By Gavin Molloy
With the next tranche of infrastructure grant money around the corner, how ready is your school to get the maximum return on your investment? Having supported over 200 schools to find the right companies and products to invest in, we have gathered some quick tips to help you make some crucial choices.
We take a look at spending your grant through the lens of the Digital Schools of Distinction’s five criteria;
- Leadership and Vision
- ICT Integration in the Curriculum
- School ICT Culture
- Continuing Professional Development
- Resources and Infrastructure
It is difficult to pick one of the five criteria to single out as the most important, but this certainly argues its case well. The first thing that all schools need to do is to properly assess their wants and needs – this will be the foundation for your vision, and this requires leadership. All too often the conversation around spending the infrastructure grant includes an open forum style conversation in the staff room, with staff throwing up a variety of areas that have captured their eye in the previous week/ month/ year. This on its own will lead to an ad hoc plan in the short term, and frustration in the medium to long term.
You will need to create a leadership team at the school that can filter through staff suggestions, recognise key priorities and create a roadmap for the school. This team will need to assess the skills and confidence of teachers, the existing resources at the school, the ambitions of the school and the medium to long term budget. Only then can you start to build a coherent, achievable plan.
Once you have your leadership team and roadmap, you can start to get more granular by looking at specific curriculum areas that you would like to integrate with ICT in order to achieve more with your teaching and learning. For instance, you may decide that you want to use Digital Literacy to develop your language curriculum; or cloud computing for innovative research and presentation of information for SESE, or for distribution and collection of work; likewise you may decide that you want to develop maths skills, problem solving and analytical thinking through coding.
Real investment in ICT infrastructure should be an answer to the question you ask yourself, your staff and your school community regarding ICT culture – how do you want to use ICT to improve home-school relations or to create an innovative learning and communications environment? You don’t need to achieve it all straight away, but having an idea of your ideal school will help you find your first steps.
The grant money is not intended for investment in CPD; however all investment should be made with CPD in mind. For example, if you decide you would like to invest in iPads then you will need to consider where they will fit into your curriculum, the practicalities of managing them as well as ensuring have a clear, targets-based development plan for your teachers; in order to empower them with the relevant skills. Many schools invest in the hardware and only use a minimal percentage of its potential because they haven’t considered the equal investment that is needed in their teachers. Remember, the development of staff and hardware will go hand in hand for innovative learning at your school.
This is why you are getting the money. Please take some time to focus on the first four criteria above and develop a clear developmental vision for the school. When you do, your decisions on resources and infrastructure will take care of themselves.
At Cocoon, our strategy meetings are designed specifically to help schools to get on this path. Whether you don’t know your starting point or you have developed some strong, development focused planning and just need some extra guidance, we can help. Our support model has been developing for nearly 15 years, with over 300,000 hours of CPD, strategy and planning provided – so we know how to help all schools move forward and keep moving forward at a progressive, achievable speed.