10 vital questions to ask before investing in classroom technology
There are so many new technologies and devices appearing on the education market every day now that it can become very difficult to determine where to spend your money, if indeed you should spend it at all. Before you make your next investment, ask yourself the following questions:
- Would more students get involved in the learning? Too many students spend most lessons sat there listening, watching, or reading – i.e. being passive. Will your new device(s) give more students the opportunity to get actively involved in their learning? Be wary of technology where only one student can take part at any one time.
- Would the teacher be able to assess learning more easily? The best learning happens when the teacher can make quick assessments of understanding and feed back regularly, several times each lesson. Watch out for technology that encourages content creation without the opportunity to share, discuss and learn from it.
- Would it maintain or increase the challenge level? The best learning is cognitively challenging, which means that it cannot always be fun and easy. Some games and puzzles can help reinforce low-level factual recall but fail to stimulate higher-order thinking
- Would it allow the teacher to move around the classroom? If your new technology requires the teacher to stay stuck next to a device at the front of the classroom then you’re hugely diminishing the potential for effective assessment, feedback and classroom management.
- Would students be able to interact with their peers? Collaborative problem-solving and peer-feedback is immensely powerful in the classroom. If your technology only enables communication between teacher and student then you could be wasting an opportunity.
- Would it encourage independent learning? If students are completely reliant on the teacher then they’re less likely to be motivated and more likely to give up when they encounter problems. The best technology enables students to keep on learning outside the classroom, and make choices about the way they learn.
- Have you budgeted for the relevant support? Any new device that will take centre-stage in the class must be super-reliable. If you spend all the money on the device and fail to put in place the relevant support and maintenance then you’ll end up with a cupboard full of expensive, broken equipment that teachers have become frustrated with.
- Have you budgeted time and money for teacher development? Don’t expect to just drop new technology in to the classroom and have it used effectively. Teachers need time away from the classroom to discuss it, develop ideas, observe each other using it, share resources, and work it in to their schemes of work. This is one of the most frequently neglected areas of education technology, and should be a key part of planning any new investment.
- Will it become obsolete? A tough question to answer, but one that has stung many schools. Some decided it would be more convenient to buy a set of portable laptops only to discover that their lack of processing power means they become unusable for modern applications within a couple of years (as well as breaking more frequently than desktops).
- Would it be better to spend more on existing technology, maintenance and professional development? With well-meaning dedicated government grants for technology the temptation is to spend-spend-spend. Perhaps that grant would be better spent on replacement parts, upgrades, a new technician, better infrastructure, and taking staff off timetable to enable them to develop their expertise with existing resources? Perhaps you’d improve learning much more with an ultra-cheap but highly-effective set of mini-whiteboards?