Warning: This article is a plug for a service – a service I have utmost respect for.
In Venezuela, as in many countries, schools are unable to source and purchase various teaching resources locally. As such, they need to look at using suppliers a little further from home. There are many out there but the quality of service from start to end tends to be below satisfactory. One such service sticks out as an exception: Equip My School.
Some background: During my seven years in Venezuela, it was next to impossible to purchase quality products locally and/or niche products specific to our context. Our previous experience with other companies was full of inefficiencies, time delays and communication issues. It was extremely frustrating. This is when Equip My School came to my rescue – As Head of School, I decided to make the switch to Equip My School in 2015. They were the exception – modern, forward thinking and extremely efficient. From start (order) to delivery, it was always smooth, year upon year.
I have to point out some aspects that are a life-saver for any school that needs such a service:
Immediate and quick communication from the go.
Communication can and often does arrive from ‘the top’.
A personal one-on-one service feel.
Orders arrive as one batch – extremely convenient.
Orders are placed through a bespoke portal created by Equip My School. This portal is in one word – amazing! Easy to use as a school leader and for teachers to place orders. I was in awe when I first saw it.
Once orders are placed, and approved by supervisors, the Equip My School contact will stay in touch, but only as and when needed.
Orders can be placed from the UK and other parts of the world, i.e. USA, Australia.
If a product cannot be sourced, a replacement is offered.
Clear deadlines set, including final delivery. These were always met.
During the 5 years I used Equip My School, I have come to admire their business model, quality service and efficiency. It is sad to hear how the COVID pandemic is currently affecting their work, hence I make no apologies for this article. Schools need quality services such as Equip My School.
I would recommend any school, anywhere, to use Equip My School for your orders, whether small or large. They are truly an exceptional company – way ahead of its competition.
Please do contact me if you have any questions about this fantastic company.
The overall impact of technology in education has been well discussed and researched both in developing and developed countries, especially in the last decade. There are many different opinions, but it is definitely unavoidable. The pros and cons of technology in the classroom are widely debated, changed often, but regardless of everything, technology is part of life, part of modern teaching and we as teachers must find a way to balance between traditional teaching and the technologically aided one. Technology is not replacing the role of the teacher but it is redefining their roles in the classroom. The first step is recognising the importance of technology within education and buy-in that it can improve teaching and learning. It should be seen as an effective way to widen educational opportunities.
In this post, there is an argument that technology does enhance student learning despite some recent studies and comments stating otherwise. Instead it is posited that the real problem is a lack of digital competence (i.e. a digital deficiency), and in turn a lack of quality technology training to effectively improve our students’ learning. Whether we want it or not, whether we like it or not, students are closely connected to technology and we cannot change that. So why not embrace it and use it to our advantage as educators?
Most of the participants in a 2017 study by Lindita Sknderi, agree that technology increases student’s academic achievements. Besides this, the teachers also also felt that technology enhances lifelong learning which is arguably a key goal in most schools, and understandably so. However, the study also showed that teachers did not think the same regarding communication skills. They disagreed strongly that technology has a positive impact in developing communication skills for young people. The non-profit New Schools Venture Fund and Gallup group found that nearly nine in ten U.S. public school students say they use digital learning tools at least a few days a week and more than half questioned said they use digital technology to learn every day. The survey found that classroom technology gets high marks from educators. At least eight in 10 teachers and school leaders said they see great value in using classroom technology tools now and in the future.
When technology is used correctly and effectively, the benefits are clear. Students no doubt are learning more when lessons are delivered by a more competent and confident user of technology. However, when technology is used incorrectly as a teaching tool, the results are not positive, quite the opposite. Technology presents a wonderful opportunity to re-shape education because it is popular in general, with both students and teachers. One study in the US has shown that the introduction of technology makes 87% of students more likely to attend class and 72% of them more likely to participate. Another study by Smoothwall found that 96% of teachers believe technology has had a positive impact on the way children participate and learn in lessons. Another study in 2009 found that the benefits of technology exceed the costs, particularly when considering the enjoyment of students in class and developing an active learning environment .
Many schools have (correctly in my opinion) invested in technology; iPads, MacBooks, Chromebooks, desktops etc, but how many have invested properly in training their staff? How many schools can honestly say that their teachers and users are confident in their usage? How often do these devices simply become a fancy utility? Often used simply to manage student behaviour? What can we do to make teachers more competent with the use of technology, more confident and buy-in to the use of technology to aid their teaching, thus impact positively on student learning? How do we find the balance with the tried and tested methods and the new-age developments?
