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THE DEDICATED EDUCATION MAGAZINE FOR HEAD TEACHERS AND EDUCATORS ACROSS THE UK

Practical Applications of Technology in Education 

It is surely difficult for schoolchildren and students today to imagine classrooms as they were not that long ago – without computers and mobile phones.   Technology is now ubiquitous in schools – learning platforms, laptops, mobile phones and so on.   According to a 2016 report from EdTechXGlobal, education technology is becoming a global phenomenon, and as distribution and platforms scale internationally, the market is projected to grow at 17.0% per annum, to $252bn by 2020.

Yet does all this technology really help?   Some teachers clearly use it effectively to help their students learn, but not all.  Some teachers and students are enthusiastic about using new technologies, others less so – many teachers have, despite new ideas about new ways of teaching including making use of new technologies, been somewhat slow in adapting the way they teach to encompass these effectively, and there is a lack of evidence that students are learning more effectively – in fact in some cases technology can be a distraction. 

Two technologies that are of clear practical benefit, however are online recruitment systems and products that enable parental engagement. 

Online Recruitment Systems 

Last year, The Guardian newspaper ran a survey that found that 43% of teachers in state schools intended to leave the profession within the next five years.  Schools are already struggling to find teachers in key subjects and in some of the more remote parts of the country this is even more difficult.   Recruitment agencies and press advertising can be effective, but expensive, and schools and colleges are now turning in increasing numbers to online recruitment systems as a more cost-effective way of finding the best staff.   Bringing recruitment in-house can cut the cost considerably, and can be extremely effective.   These systems allow a school to post simultaneously to many job boards, allowing the recruitment net to be cast very widely, and present an advanced and attractive careers page on the school’s website.   The talent pooling facility which is inbuilt to some of these systems also allows details of unsuccessful candidates to be retained so they can be contacted again if another, more suitable post becomes vacant.  Schools and colleges such as Huntingdonshire Regional College, Loughborough Endowed Schools, Newcastle Under Lyme College, Ashton Sixth Form College, and Felsted School are examples of schools making effective use of these (NB we can provide a full case history for a school or college). 

Whole-school Communication and Engagement Products

Whole school communication and engagement products, via an app on a mobile phone, are now starting to make their way into schools and colleges.  These allow a high level of built-in, targeted communication. They facilitate two-way engagement, while allowing the school to choose the most appropriate channel of communication – for example, SMS, Push Notification, Email, Chat, Notice, Social Media – for the correct situation. It is widely accepted that the involvement of parents with their child’s education makes a great difference to success in the classroom.  Yet, for many reasons including lack of time, a feeling of not being welcome at a school, not all parents are as actively involved as they could be. 

 A study by the National College for School Leadership1 quoting Harris and Goodall makes a distinction between parental engagement as considered as parental engagement in learning, as opposed to parental involvement in schooling.   However, both are important.  The study says that “Feedback from school leaders shows that one of the major concerns in running a modern school is trying to get parents to engage more. Because of the changing demographic of modern parenting, traditional approaches to parental involvement have been largely unsuccessful.”

technology

 The study goes on to say that “all forms of positive parental interaction with school are important and can have a positive impact on children’s learning, behaviour and attendance. The research found that schools in different contexts employ a wide range of practical strategies to encourage parents to engage more with the school. Positive communication is essential for such parental engagement strategies to succeed, but this can take place in a number of ways. The best approaches are tailored to specific parental needs, and context is an essential factor when considering parental engagement strategies.”  However, as a paper from the Department of Education outlines, there can be a number of challenges in making parental involvement and engagement successful. 2

 There are many ways that schools try to encourage parental involvement, from welcoming them as classroom volunteers, being available out of hours, live chat sessions, even child-parent cookery classes, and so on.   But a new kind of interactive communications technology is also helping this effort.   In today’s world of mobile apps and when many children, even young ones, have mobile phones and even tablets, you’d think communication would be easy.   But what many schools want is a way of communicating quickly and easily with parents and all students, and whole school communication and engagement products, via an app on a mobile phone, are starting to make their way into schools.    These allow a high level of built-in, targeted communication, facilitating two-way engagement, while allowing the school to choose the most appropriate channel of communication – for example, SMS, Push Notification, Email, Chat, Notice, Social Media – for the correct situation.   An example is Heather Primary School, based in Coalville, Leicestershire, who are using a whole-school communication platform, to help improve communication and engagement between parents and staff. (NB we can provide a brief case history on this).   The school selected the product for its ability to bring all communication methods into one platform whilst being accessible via web browser and mobile app; this helped to meet the developing requirements of the school. Prior to taking the system, the school relied mainly on text messaging and paper newsletters to engage with parents.

While technology proliferates in schools today, some is more useful than others.  Tools that are simple to use and have a clear function that solves a difficult and ongoing problem are the ones likely to be around for the long-term, albeit revised and enhanced to meet the needs of the changing education system.   Such technology on its own cannot of course completely solve the problem of parental engagement and involvement, nor completely solve the problem of recruitment and retention in the education sector.    However, it can be an important tool in an armoury of techniques that can only help parents, pupils and the schools themselves, and ultimately the wider economy. 

 

1 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/340369/how-to-involve-hard-to-reach-parents-full-report.pdf

2 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/182507/DFE-RR156_-_Practitioner_Summary.pdf

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