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Digital strategy on the road ahead

Rachel Matthews, Director of International Communications at Canvas, looks at the need for accountability and Ofsted's role in driving change

Posted by Julian Owen | April 28, 2018 | School life

My last article for Academy Today introduced Canvas’ Driving Digital Strategy campaign. Last summer, we ran a series of consultations with educators, thought leaders and policy makers; and they all, without exception, asserted the urgent need for guidance from Government to make sure that tech really delivers for teachers, learners and schools.

Our report detailed the biggest barriers to successful tech adoption in education - and last time we touched on the thorny issues of procurement and training. Another key issue which schools reported is the idea that help is needed in dealing with legacy systems and equipment. Many talked about the cost, time and uncertainty involved in replacing old tech - and this hampering true digital transformation.

Levelling the playing field

Respondents told us that there is a perception in the education industry that new schools are leapfrogging state schools because they don’t have to deal with issues surrounding the replacement of legacy equipment. And that Government strategy can help interoperability and support schools in a difficult process of retiring outdated legacy systems.

Respondents felt, too, that technology had the potential to be a great leveller - affording rural schools the same opportunities, for example, to see great art works as those with a museum round the corner. It’s important, therefore, to ensure that the ability to use technology is universal - and that all schools can benefit equally.

However, while legacy systems certainly present a challenge for schools perhaps even more pressing is the need for teachers to be able to measure the efficacy of the technology they buy and use. And this is where Ofsted comes in.

"There is a perception in the education industry that new schools are leapfrogging state schools because they don’t have to deal with issues surrounding the replacement of legacy equipment."

The role of Ofsted

There is no current requirement for technology provision in the Ofsted framework - and no encouragement for schools to use tech and allocate resources and funding accordingly. According to Ofsted, technology should be seen as facilitator to academic success, but respondents in our consultation confirm that a hands-off approach can leave schools adrift and doesn’t reflect the crucial position of technology in ensuring teaching and learning success.

There is an argument that there needs to be a level of accountability for using technology in schools and classrooms. Think tank Reform told us:

“Ofsted is fundamentally, and to some extent rightly, old-fashioned about its views in terms of what schools are for and how they do things. A systematic shift is required, so that what is measured is the extent that education delivers the skills required for a lifetime of learning. Of course, digital literacy and technology use is a vital component of this. Changes to computer science will help, but it needs embedding across the curriculum and measured accordingly.”

So, while in my first article I talked about the need for technology adoption to be driven by grassroots movements from teachers and students themselves, input from formal bodies like Ofsted is also required. If bodies like them recognise the importance of edtech, and accept its power to enhance teaching and learning, then we believe that it ought to play more of a role in getting it into classrooms.

For more information on our Driving Digital Strategy initiative, please click here - we’d love to hear what you think.

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