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RM Education: Closing the tech gap between life and learning

OpinionSecondary Education
By Heather McLean | 21 April 2017
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Create DateApril 21, 2017
Last UpdatedApril 20, 2017

By Mark House, education consultant at RM Education.

At some of the schools I visit, it always baffles me when pupils tell me that they’re ‘going to IT’ or when teachers wheel out a trolley full of laptops which are kept in the cupboard for most of the time. In most PC labs, the desks are positioned around the outside of the room with pupils staring at the wall, which doesn’t reflect the reality of how technology is used in modern life.

We already know that most pupils have access to devices and technology and are continuing their learning outside of the classroom via a myriad of channels. And conversely, if we look at the workplace we’re preparing our pupils for, the ‘going to IT’ concept couldn’t be more far removed from the reality of any modern office or workplace.

That’s why it’s going to become increasingly vital to synch up the two and help pupils learn in the same way they live; pupils should be able to pick up a device any time in every class, in the same way they might pick up their smartphone at home, jump on their laptop at work or fire up an iPad to deliver a presentation.

Pedagogical concerns

Some schools have pedagogical concerns around this more joined-up approach, as they don’t want pupils using their devices all day. But I’d suggest that this shouldn’t necessarily be the case; the modern school bag should include a PE kit, text books and a Chromebook or similar device, and that device should only be taken out when it’s appropriate to the lesson.

Over the next few years, we’re going to see classrooms look like a very different place; instead of an IT room with a PC on each desk, we’ll see schools with superfast WiFi, superfast connectivity and fantastically well trained teachers with the confidence to say, “Ok class, take out your Chromebooks for today’s lesson”.

Learners will be more engaged because they’re comfortable and familiar with the latest technologies, and the classroom environment will become much more collaborative because pupils will be using their devices to work on projects together in and out of the classroom.

So how can schools begin to close this technology gap at a time of continued budgetary pressures? There are numerous options available, but one of the solutions that we’re seeing schools increasingly adopting is a leasing model. This model presents an ideal solution for those who are trying to make their budgets stretch further and are conscious of safeguarding themselves throughout the rapid evolution of technology.

Lump sums

Historically, schools have become used to investing huge, one-off, lump sums into hardware because that’s what they’ve always done; many schools we visit have spent thousands buying in Chromebooks which end up gathering dust in a dark cupboard for most of the time.

But if we look at the implications of going down this route from a financial perspective, in terms of keeping up with the rapid evolution of technology and, crucially, from the perspective of closing the technology gap and enabling pupils to learn in the same way they life, this isn’t the answer.

In our everyday lives, consumers very rarely spend £400 buying a phone outright; we lease them. We don’t have to worry about the initial outlay; if it breaks, we can simply get it replaced and if the technology is superseded by something newer and shinier, we can simply upgrade our package. And this model makes a tremendous amount of sense for schools too.

The financial benefits are clear, but a greater advantage is that a leased device can be used by pupils both in and out of the classroom, continuing their learning in their own time; this forms a vital part of the concept of helping people to learn in the same way they live, using the technologies they’re most familiar with.

Ultimately, this will create a generation of learners who can transition smoothly into their future careers because they’ve got the right skills. And when we look at the fact that this future classroom can be achieved without a big financial outlay, the future is bright for all of us.

RM Education is a provider of ICT solutions to schools of all types and sizes across the UK.


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