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Ban ’em all! July 18, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Resources.
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As promised then, a follow-up to the previous post

Mobile devices

From umpcportal on Flickr

The majority of our students enjoy access to wide range of powerful devices from desktops, laptops, netbooks, slates/pads, web-enabled phones, iPod Touches, games consoles and more. Increasingly so as they mature. But when they come into school, those devices have to be left at home or kept in their bag and they’re required to use school equipment. To be fair, they’re quite well catered for there; the school infrastructure and equipment are robust, reliable, well specified, up to date and in good order . . . but it’s not their equipment. There’s no sense of ownership. They have to adapt to the way school has decided to deploy its ICT resources, as indeed most pupils walking through any school gate would experience.

Why is then that we’ve chosen not to tap into the resource base already in place? What are the challenges to be overcome before we exploit that potential? In scanning through a few reports (Naismith et al 2005, Traxler 2008, Schuler 2009), I picked out three basic categories of reason:

  • Technical – school networks in general are set up for security, safety, uniformity and ease of management. This is for the benefit of the organisation, rather than that of the learner.
  • Pedagogical – we’re still developing appropriate techniques for harnessing new technologies, currently to a large extent bending them to fit what we’ve always done. How might our approach change if we don’t have to move to the technology (ICT suite) or have it come to us (laptop bank)? Instead it’s just there . . . all the time.
  • Human – attitudes and norms are more accepting of new technologies in the world at large than they are in school. Teachers using social networking tools to keep in touch with friends and family for example, rarely consider using them to nurture professional relationships.

To examine the factors encouraging and resisting the move towards greater pupil autonomy in device usage, I thought a force-field analysis might help:

Force-field Diagram

Driving and resisting forces

Though the driving forces are largely out of our control, the resisting forces offer scope for reduction. We are already investigating the impact on our infrastructure by exploring an enterprise solution to safely accommodate more devices over our wireless network. With students using their own devices, the school desktop/laptop estate could be reduced, releasing funds to support students for whom equity is an issue. Issues of bullying and child safety should be addressed through the curriculum anyway and may simply need enhancing. If devices provide a distraction in classrooms, we perhaps ought to be exploring the reasons why students feel the need to disengage, rather than blaming the technology.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle however is changing the way we view the encroachment of these technologies into the formal space that is our school. Do we embrace it, seizing the opportunities it provides? Or do we continue to throw up barriers, instead of seeking ways to dissemble them?

I guess it depends whether your cup is half empty . . . or half full.

Naismith, L. et al., 2005. Literature review in mobile technologies and learning. NESTA Futurelab Series. Available at: http://www.futurelab.org.uk/resources/publications-reports-articles/literature-reviews/Literature-Review203/ [Accessed July 16, 2010].

Schuler, C., 2009. Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote
Children’s Learning. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

Traxler, J., 2008. Learners–Should We Leave Them To Their Own Devices? Emerging Technologies. Available at: http://partners.becta.org.uk/page_documents/research/emerging_technologies/learners_johntraxler.pdf [Accessed July 16, 2010].

State of the Nation? October 10, 2009

Posted by IaninSheffield in research.
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BESA Report 2009

BESA Report 2009

BESA (British Educational Suppliers Association) recently released their annual report on the state of ICT provision in state secondary schools.  They gather their information from views submitted through an online questionnaire, completed by ICT Co-ordinators and Heads of ICT in state schools.  770 primary schools and 572 secondary schools responded.

The summary of the report is available for download here – http://www.besa.org.uk/besa/news/view.jsp?item=1957

This summary provides figures in a variety of categories taking in infrastructure (desktops, laptops, IWBs & other peripherals, wireless provision, bandwidth), tools used (software, learning platform), ICT budgets and teacher confidence.  These data allow you to make a somewhat rough, but nevertheless informative, judgement about how the provision in your school compares with the average.  Though it can hardly be considered robust (we compare academic data of ‘like’ schools when trying to establish our performance), at least it provides a starting point.  For example the average ratio of pupils to computers is 4.2 in secondary schools and 6.9 in primaries.  Another useful feature is that you can look at year on year trends – the summary itself highlights a few examples, but previous reports are also available from BESA.

So what does it all tell us?  Well when colleagues suggest that our provision of particular aspects of ICT, or the budget we provide to support it, or the access to ICT professional development opportunities are inadequate, the report can provide a starting point for discussing whether that actually is the case.  We can also see whether we are following or bucking national trends.  But then what?  Do we then use that information to review our provision and perhaps take appropriate action?  Well maybe . . . but there are other questions to answer first.

Computer/pupil ratios have decreased over a number of years now, so what have been the outcomes?  The number of IWBs in schools have increased – what effect has that had?  Teacher confidence with ICT continues to improve – with what results?  These are the difficult questions we need to address if we are to try to ensure the half a billion pounds spent annually on ICT in UK schools is to have an impact.  So ‘impact’ then?  I feel a future post has taken seed.