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Can your school keep up with edtech?

Bill Champness, Managing Director at Hardware Associates asks, can schools keep pace with the ever changing IT landscape?

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | July 14, 2016 | Technology

Technology now plays a huge part in all of our lives. It shapes the way we live, learn, work, even interact with others. 

While the older generation may sometimes struggle with this concept, for the younger it’s always been a way of life – and always will be. In fact, the likelihood is that it will only intensify. Schools are also under increasing pressure to provide young people with plentiful opportunities to experience a range of technologies, but under the strain of tight budgets, this can be challenging.

However, with the right research and advice, and a considered plan of how the technology will integrate within a school’s unique environment and way of working, it is possible to achieve an IT learning environment that not only supports learning, but increases student and employee engagement, and may even lead to cost reductions.

Workforce of the future

Most young people are already immersed in technology within the home, and it is up to schools to not only support that learning, but to also lead it. Our schools are growing the next generation of the work force – which will inevitably require IT skills far beyond Word and Excel.

Twenty years ago Steve Jobs said: “Everyone should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.” Of course, computer coding is already part of curriculum, but this is only the beginning. The most recent Nobel Prize for physics was awarded for quantum information, the technology that will drive the 21st century.  New quantum computers have the potential to be millions of times faster than even our most powerful supercomputers today. It’s surely only a matter of time before students are not only learning to use, but build, these machines of the future. They will be the ones developing, maybe even inventing, the next stage of the World’s technologies. Providing them with the right tools will help to prepare them for jobs that may not even exist yet.

An ever-changing world

Technology is changing faster than ever before – and it’s only going to get faster. Speak to any student and they will likely be able to tell you when the latest iPhone or PlayStation is going on sale – and the waiting time between each release seems to get smaller and smaller. In fact, according to Moore’s Law – a principle first identified by Intel cofounder in 1965, the power of computer chips doubles about every 18 months.

On top of that, it is expected that storage doubles every 12 month, and bandwidth every 21 months. All of this means that we will advance roughly the same amount in the next 18 months as we did in the previous thirty years. Pretty staggering, not to mention daunting, when it comes to keeping up with those changes. 

Getting the best possible foot on the IT ladder

In 2015 annual global spending on educational technology in schools was been valued at £17.5bn (Gartner). In the UK, the spending on technology in schools was £900m. According to British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), schools had £619m in budgets for ICT, with £95m spent on software and digital content (2015) and the UK has among the highest levels of computer per pupil (1.4 pupils per computer). 

While these are not insignificant amount, IT equipment is usually costly, which means that getting a school’s technology solution right first time is of paramount importance. According to BESA, in 2015 UK schools had 1.3m desktop computers, 840,000 laptops, and 730,000 tablets. However, 22% of these were “ineffective”. The last thing any school wants is for a substantial part of its budget to sit gathering dust – or be obsolete within months. Not only does this have significant time and cost implications – but also a potential disruptive impact on learning.

For most schools, once an investment has been made in IT equipment it will be some time before this is replaced. However in order to ensure that pupils are not learning how to use obsolete systems, schools need to keep their IT equipment up to date.  So how can schools with limited budgets, and numerous demands on those budgets, ensure their pupils are getting the best possible foot on the IT ladder?

Expert advice

The key to doing this without draining the budget is seeking out expert advice. When deciding a school’s technology infrastructure, it is essential to make sure what you are buying will work in your environment, and support learning in the way you want it to. The right advisor will also help you to find ways to maximise your budget, such as using refurbished hardware rather than buying new, cloud storage, and utilising relevant free apps. They will also provide you with ongoing to support to advise on any training, and resolve any problems should they occur.

People often assume that you need to buy new to obtain the latest technology – but that simply isn’t true. Refurbished machines, done properly, can provide an excellent cost effective alternative, that allows schools to keep pace much better than if they were always buying new stock.


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