The digital revolution for schools one year on – how can schools benefit?
In summer 2018, Damian Hinds outlined his vision for a digital revolution in schools.
He wanted the tech industry to really put themselves out there to help schools with all things digital. The thinking at the time was very much that ‘technology has the power to significantly reduce teacher workload, enhance student experiences and boost learning outcomes.’ However, at the time, only a minority of schools and colleges were currently taking advantage of available opportunities.
Outside schools, technology has critically transformed so many areas of life, revolutionising our ability to access information and connect to others. But the education sector hasn’t been able to really get a handle on technology in the same way, mainly due to funding and staffing pressures and lack of infrastructure. When new technology does appear in schools, not that much is actually making a real impact on children’s learning.
The UK EdTech sector is huge. And there is a gap in what is happening in it and how much schools are getting out of that progress.
How do the plans aim to help schools?
The latest government strategy talks about the ways companies can help schools. There are a host of digital challenges in schools currently: from teacher shortages, workload and assessment to attracting parents and creating efficient ways for schools and stakeholders to communicate.
Technology can and is playing a critical role in helping relieve some of these pressures – via quicker ways to communicate to the community and parents, through removing excessive marking, or development of smarter ways to give student feedback and track progress. However, schools, while appreciative of these advancements, are not tech experts and need support to know which of these products will work best for them in their individual scenario.
NESTA has partnered with the Department for Education to get tech companies more interested, support the development of products and ensure they really do meet the right needs for different school stakeholders.
Initially focusing on formative assessment, essay marking, parental engagement and timetabling, NESTA has launched a funding programme to support digital products across these challenges and build the evidence for what works by connecting schools and industry to test high-potential products. The programme is investing £4.6m to stimulate innovation.
Even better for schools, the second part of the programme, the Edtech Innovation Testbed, will invite participating schools and colleges to match with EdTech products aligned to their needs. The NESTA site says, “Through the testbed project, each school or college will have the chance to trial technology for free and be closely supported to evaluate its impact, helping Nesta to share lessons learned for products, schools and colleges more widely with the sector.” It’s the perfect opportunity for schools to test the water. Find out more on their website if your school would like to be involved.
Benefits of tech for schools
The right technology in schools can and should:
- reduce teacher workloads (it can and should make things more efficient)
- enhance pupil experiences (by giving them insights into worlds beyond their reach)
- boost learning outcomes (by improving the content delivered to them)
- positively impact teaching stakeholders (by attracting new staff, engaging parents and the community through a school’s website and social media).
While this list looks like something every school should want to engage with, most schools do have huge barriers to implementing these technological changes effectively. With other pressing priorities and sometimes lack of funds to employ the right staff, tech development often features lower down the list and rarely makes it onto the school development plan.
Start with your school’s voice
One of the least complicated places to start is with your school website and messaging.
Websites are a key tool for any school, but many focus their efforts on how it attracts new students and staff, and tend to forget that it can be a key communication tool for existing parents too.
At Blue Apple Education, we are specialists in ensuring your school website is not only fit for purpose, but that it stands out from the crowd. We always tell schools to consider the following when considering changes to their website:
- Think like a parent. It is very difficult to put every parent in the same box, but consideration of their needs and wants will ensure your website is an effective communication tool for parents and guardians. Make sure your website content is relevant for parents. Frustrations will arise and interest lost if the content on the website isn’t up to date, relevant or easy to navigate.
- Let your website speak for you. The idea is to get parents eventually to look at the website first rather than calling the school for information. Content such as the latest curriculum information, the school calendar, school news, class pages, galleries, extra-curricular activities and how parents can help their child at home, are what parents look at frequently, so make sure the information is always up to date and helpful.
- Ensure your site is mobile friendly. The majority of people now prefer to use their mobile to browse the internet instead of their desktop computer. It’s important that your website is optimised for mobile just as much, if not more so, than desktop.
- Review what you are telling people. An effective website should have easy to navigate sections with clear, short titles. Key information needs to be accessible in three clicks or less, otherwise people will not take the time to look for it, and all your hard work creating a page will go to waste.
- Make sure it looks and sounds good. A visually unappealing website with bland content can switch people off. Make sure you incorporate beautiful photography, video and powerful stories that will engage parents and get them talking about you to other parents in the wider community.
What does the future hold?
At Blue Apple Education, we believe that EdTech does have the power to lead a revolution in schools and transform the future of how education is delivered. But it has to happen one step at a time. The government’s EdTech Strategy should help bring more innovation to this fascinating industry and we look forward to bringing you more updates.
Blue Apple Education are School Communication and Design Experts. We believe each and every school is “remarkable” and unique in some way. We see it as our duty to unearth what this is, and to convey the essence of this both beautifully and convincingly. Please feel free to comment below about how your school is embracing EdTech or do get in touch. We would love to hear from you.
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Blue Apple Education are School Communication and Design Experts. We believe each and every school is remarkable and unique in some way. We see it as our duty to unearth what this is, and to convey the essence of this both beautifully and convincingly.
Please feel free to comment below about the elements of your school’s communications and design you feel could be improved. Or, simply get in touch… we’d love to hear from you: [email protected] or 0330 223 0766.
We are school communication & design experts
If you want to find out how Blue Apple Education can help you unearth the remarkable in your school you can call us on +44 (0) 330 223 0766 or email us [email protected]