A recent survey commissioned by Steljes found that 97% of teachers agree that the presence of interactive technologies can improve the learning environment. It’s fair to say that the interactive whiteboard is a standard feature in most classrooms and these chalkboard replacements have paved the way for better, more collaborative technologies like tablets, laptops and interactive tables.
While educators agree on the benefits of using technology, the implementation of interactive panels, tablets and laptops is often hindered by issues like tight or inflexible budgets. There is also often no clear-cut path to adoption. So just how do we overcome these challenges to ensure the use of interactive and collaborative technologies in the classroom?
Tip #1: Understand the barriers to adoption
Whether you are an academy funded by government or an independent school reliant on fees, budgets remain a major stumbling block. For independent schools especially, technology becomes a differentiating factor when attracting new students. As a result, it’s vital to know where the budget constraints are — is it in the initial purchase of expensive technology or in the longer term when it comes to maintenance, upgrading or renewing licences? Just as the business world has moved from a largely capex-based view to an opex-based one, schools can also make use of flexible models to overcome the challenge of making heavy capital investments in technology. These flexible models embrace service-based or subscription-based ways of working, so schools can use the latest technology in their classrooms, upgrade when necessary and have their maintenance needs catered for.
Teacher training is also something that needs to be factored into the budget. Technologies and devices like interactive panels, tablets and different educational software can only be effective if teachers are able to use them correctly. In fact, according to BESA research, the lack of training and support for teachers, when it comes to new technologies, is a major barrier to adoption.
Tip #2: Digital natives in a digital environment
While some teachers may not be completely comfortable with new classroom technologies due to lack of training, the opposite is true when it comes to children. Born into a world of iPhones, broadband and tablets, children are considered digital natives and are at ease with all types of smart devices when it comes to learning or entertainment. Using these items in the classroom then becomes a natural extension of their social use. Interactive technologies — from interactive whiteboards and tablets to panels and smart tablets — encourage participation, collaboration and engagement, and can also be used by teachers in lesson development. They do not only need to be used for subjects with a high visual element, like visual arts, but can be just as beneficial in mathematics, language and humanities, through the use of modelling, simulation and virtualised problem solving.
Tip #3: The power of connectivity
It’s no secret that the internet plays a major role in education today, from conducting research and communicating with fellow students, to distance education and online tutorials. In recent years internet connectivity has moved from a nice-to-have feature to a necessity. As the backbone to an interactive learning environment it’s crucial that a school’s network is both efficient and reliable, delivering the speeds and performance required to support the different technologies. A flexible, fast and reliable school network ensures that the various devices can be used properly, particularly during limited lesson times, allowing students and teachers to reap the full benefit from their use. It also means that students and teachers will be comfortable using the devices and not put off by slow connection speeds, unresponsive websites or buffering.
Martin Large is CEO of Steljes