An “Ofsted Spokesperson” told TES recently that personally owned devices such as laptops or tablets can be “extremely disruptive” and make it difficult for teachers to teach. Oh really? What about all the school-owned devices such as laptops or tablets that are routinely dished out in class for pupils to work on? What is it about ownership that makes some devices disruptive and others not?
The whole issue of ownership is itself an “extremely disruptive” distraction to the #EdTech debate. As Bananarama didn’t say, “it’s not what you use, it’s the way that you use it”. Pencil and paper was once a disruptive innovation (remember slate and chalk?), but seems to be nicely embedded these days. So with desk top PCs, laptop PCs, interactive whiteboards, and now mobile tablets.
Are medical professionals expected to practise using woefully outdated technologies, like leeches, when everyone knows there is a better way? Why must central government policy and agencies be so determined to lock education in the past?
Technology is not a panacea for all the issues in education. It will not raise standards in teaching simply by being present in classrooms – and the same can be said of text books, slide rules and pocket calculators. Children need to be taught how – and when – to use them appropriately. We live in technological times. Not to teach children these life skills is to do them a gross disservice. And if we as pedagogical professionals take a little time to learn how to use them creatively ourselves then the potential for genuine learning gains is huge. Just take a few moments to look at some of the submission videos for Naace‘s 3rd Millennium Learning Award.
Let’s agree, for the sake of argument, that technology, when used appropriately by pupils guided by well-informed and well-trained teachers, is a good thing. What about cost? This where the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Buy Everyone a New Device (BEND) debate is located. Technology is expensive. Schools’ budgets are tightening, and cuts are being made. How long can even the best-intentioned school SLT justify BEND? Children take their own mobile devices to school everyday. They just do. Usually, to comply with school policy, they remain in pupils’ pockets, switched off. What a waste of resource. If parents bought their offspring the latest text books every year, would they remain in pupils’ bags, untouched?
BYOD is not easy. There need to be sensible policies at local level. There needs to be filtering and sufficient access to wifi. There need to be suitable sanctions to deal with inappropriate use of devices. There needs to be BEND provision for those pupils that do not have access to tech of their own.
These are not insurmountable issues. Once solved – and the solutions will vary from school to school – children need to be taught how to access their tech wisely by teachers who have received top quality CPD in how tech can be used creatively to impact positively on learning.