Plan your digital strategy

Al Kingsley points out what not to forget when developing your digital plans…

The driver behind spending on primary #edtech sometimes doesn’t come from teacher identified needs, but from a finance team saying, “we’ve got £10k to spend – what do you want?”

This ‘use it or lose it’ sentiment means strategic thinking is quickly discarded. This is a false economy and means vital considerations are often overlooked.

1 | What’s the long-term goal?

Without a digital strategy and training that looks ahead and understands what needs to be achieved to support the school, enthusiastic purchases like tablets quickly lose their lustre.

2 | Mapping infrastructure now, and in the future

Sometimes investment in underlying infrastructure makes more sense than new gizmos. For instance, just 27% of primary IT leaders think their Wi-Fi is good enough to support their school’s digital aims. Get advice, and check you have the infrastructure to support edtech now, and in years to come.

3 | Make the most of what you have

As part of the audit of your existing ecosystem consider the assets you already have and whether devices can be upgraded or redeployed, rather than replaced.

For example, Karl Denton, IT manager at St Bede CofE Primary Multi Academy Trust recalls one primary school finding ten ageing laptops in a storeroom.

Instead of replacing them at a cost of £2,500, they upgraded them to SSD hard disks at a tenth of the cost. They were redeployed into an intervention room where they are used to aid children’s research.

4 | How does edtech help teacher workload?

The DfE’s annual workforce study reports primary teachers are still working on average 50 hours a week. Understandably schools are mainly motivated to procure edtech because it will improve children’s learning.

However, always ask yourself the question “How does this make teachers lives easier?” before purchase. Whether cutting planning time, making parental communication easier or providing flexible tools for creating resources, it proves you truly value your teaching talent.

Another example from IT Manager Karl Denton, points to a primary school who introduced Learning by Questions finding, from teachers’ feedback, that they were saving five hours a week and were finding the process much less stressful.

There are similar countless examples of edtech being used brilliantly in primary schools. However, there are also many examples of short-term wins that have not delivered in the long term.

Taking a longer-term view can feel daunting but primary schools already think long term about many other aspects of school life, it’s important we add edtech to the list.

That’s why alongside ICT Evangelist Mark Anderson we’ve launched A Guide to Creating a Digital Strategy in Education, a free resource any school can use to lay the tracks of a successful edtech strategy.

Al Kingsley is Chair of a Multi Academy Trust and MD of NetSupport.

This article was first published in Primary School Management Magazine in January 2020. Read the article here.

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