Firstly, it should not be a choice. Teachers must accept that they need to use devices and technology, agreeing to professional development, both in and outside school. There is an immense need for professional development sessions and appropriate training which could make the best out of teachers and give the best possible to the students. It is all about creating a harmony, a balance, between the traditional and basic forms of teaching integrated with technology.
School leaders should realise that it takes time for teachers to integrate technology in the classroom because it takes a long time to plan, learn and prepare. It takes time to build up confidence and competence. Teachers need time freed up for training and familiarisation. Of course, this is a common request and never easy to do, but many creative ways allow it (e.g. Teachers covering each other). Within this time, ask staff to feed back something valuable, maybe in INSET, maybe in regular sharing good practice sessions. Promote the use of taking a risk – ‘try it, it won’t break’ approach is required! Time is vital. There are too many websites and resources to share. Pinpoint a few that will work and let staff play, teach each other and work with them. Give them the time to do this. Time is key! Use your best users of technology to train others, maybe with a schedule. You will be surprised with the uptake – teachers are professionals, professionals who wish to learn and develop, we all need structure and guidance. Why not get students to train staff? For example, my own personal use of Prezi is entirely credited to Anina, a 15 year old student.
There is no doubt that the future of the workplace will be heavily dependent on technology. The ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ will see an increase in workforce automation. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that over the next 10 to 20 years, “14 percent of jobs are at high risk of being fully automated, while another 32 percent at risk of significant change”. Hence, it seems imperative that education systems adapt to ensure students are equipped with the right skills to survive in our changing world. While there are many different theories on what and how students should learn, there is no escaping the fact that students will need to be prepared to continuously learn and upskill – people will be learners for life (lifelong learners once more). Technology is playing, and will continue to play, a key role in the way skills are acquired and developed for the future workspace.
Tej Samani, an advocate for more technology advances in education, is quoted as saying, “Our education system has needed significant progression to just keep up, let alone stay ahead of the leaps in technology we are experiencing. While technology will always struggle to replace an effective teacher, it can help develop effective teaching as well as deliver tailored, personalized education to learners of all standards, irrespective of how complex their barriers to learning are. The advancement in education technology can bring in areas such as grade prediction, performance tracking, and personalization – this will help to ensure that the most critical stage of a person’s life is delivered with accuracy, engagement, and foresight”
A word of caution: There are many companies that are focusing on driving positive change in education through technology or are they? Schools and leaders need to be extremely careful before utilising software and technology. Hidden motives, often profit-driven do exist and are a clear conflict of interest. School should conduct a proper and thorough research into all pieces of software and hardware. It does not have to be so costly if done properly.
Finally, make the use of technology to enhance student learning an area of focus throughout the year. Put it on all the developmental plans. Don’t lose sight of this objective – try to make it work for all but also demand it as an expectation. Finally, it is worth remembering that technology is not the answer to everything – we still need classroom leaders and students with an appetite for learning. Schools that find the correct balance, will see the positive outcomes on their students.
With the growing use of technology and the rapid pace of change, a natural question arises for all parents, teachers and child carers:
How can I support my child/student?
Parents and educational institutions should accept that it is pointless to block access to websites, apps etc. That would be a fruitless exercise and would not teach responsibility, independence nor would it be educating young minds. Children will normally find a way to circumvent any software or device that restricts access and as often happens, are the ‘experts’ and parents tend to be the ‘digital immigrants’.
The key is to educate, communicate, have open discussions about everything, even the most awkward of topics (such as porn, drugs etc) and make children feel that they can approach us with difficult situations. Combined with some common sense ‘checks’, this seems to be the best way forward. With all this in mind, we need to have faith in children to make the right choices.
Some of the aforementioned common sense tips (and software) included:
Role model the type of behaviour we expect from our children with respect to the use of technology (e.g. no phones at the dinner table, restricted usage of phones when outside etc)
Educational institutions should minimise any firewalls and normally this would include blocking access to porn websites. Instead rely on strong programmes that educate children with the use of technology and digital citizenship
Parents should share information with each other, constantly collaborating. Schools should be happy to receive information and distribute it to its community
Watch movies with children that relate to both the benefits and dangers of technology. Allow children to reflect, often with the right choice of movie, no discussion is even needed
Use of Apple Family Sharing to restrict what apps are downloaded (Snapchat and Ask are often raised as concerns due to the anonymous user settings), track childrens’ location and various other benefits.
Use of Windows 10 to monitor internet usage and create scheduled reports. Apple iOS has similar functionality built within it.
With education, mature conversations and the right amount of trust, responsibility, and discussion, we can all use technology to our advantage. Do not let technology be the dividing factor between you and your child/student.