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Technology in the classroom – no longer a white and black issue?

Technology in the classroom – no longer a white and black issue?

Posted on 7th August 2018

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white board

A friend who used to run a large ad agency told me how, over a decade ago, he spent £1,000 on an interactive whiteboard in order to wow clients at presentations. The only problems were that it was bulky to transport to the pitch and once you got there it needed a wall socket nearby to power it. If anything went wrong, rather than looking cutting-edge, the agency looked a bunch of plonkers. It was promptly ditched.

This came to mind when I read in the news today that the Education Secretary has stated that, “replacing blackboards with interactive whiteboards was a waste of money.” He’s not wrong. Not only did they not really take off in the commercial sector, I remember about 15 years ago my school took delivery of a new interactive board.  It worked really well for about three days until someone stole the only laptop we had that worked with it! 

To be fair to Damian Hinds (the aforementioned Education Secretary), he also makes a number of interesting points in an article about the ways in which technology can benefit teachers.  This is something that I think we neglect, tending instead to focus solely on the lack of teachers in general and teachers of technology in particular.

For example, VR is now helping children to experience far-flung areas of the world in a way that traditional text and video cannot do.  Teachers themselves benefit from online training, obviating the need to travel for CPD, while technology is also reducing the admin and associated costs involved with cloud based systems replacing expensive servers.  Learning languages is increasingly done online and speech-to-text tools and advanced speech readers can help children with learning difficulties.  

However, in my opinion, perhaps the most interesting and valuable way in which technology will help those involved in education is in re-training. With robotics likely to contribute substantially to increasing technological unemployment, technology can help get those made redundant back into work, ironically, often by teaching them digital skills. 

That said, and this is not something I ever thought I’d write, I do have to agree with the Education Secretary when he concludes that, “Technology will never be able to replace the motivated, inspirational effect of a great teacher.” Most of us can recall the one or two teachers who stood out from the rest and inspired us. When great teaching is coupled with great technology today’s pupils get the best of both worlds. 

Christina Hall, Be-IT

Posted in News, Opinion

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