At Skipton Girls’ High School we are fortunate in having had a 1:1 laptop programme for about 10 years. Our vision for getting the best from our laptop programme has certainly evolved over the years as technology has advanced but one thing we haven’t had to worry about is access.
Many schools still operate with banks of laptops in designated computer rooms and in my view this set-up severely limits the gains technology can bring. Traditionally such rooms have been kitted out with 16 computers allowing 1:2 access. It’s meant one person usually ends up doing most of the work and the tasks and ways in which the technology can be used are limited.
As laptops have reduced in price and improved in functionality they have become increasingly popular and it has been feasible for some time to have laptop trolleys allowing devices to be taken to a particular classroom. If there are enough laptops for 1:1 access this is definitely preferable to the desktop approach.
However another significant issue with both of these approaches is that there is likely to be a booking system for either the room or the trolley and there is no guarantee of access to the technology when it is needed. This problem seriously inhibits teachers from planning for the use of technology in lessons. If access to a computer when needed is not certain then it is unlikely that the planned curriculum will give careful thought to technologies use. Instead computer use becomes ad-hoc.
“I think we’ll have a computer room lesson today”
The quote above is something I’ve heard a lot in staffrooms and it may imply that the use of technology is a treat and that the learning is likely to be less challenging which is definitely not a good way to go. So what might the solutions be?
Moving things Forwards
If your school still uses computer rooms I would suggest evaluating carefully how the computers are used. Is there carefully planned curriculum use of computers by departments/subject areas that is really enhanced by the use of the technology to the benefit of all learners? It might be better to focus future investment on more flexible options. You might find trade-in deals could reduce the cost of new machines considerably.
Many schools in the UK will have benefitted from the government laptop scheme during lockdown and as we hopefully move back towards a new normal in September thought may be switching to how to maximise the use of these devices. Using them on laptop trolleys may well ensure they are as accessible as possible, encouraging their use to be strategically planned into each subject’s curriculum, enhancing their effectiveness.
A more radical approach would be to actually consider how devices are allocated. Is there a particular year group or subject area which would especially benefit from having guaranteed access to technology? Is there a confident and enthusiastic teacher/department who you know would make excellent use of the technology if they had access to it? It may be wise to stop trying to be equitable in provision and start maximising the benefits. If others start to see learning gains/workload benefits their interest in embedding technology into their curriculum area may be piqued and then it will be the right time to consider a change in the strategy and more investment in technology.
Of course the flexibility and benefits of a well thought out 1:1 device scheme are likely to provide the most effective solution in ensuring access to technology but it doesn’t guarantee well thought out use for teaching and learning. Cost is often seen as a major barrier to such schemes but it isn’t as expensive as you might think to run such schemes. £15 a month can ensure everyone has access to a high quality device and there are companies out there who can take care of repairs and set-up. Could you use Pupil Premium funding in your EdTech strategy?
If you are considering a 1:1 device scheme or how to improve the usage of your current EdTech provision the EdTech Demonstrator Programme can put you in touch with schools operating Microsoft, Apple and Google powered devices. They have experience and expertise in deploying these devices, training staff, ensuring they achieve value for money and maximise the benefits to teaching and learning. The programme is completely free of charge and they can offer a bespoke and totally independent service. Why not sign up for the programme and find out what they have to offer? Click the link below to start benefitting.