Will Schools Embrace New Technology?

  • Will Schools Embrace New Technology?

Early adopters in industry can have just as much of an effect as innovative teachers and leaders in terms of encouraging schools to embrace new technologies, suggests Mark Byrne…

It is safe to say technology is now all around us, continually evolving and challenging the way we live, learn, work and socialise. We can also acknowledge that some people have become early adopters, who love and embrace it, whilst others are currently more cautious, preferring to keep it at arm’s length.

One cross-section of society which tends to fall within the ‘love and embrace’ camp is young people. Having likely grown up with technology from an early age, they tend to be the most comfortable with embracing the evolving array of devices on the market.

I have never been a teacher, so I will not attempt to jump into your world with wild predictions about the classroom of the future, or how technology will improve teaching and learning; I will leave that to others. Now the tools are available, however, I am excited to consider how teachers could appeal to young people’s technology-led nature based on what other industries are already doing.

Retail therapy

For example, something we all have to do is shop. Retailers are pushing to stay ahead of the curve to differentiate and compete against rivals, and technology is the latest way they’re striving to achieve this. New technology is being used both to drive efficiency within supply chains, and to improve the choice and experience for consumers.

Online shopping is now commonplace; it has dramatically changed the way most of us shop and the way retailers communicate with us. Most consumers are now used to searching and shopping online, moving from a physical to a virtual process. Retailers are using this new path– to-purchase to capture lots of information about us. They know the types of things we buy, where, how and when we buy, where we live, and so on. They use this information to build a picture about us, and then use this picture to put forward incentives or rewards to keep us interested and buying from them.

If we take this concept of gathering information and then using the right incentives or rewards to keep people interested, could this be used within an education context? Could the reward systems within education be personalised? My son has a passion for cars, for example; capturing and acting on this information could make such a difference to his engagement levels at school.

Game plans

Then let’s move into the world of gaming, and the rise of augmented reality devices (AR). While this might sound like something you expect to see in the latest sci-fi blockbuster, AR needn’t be daunting. Put simply, it is a real-time view of a physical and genuine environment, the components of which are augmented by computergenerated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to give young people the chance to have a glimpse of thousands of potential career opportunities in a way they understand and that could pique their interest? Perhaps AR and the foundations of gaming could help offer this, showing wider life-skills and career opportunities in a genuinely engaging way. It also has amazing potential for immersing students in different cultures around the world – imagine studying Pompeii, and then having your teacher put you in the middle of the action with an AR headset! I’m a little envious of the pupils of the future.

Peer pressure

So, will schools embrace this new technology? The take-up is having a domino effect in different industries, so I wonder if when one school takes the leap with a new piece of technology, other establishments in the surrounding area will be more likely to follow? Trinity School in Croydon, for example, has found the Toshiba Portégé Z10t provides good functionality for the school environment thanks to features such as a pressure sensitive pen that allows students and teachers to write directly onto the screen, enabling a completely paperless classroom. Wireless connectivity and a detachable tablet also mean that teachers can carry the device around the classroom whilst still showing the display on screen, bringing the learning experience to their pupils and making work more collaborative. As Trinity School continues to have a positive experience through its use of technology, it will be interesting to see if there is an increased interest from surrounding schools.

As technology continues to encompass and benefit a range of markets, it’s also worth bringing our thinking back to the practicalities of life for today’s pupils, and how it may impact the jobs of the future. It’s hard to know exactly what new and exciting careers will be around in the next ten to 15 years, but I’d guess that technology will play an increasingly central role. Just as investment in sport and the arts is seen as crucial in providing pupils with a solid all-round educational experience and vital transferrable skills, the same can be said for a school’s emphasis on new technology.

Once schools feel comfortable and ready to embrace new technologies, I hope they will enjoy exploring the opportunities waiting for them, which will not only benefit purchasing decisions but more importantly, students and their learning process

GETTING WITH THE PROGRAMME

Bishop Challoner Catholic College in Birmingham runs a not-for-profit eLearning scheme to ensure that all pupils have access to a laptop. The school wanted to overcome issues of mounting insurance costs by keeping expenditure to a minimum. Toshiba’s education experts suggested its Self Maintainer programme, which allows schools to take control of its own IT repairs, helping to dramatically cut insurance and maintenance costs.

Since implementing the scheme, the school has seen clear financial benefits along with it being extremely positive for the students, helping teach invaluable life and IT skills as well as offering them an accreditation upon completing the training. “Our overhead costs have been cut down dramatically and waiting time for device repairs has gone down from weeks to days,” comments director of ICT and innovation Andy Baker. “If we didn’t have the programme, our e-learning scheme wouldn’t have survived.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Byrne, is Head of Corporate, Education, Public Sector at Toshiba.

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