On the whole, the jury is no longer out regarding the effectiveness of ICT in schools. Most people agree that students spend so much of their time engaging in life through technology that it should be no different after they walk through the school gates. Why should students step back in time as soon as they enter the classroom?
Meeting students’ expectations around the use of technology in school is another matter however, with schools experiencing a lag between what is within the realms of being possible and what students really want.
Where does this put teachers? Well aware that technology engages students and can help to improve results and even behaviour in the classroom, we believe that most teachers would be keen to use more ICT for teaching and learning – if only they had the chance and the confidence. One key issue is that teachers are unable to be released or spare the time for training. In 2016 for example, figures revealed that the government had recruited only 70% of computer science teachers for the coming academic year. Dr Bill Mitchell, head of the British Computer Society (BCS), has said that while teachers were no longer ‘drowning’, they were still struggling to keep their head above water, and that teachers are learning as they go along with the students – particularly in subjects such as Computer Science.
If the hurdle of time for training could be overcome, ICT could, in turn, give teachers greater teaching assistance and provide a raft of other complementary benefits. For many schools the answer lies in cloud computing.
The potential of the cloud
There was a time when any mention of the cloud incited a little grumbling! It seemed a big hill to climb to transfer the way a school functioned over to something they can’t physically see or feel. And what about all the hardware they had invested in? That couldn’t go to waste. Yet as older hardware begins to go end of life and more and more schools are seeing the benefits of the cloud, it seems somewhat inevitable that cloud computing will soon be commonplace for most, if not all schools.
Accurate school data
Teachers can access information about students in real time. Data is updated in the cloud by staff, teachers and senior leaders so everyone knows it is up to date and accurate. This is useful to understand any behavioural issues, special teaching requirements, attendance and even for finding out about allergies or medical issues while away on school trips.
Easier access to school data
Teachers no longer have to spend precious minutes/hours searching across systems in disparate spreadsheets to find the information they need. Through the cloud it is far easier to find what they are looking for, improving and speeding up tasks such as reporting.
Sharing lesson plans
With an on-premise network, lesson plans could be stored all over the place – online and on paper – making it difficult for teachers to find any useful resources. The cloud makes visibility of content such as lesson plans far more effective and can save them time and energy when conjuring up the next interesting task to keep students on track. The Department for Education also suggests schools use collaborative software such as Google Docs, OneDrive or OneNote to enable teachers to work on the same document at the same time and use cloud services such as G Suite (and agree file-naming conventions and folder structures so you can make best use of folders and can find what you want easily).
Some teachers are spending up to 15 hours marking work per week! Instead, through the cloud, teachers can forget about hauling piles of workbooks home and instead mark work online, making it far quicker and easier. Students simply upload their work to an area that is then accessed by teachers, cutting down the amount of time needed for marking. Find out how one teacher decreased marking time and increased learning through the school’s cloud platform.
Simple communication with staff, students and parents
Setting out homework, distributing it and communicating about it through the cloud are all ways teachers can save time. Online communication is also far more effective when communicating with parents, either individually or as a group. It works both ways of course. See how schools can use cloud-based forms to create questionnaires for students and colleagues to provide feedback on a teacher’s lessons.
As teachers become accustomed to using the cloud and seeing the time-saving benefits it can bring, it should in turn, help to free up time for training on innovative technologies that can be used for greater engagement in the classroom. From software to immersive learning to flipped learning, more time can be spent on tools for teaching assistance and less time fire-fighting due to too much time on administrative tasks.