Introducing technology successfully into a teaching environment

BIG NEWS, I’ve just bought my daughter a car – VERY exciting! However, in all the excitement I have decided that I don’t really need her to learn how to drive, nor do I need to bother with all of that hassle and expense to do with servicing and maintenance. I’m sure that everything will be just fine…

I would imagine that by this point you are shaking your head at my somewhat misguided optimism. If I’m honest, it looks like a recipe for disaster, so let’s take the time to consider the thought processes we go through when buying a car.

First of all, why am I actually buying the car? Cars are not cheap so I need to have a good reason to buy one. Showing off to the neighbours, or keeping a teenager quiet don’t count as good reasons by the way! When I’m going to make an investment like this it needs to be meeting an identifiable need, and in this case I’m tired of being a taxi service for my children and want them to have some independence.

Next up, how can my daughter use the car effectively? This is an easy one to answer: she needs lessons. Even more importantly she needs lessons from an instructor, someone who knows what they are doing. Whilst it might be okay to practise with me, she needs to learn from the experience of an expert. Whatever I might think of my undoubted driving skills, I am no expert and if I’m honest my teenage children are more likely to take advice from anyone else but me.

Finally, how am I going to keep the car going? This is always the painful area with motoring, but these are your maintenance and servicing costs. My Dad used to spend hours working on our car rather than getting an expert in to do it. Yes we saved money, but that time would have been much better spent elsewhere and there would have been less stress for everyone involved, if he had used a garage… and the car would have run better as well – sorry Dad.

So why on Earth am I writing this on a technology blog? Well, bear with me because if we replace car with technology, this scenario could be very easily applied to schools. How many of us have seen exciting new technological innovation fall by the wayside through a lack of planning, training and support? Ultimately, if you are going to introduce technology successfully into a teaching environment, just like buying a car you should:

Have a plan for its use – let teachers know why you are doing this and what they must do in order to make it work. Make sure that you have identified that need in the school and that the technology will help you satisfy it.

Train your staff – although students take to technology like the proverbial ducks, the rest of us need a bit more help. As with the driving instructor, nothing beats expert help from people who have used the technology in a classroom environment.

Make sure that the system is supported – if the technology is to be used well then it needs to be reliable and this means having someone around who can make sure that computer issues are addressed, MIS systems are kept up to date and the myriad of details that are managed in the darkest recesses of the IT support office.

The successful use of technology in schools can have a transformational effect on teaching and learning, but it will not do this magically by itself. It might feel exciting to spend all that money on shiny new hardware and systems, but without the proper support in place it won’t be long before the big end goes bang!