We now turn to industry as we continue our look to the
future of ICT. With the General Election looming, Yolanta Gill looks at the more immediate technology targets for schools and other emerging trends in ICT
S WEapproach a General Election, the major political parties are already making announcements regarding cuts in the public sector, which will no doubt impact on schools’ ICT budgets. The academies, Building
Schools for the Future (BSF), and Primary Capital programmes have allowed the education sector to enjoy hi-tech learning environments and have revolutionised the way young people learn. Labour is set to continue with the existing
programmes, whereas the Conservatives have announced cost savings which may impact on BSF. They have also signalled that they wish to expand
the academies programme, which is based on third party investment and promotes a school’s autonomy from the local authority, so should result in reduced public sector spending. The Liberal Democrats seem to be erring towards a hybrid model of local authority- controlled academies, called sponsor-managed schools, funded by both the state and third parties. Despite the uncertainty around the future of ICT
in education, it still remains an exciting time to be involved in the industry. Current academy and BSF programmes provide the catalyst to transform learning and teaching opportunities, including to develop greater personalisation and more tailored learning pathways.
It is not just an opportunity to redesign physical
buildings, but it is a time to review and redesign the curriculum for 21st century learners so that it meets their needs. ICT will play an integral part in supporting, facilitating and delivering this transformation. More than ever, schools are able to stimulate and
engage their learners thanks to new and innovative ICT becoming increasingly available at cost-effective prices.
Learning platforms continue to be at the centre of this transformation, enabling schools to reduce administration, streamline communication – particularly with parents – and increase collaboration for staff and learners. Originally when learning platforms were introduced,
the technologies involved were disparate and invariably did not talk to each other in the way the original concept and idea intended them to. Increasingly, companies in the ICT market place are developing solutions that talk
to each other ensuring that learning platforms can be used more effectively. The developing use of a learning platform ties in
with key government drives in education. The first is online parental reporting which improves the quality of discussion between parents and learners about their education and aligns with the government target for secondary schools to provide online reporting for parents by 2010, and primary schools by 2012. With the introduction of ICT parental reporting
tools within learning platforms, information such as attendance, grades, behaviour and dietary habits will be available securely online to parents and carers. They will be able to understand far more about their child’s progress and engage in a more meaningful ongoing dialogue with a school as opposed to the traditional once or twice yearly meeting.
The second key government initiative is the Home Access programme. Announced in 2008 as a pilot,
it is only recently that the actual programme rolled out nationally. Historically, access to online tools and resources such as learning platforms has been limited to those that have internet access at home. In order to bridge this divide, Home Access aims to provide financial support to low-income families who may not be able to afford a computer or the internet.
At the cutting edge of ICT in education, a number of key educationalists and teachers are also beginning to explore game-based learning. This concerns the use of electronic games in the educational environment to develop learning. Historically there has always been some suspicion
around the use of such media in education. But increasingly a number of key educational groups, such as Futurelab and Learning and Teaching Scotland, believe that the latest games can be used to stimulate and create meaningful learning experiences. Games can provide learning situations to develop a
wide range of skills including problem-solving, creation of ideas, as well as enhanced communication and collaboration between groups of learners. Games such as historical simulations can also support knowledge development.
Continued reduction in power consumption is one key trend for the future as schools aim to meet government targets for all new schools to be carbon neutral by 2016. Many of the new projects come with challenges
where, due to the design of the building, use of traditional PCs is prohibitive due to the high heat output. Thin client and VDI technologies are therefore in increasing demand. Similarly BREEAM requirements (The Building
Research Establishment’s voluntary measurement rating for green buildings) are forcing an increasing number of schools to use thin client technology. BREEAM In-Use is a new scheme to help building managers reduce the running costs and improve the environmental performance of existing buildings.
• Yolanta Gill is MD of European Electronique, a company which delivers ICT solutions to the education sector, including academies.
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SecEd • March 25 2010
Don’t see what you’re looking for
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