Technology for its own sake? And other BETT thoughts
Every year at the end of January the Excel Conference Centre in London hosts the BETT show which showcases educational technology. It hosts thousands of visitors from all over the year, along with some talks from thought leaders and current educational practitioners.
BETT is well known for being a good time for schools to see what is out there in the education technology world and to catch up with their current suppliers who are exhibiting too. Every year budgets are planned whilst wandering up and down the rows of stands. This year felt especially shiny in terms of groundbreaking technology. There were robots a-plenty, plus drones, coding and maker packages for integrating into STEM subjects, and an array of VR and AI possibilities. Some had great depth to the pedagogy behind them whilst others swept by in gimmicky fashion and felt like they were far out of the reach of most school budgets.
The Microsoft and Google stands were taking up a huge amount of space as they talked schools through their array of options they offer to schools. And there were big stands this year where whole countries were represented – some showing off their own technology products, and others there to recruit teachers from the UK and elsewhere.
Alongside all of this glamour and bling it felt like most teachers we spoke to were underwhelmed by their choices. Realistically, however much they love playing with the products on offer, when they get back to school with a price list they will be lucky to get more than a “you’ll be lucky” in response. It isn’t that the products aren’t great ideas, or even that teachers cannot see a use for them. The money, time and commitment just isn’t going in favour or edtech lately. So many cuts to budgets are taking their toll and a lack of putting technology high on the priority list means technology for learning is floundering somewhat.
However it isn’t all bad news for tech. Damian Hinds, Education Secretary, opened the BETT show with a talk which showed he does have an interest in technology, both for learning and for admin tasks. His focus is all around how technology can make things efficient and said a couple of things which caught our interest.
Whilst making a list of things he felt technology is good for he said:
“… the engagement of parents, and obviously parents are crucial to children’s education. Again, I think there is an opportunity here to cut the amount of time it takes while enhancing the quality of interaction with parents.”
Well what better way to start communicating with parents (and prospective parents and prospective staff or governors for that matter!) than with a beautiful school website?! Sharing everything from term dates and policies to curriculum documents and home learning links really helps your parents to find information without cutting into teacher time. If parents can easily find information they need then it can cut down on emails to teachers too. Emails are one example of technology which Damian Hinds feels can add to teacher workload and maybe some of these are unnecessary when homework links, or newsletters, are online ready for parents to find?
Workload is an issue for teachers. No website can cut out workload altogether as it will need some updating. Here at Greenhouse School Websites, however, we have made it really easy to update with our user-friendly CMS. We don’t want a situation where only one person can update the site due to the technical nature of some websites. We want you to feel that you can train many staff to add to photo galleries, or news pages, or class pages, so that it becomes a whole community project and your website never stagnates.
Our social media walls also help you to integrate your Twitter or Facebook feeds right onto your website so that you can keep those updated if you prefer and it will feed directly onto your website social media wall, meaning parents do not need to have their own social media accounts in order to keep up to date.
We can also create a mobile app with your school branding and logo. These apps are then available for your parents to download for free. You can send them push notifications and parents can find the newsletters and other useful information via the app. Our premium versions even enable parents to report pupil absences with their signature. Communicating with parents in an efficient way whilst cutting down on teacher workload has never been so easy!
Towards the end of his speech Damian Hinds said:
“We must never think about technology for its own sake. Technology is an enabler and an enhancer.”
We wholeheartedly agree with this. Technology by means of your school website or school app will enable communication, can enhance your school community, and can save teacher workload.
Get in touch to find out how to get the most from your school website and ask about getting your school app created.