a BYOD programme. There aren’t many times, especially when dealing with older students, that 1:1 wouldn’t be the ultimate goal, mostly because of the reason above. The second, far more important thing to plan for, is that the use of technology becomes embedded within the normal teaching and learning practises in the school. This is harder to achieve and perhaps to quantify, but it is possible to plan for this.
A big part of the planning process is making sure you have the right people in place. And there are a number of very different people you need to make this work.
Firstly you need technical people – people who understand how robust and fast your network needs to be , but also people that understand that filtering and access are different beasts when you go wireless and 1:1. Not everything can be locked down in a 21st Century classroom. If these technical people are sympathetic to the needs of education/teachers/students then you really will be on to a winner.
You then need people with vision and these people need to talk to the people with the money or the understanding of how to finance your project.
At the heart of everything though is the person or people who understand how to turn the vision into reality in the classroom. You need people who can see what a tablet does and translate that into powerful teaching and learning. With one or two of these people in place, they will go out into your staff and find the early adopters that will adapt and adopt and inspire others. After that, it should only be a matter of time before more staff jump on board.
Going forwards with your planning, it is the building on of training that really matters if you want to integrate technology in the classrooms of your school. Teachers don’t have a lot of time on their hands and so supplying good quality, focused and relevant training is essential. Last year I offered 7, 1 hour sessions over a 14 week period to a large group of early adopters and this worked well. Each session introduced new skills, ideas or pedagogical thinking and they then had a couple of weeks to go away and focus on what had been discussed. Sometimes they even got homework, and this worked. It worked because it wasn’t an epic day-long inset that was never followed up and it worked because there was loads of time between sessions to ask questions, make changes and things out.
Beyond this, you may wish to consider how your parents will be involved, especially if there is a financial implication for them. But the people that matter most of all are your students. Getting them in on this journey as early as possible is really essential to its success. This group will be at the receiving end of the teaching and the ones doing the learning – if they don’t believe in this project and if they don’t feel that they have had a voice in this project, then it’s game over. A number of people blog regularly about digital citizenship and student leaders in this area. Check some of them out for further ideas with this.
Without a clear plan of what you want to achieve, you won’t ever make it. It’s easy to hold off making a decision in the education technology arena because you ca always say, “well we’ll just wait unit l they brought out the next model,” or “let’s just see if they bring out something better.” The problem is, there will always be a ‘next model’ and someone will bring out something better, but you have to jump on board at some point. No decision, is far more damaging than a decision that you adapt and adjust in the future.
This blog is the first in a series of 3 about ‘Why Technology Integration Fail’.