By Simon Lewis
When the ICT infrastructure grant was first announced, schools found themselves inundated with sales pitches from different brands with different products – so how do you know where to start? Well it might sound simplistic, but we suggest taking a step back and simply starting at the start.
Firstly, discuss some key questions with your staff, including;
- What do we want to achieve?
- What technology can help us achieve these goals?
- What level of skills and confidence does the staff currently have?
- What support structures are available to help us grow?
Take some time with this, maybe even assign different questions to different staff members to feedback at a follow-up staff meeting. This can help remove a lot of the noise. Let’s take interactive whiteboards as an example – before you get caught up in the pros and cons of various interactive whiteboards it can be useful to find out how often your staff and students actually interact with the board – many schools are paying a lot of money for interactive boards and no one is actually interacting with them – they are being used as very expensive projectors. As a result, some schools are now reverting to non-interactive projectors again and using a marker to annotate the projected image or text when necessary; others are using a tablet connected wirelessly to the projector to use as a mobile interactive board and visualiser – both options are significantly cheaper, if they are right for your staff. If interactivity is important, then shop around before buying – there are fantastic options available, and there can be quite a difference in price.
Secondly, and we’ve already started this above, we look at the different devices that contribute toward our infrastructure and we start to question these. It is only when you start to ask yourselves questions that these sort of answers start to surface. Now apply similar questions to other areas of the school and classroom. What devices do you want to put in the hands of your students? See our (article) choosing the right tablet for your school.
Infrastructure to consider;
- Student devices – tablets, laptops, desktops, cameras, cloud
- Teaching devices – laptops, desktops, whiteboards, projectors, tablets, cloud
- Admin devices – laptops, desktops, server, MIS (management information systems – see separate article (here))
- Whole school – broadband, wireless, cloud
Thirdly, it’s time to start planning – macro and micro. Go back to your ambitions, review your hardware and your staff’s skills/ confidence levels, look at your budget and then develop a short, medium and long term plan. You don’t need to be overwhelmed by suggestions such as cloud computing or cloud servers or even digital collaboration or movie making – you need to find your starting point and build from there. Once you have created an achievable plan you need to start creating specific objectives with concrete results – what will your students be producing in the first year? How are they going to produce it? Do you have lesson plans to work from/ has one of your teachers done a course? Can an external body provide support?
Planning can be difficult and you may find the clarity you created when you took a step back becoming blurred as the haze of options start invading the space again – be patient, step back once more and reset. If approached properly this difficulty turns to opportunity, no growth is possible without some growing pains. There is plenty of help available too, so don’t feel alone – talk to other schools, the PDST, your local Education Centre or an ICT for schools support company.
Every school is capable of growth, it’s just a matter of finding the rate growth that’s most appropriate for you.