BETT 2018 is almost upon us, and in the frenzy of activity before the show I got asked to write a couple of hundred words on some key questions for one of the numerous pre-show articless. One of the questions was very predictable and along the lines of ‘what to look out for at this year’s BETT show’. My first answer was…
Why not visit the show, walk about (in comfortable shoes) and decide for yourself?
…but I had to delete that and write something more more sensible.
The second question was striking:
What has been the biggest lesson schools have learned about technology (in the past 10 years)?
This got me thinking hard, and once again my first answer was honest and also had to be deleted because the answer was:
‘Nothing, not a bean, nowt’.
Before you stop reading and label me a cynical nihilist, let me explain why that was my gut reaction to the question.
UK schools have invested a great deal in educational technology in the last 10 years. If I had time I would see if I could get an estimate of the figure or check if any research had been done, but we all know it’s a big stack of cash. The reason for my answer is because I think many schools still spend money on technology because they think that technology is the answer and it will have a transformative effect on the schoo in and of itself. And when it doesn’t happen they blame the technology and then look for the next ‘new thing’.
The trouble is that it won’t, and technology transforms nothing unless the school works really hard to understand what it wants to achieve and creates an overarching strategy where technology is a part of that strategy. Now if you are a school leader or from a school which has worked hard to create that strategy and then used your ed-tech spend in order to realise that vision, you will no doubt be annoyed with me now for the unnecessarily combative tone of this post and it’s exaggerated attention seeking title.
But many schools still buy technology without giving enough thought to how they are going to use it, how it will affect the existing pedagogic practices of the school and how they need to control the implementation of the technology to achieve the desired outcome.
If I was in charge of the entire thing (UK education, and the ed tech suppliers and the international market for ed tech which I know is a little unlikely), I would order a BETT sabbatical. For a single year I would cancel the show. But all of the teachers, school leaders and others would have to use the time they would have spent at the show sitting down and thinking very hard about how they want to transform their school, and then working out what technology (if any) will help that and what would hinder it. For instance if you felt your students were too passive, to reliant on teacher input, then design a strategy to make teaching more challenging with more open ended lessons where students take control. Then go and find hardware and software which could best support that.
Incidentally if this did come to pass, then the first question about ‘what to look out for at this year’s BETT’ would be redundant, because schools would only be looking out for what could help them with their strategy. They wouldn’t care about the latest kit, the coolest new shiny things or the bleeding edge, they’d just find what they needed and ignore the rest.
Looking forward to seeing you all at BETT again this year; let’s learn nothing again 😉
Image Attribution: tin can telephone nothing by T s Beall and many others is licenced under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0