allowed to use to having scores of PCs, laptops, netbooks, or PDAs (personal digital assistants). The internet has made resources and information easily available, and allows anyone to have their say and add content with a few clicks of a mouse. Some might argue that this level of reliance on
The future of ICT
ECHNOLOGY IN schools has come a long way in the last 20 to 30 years since we were secondary pupils back in the 1980s. In this time, we have moved from
a single BBC sitting in a school which only staff or 6th form students were
SecEd’s ICT pages this week carry a special focus on the future of ICT, with views from the chalkface and from industry. We kick off with senior leaders Kevin Bennett and Paul Ainsworth, who look at keeping up with technology, procurement, and making the right choices
technology and lack of editorial responsibility makes it too easy to rush in and make mistakes, and that pupils’ skills in research are now just based on being able to use search engines. Others who have embraced this increase in technology would argue that it simply requires a different set of skills instead. No matter how you look at it, ICT is becoming a
more and more important part of education. As this presence increases and equipment and requirements become more sophisticated, what can we do to keep up with these demands?
The right technology?
As the demand for access grows, so does the cost and knowledge implication for schools. The most obvious financial implication is ensuring the appropriate equipment is available. Schools need to consider the different resources out there. For example, netbooks are a cheap alternative to
laptops, but have obvious drawbacks, due to size and specifications, and with the price of entry-level laptops reducing all the time these may not be the best answer. Thin client devices could offer an alternative
solution. A thin client works as a simple terminal and all applications run on the network servers, reducing the need for the thin client to be a high-spec device to run some high-end applications. This means they can be cheap and simple, and upgrades can be carried out at the server, which also reduces the cost of technician requirements. Also, some schools have looked at PDAs and other portable devices, which again are lower cost and maybe an option in some areas, but not necessarily suitable in all. Schools must also consider the on-costs, and upkeep
of the devices that they buy in addition to budgeting for the software licensing costs. Some schools are considering how pupils and parents can support this and many have looked into providing laptops through schemes where parents can lease or buy one for their pupil’s school career. This can be a real bonus for some pupils, although some schools may find it difficult to get these schemes off the ground. Another alternative may be to consider what devices
pupils have already that can be used. Most pupils have mobile phones, and as these become more sophisticated this is a resource that could be tapped into. In our school, there are two wireless networks
running side-by-side. One allows access to the school network for school devices, the other is our “dirty”
wireless, where access is allowed to any device, but only to the internet. This connection is still filtered by our broadband provider, and allows pupils to gain access to the school’s virtual learning environment (VLE) where they can access all the same resources as on the school laptops and PCs. As these devices develop further and their capacity
to do more increases, this opens up the opportunity to make these more useable. With this there are obvious issues which need to be addressed, such as using phones for other uses in school. Some schools have gone down the route of giving cards to allow phones to be used for school work, and if this card is taken away by staff for
where our pupils will be left in 2020 if they have just been typing away on old PCs and laptops. Surely we have to be finding ways to move technology forward instead of ways to hold it back
One issue is ensuring that staff have the training to make full use of the ICT resources in school. In the current climate it may not be possible to have ICT specialist staff available to support other teachers in the classroom and schools have to think creatively about how they can up-skill teachers. Instead, regular short, sharp staff training sessions
could help with a 10-minute focus on a specific area or task. Helpsheets or podcasts produced by staff or technicians, available through a school’s VLE for staff, pupils and parents to use, allow independence to grow. The role of the technical support team might need
to develop, or perhaps schools could train learning support assistants with ICT knowledge alongside the
misuse, then the normal mobile phone sanctions apply should a pupil use the phone during a lesson.
One such major innovation that is starting to
appear is the interactive display. Smart have a “Table”, Microsoft has its “Surface”, and surely it will not be long before multi-point touch technology is elsewhere on the market. Interactive projection systems are also becoming more readily available, but educational content on all these systems is a little less developed. These offer great opportunities for kinaesthetic
learners to work collaboratively on the same device, which could be very beneficial, particularly in SEN environments, and could bring some excellent interactive opportunities in areas such as science where this type of technology could help with virtual experiments. The development of mobile phones will surely continue
at a rapid pace with touch-screens and more sophisticated operating systems. It can then only be a matter of time before these become as useable as netbooks, with their only major drawback being screen size.
technicians so they are more able to support this area in the classroom. The role of discrete ICT lessons and the schemes delivered during such lessons may need to change focus to allow pupils to then use these skills independently in other curriculum areas.
What does the future hold?
There are many suggestions for how technology might move on in the future, and at the rate things have developed in the short period since the 1980s, it is almost impossible to predict what the next 20 to 30 years might bring, so let’s look at what might be available in the next few years instead.
If the rate of increase in technology of the last 30 years is anything to go by, we have to ask
No matter what the future brings, we need to be thinking ahead and trying to find ways to work with the technology, and not finding barriers and excuses. We need to prepare our children for the world ahead of them. Our current year 7 pupils will leave school at the age
of 18 in 2016 and if they then elect to go to university, this would take us to nearly 2020. If the rate of increase in technology of the last 30
years is anything to go by, we have to ask where our pupils will be left in 2020 if they have just been typing away on old PCs and laptops. Surely we have to be finding ways to move technology forward instead of ways to hold it back.
SecEd • March 25 2010
Having said that, pupils use mobiles so often, maybe
the size of the display is not an issue and in time it is likely that screens themselves may become a thing of the past, perhaps with built-in mini-projectors being part of the phone so that it can project the display onto any surface and a keyboard could also appear on a surface too. Desktop computers are becoming smaller and
cheaper too and this might mean that they will eventually become an integrated part of the desk or text/exercise book. There are many companies now making tables which allow devices to be installed into them, and even one or two that integrate the PC into the desk frame. Will it become a single unit, case and screen built seamlessly into the desk? This year saw magazines printed with interactive
advertisements on pages, so it could only be a matter of time before this type of technology makes it way into other publishing areas, the book fights back as the format instead of being replaced by the computer and internet perhaps? One issue which has always caused problems with
laptops is the charging, or running power cables. Improvements to battery technology and wireless charging is another area where developments could mean devices charge at a desk while in use without the need for power packs and cables. As for applications, the government technology
agency, Becta, is actively encouraging schools to look at open source applications to reduce costs through its “Open Source Software in Schools Project”. More developers are using this as a way to gain users, and with more users come more demands and more applications. With large organisations and companies on board,
new developments in the integration of applications are beginning to appear, making working with different applications in different environments easier and more seamless.Online applications may remove the need for schools to buy and manage certain software, and with integration into school VLEs then this could be the way forward to give a true anytime, anywhere learning experience.
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