It’s Time For Schools to Embrace Technology
Many people will look at schools in both the US and UK and come to the conclusion that nothing is wrong. Yet, I look at them and find that one important element is stuck in the past: technology. Currently, the basic premise of teaching hasn’t changed much in almost 50 years, with the teacher standing up in front of the class, with the pupils using textbooks, paper and a pen. School libraries are still full of paper books, not having embraced digital books and tablets just like the rest of the UK. At the same time, most of the teaching in ICT classes hasn’t been effective and hasn’t changed with the adjusting landscape. It’s time for British and American schools to change – fully embracing technology – to become world leaders once again.
The online and digital revolution has had huge implications on most of the economy, ranging from retail and the rise of Amazon to television and the rise of Netflix and Lovefilm. This hasn’t yet reached education, with rising spending but nothing to show for it. There are many reasons for this, but as soon as technology is accepted, spending can stabilise all while results increase. It’s important to note that it’s note as simple as this, with the major factor behind the stagnation also needing to change: unions and the attitudes they hold dear. The educational establishment, controlled by the unions, is slow to change and is creating resistance in order to protect jobs and defend teachers whose skills they believe will be diminished in a real 21st century school.
Some technology is currently used by schools, from the computer labs used to help pupils research information on the internet, to interactive whiteboards used by teachers to help run classes. However, these only work with the existing system and don’t really change anything fundamental. It’s time for schools to use iPads. Other, cheaper tablets have been used in schools, but have been found to lack the apps and ease of use that really makes the iPad shine – meaning that they don’t get used and nothing changes. iPads on the other hand, have been quite successful in a variety of schools, with iBooks Author and iTunes U being very useful. iPads can be notebooks, textbooks, video recorders, organisational tools and a lot more.
Now, you might be asking how schools at a time of budget pressures can afford to equip pupils with iPads? Well, the iPads bring with them cost savings. First of all, expensive computer labs aren’t needed, with the teachers able to use the iPads in class to research and create presentations rather than needing to book a computer room. The same money purchases a lot more iPads, with support costs lower as well. Additionally, schools haven’t been buying expensive textbooks. Instead, they’re using apps, using the wealth of content available on the internet or creating resources themselves – saving a lot of money. Further cost savings come from trivial things such as less printing needed.
Some schools are approaching the funding problem by leasing the iPads from Apple, with contributions from parents in order to pay for insurance, cases, apps and to allow the pupils to take the iPads home (they’re kept during the summer holidays for updates and other maintenance). Contributions are small, affordable for most, with those on free school meals not needing to contribute at all.
Deployments have already taken place in many school districts in the US, with use also increasing in British schools. Cedars School of Excellence was the world’s first “1-to-1” school, with iPads helping to dramatically improve results. As an independent, fee paying school, funds are taken from that budget. However, the iPad has also been a success in Academies, such as Essa Academy, which was once earmarked for closure. Technology is now used throughout, with iPads and Apple TVs used to project each students display onto a screen in order to share work on demand. Every department creates their own resources and textbooks, full of video and 3D models – which are now publicly shared. iTunes U is used to access all their learning materials in one place, keep track of assignments and receive notifications anytime a teacher updates information. Within 2 years of the iPad being introduced, the pass rate at the school has jumped from 28 per cent to 100 per cent.
Now, it’s important to realise that this success will probably not be repeated everywhere. It takes dedication from the staff to fully embrace technology products. In some schools it will also be difficult if the culture isn’t there, particularly if students mistreat the iPads or constantly forget them. Having said that, it’s not been a problem so far, with the parental contribution and the fact that pupils don’t want to miss out being key. People do wonder if Facebook or other social networks could become a problem, but as with currently ICT use, they can be blocked, with the schools able to give as much or as little freedom they want.
Similarly, the teaching of information communication technology needs to change, with technology itself becoming a bigger part of life, especially in the world of employment. Understanding technology and being able to control is now as fundamental as being able to read and write. WordPress, HTML, CSS, iPhone development are all becoming more important. Now, coding isn’t for everybody, but it would be good if it was taught in schools, at the very least giving pupils the opportunity to understand and make basic changes if needed, equipping them for the future.
Schools are stuck in the past, with unions ensuring that the progress being made towards schools being fully bought into the 21st century is slow. It would be great if schools could embrace iPads, bringing apps and other advantages, but most importantly, helping to increase test results and improve education. After all, that should be the main goal of our education system; ensuring that pupils are as best educated as possible. If this is done, we might well find that schools in the US and UK become world leaders once again.