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Every teacher in every school can get on board with edtech

Ben Stevens, Computer Science Teacher at The Boulevard Academy in Hull, explains how collaboration can help to implement edtech in the classroom

Posted by Lucinda Reid | February 12, 2018 | Technology

Hello, my name is Ben and, if I’m honest, I am a bit of a geek. It’s been the case ever since I was a teenager teaching myself to code, but nowadays I wear it as a badge of pride. Being a geek has led me to my career as a computer science teacher, but more than that, it’s made me into an advocate for bringing technology from the outside world into our classrooms.

My position as a computer science teacher at The Boulevard Academy in Hull means that I’m well versed in the education technology that is available to schools, and even how to adapt other kinds of tech for use in my classroom. Students at the academy benefit from a pedagogy-led approach to tech adoption, where we use tools like Canvas - our Virtual Learning Environment - across the institution to make learning more flexible, engaging and collaborative.

However as passionate as I am about my subject, I know that you don’t need to have my background if you want to get behind edtech. For some educators the idea of embracing technology can be complicated - especially if they’ve had bad experiences in the past - but thinking that only IT teachers are capable of getting behind tech in their classroom is patently untrue. What they might well need however is a little more support and collaboration.

I’m a true believer in collaboration when it comes to edtech, and I’m doing it everyday with my personal network of friends, educators and technology enthusiasts. Without the opportunity to collaborate with them, share my ideas and see the way they’re using tech to benefit their own teaching it would be impossible for me to get as much out of my tech as I have. For example, I might have an idea about how to incorporate some new software into one of my lessons, or a thought about how to use an existing piece of technology in a new way, but not have the time or resources to try it out. If I get in touch with my peers in my collaborative network I know that one of them is going to have had experience of doing a similar project that they’ll be able to share with me. Someone might even have had the same idea, and have suggestions on how to make the process smoother and more successful. By continually sharing ideas and experiences I know that I don’t have to struggle with problems or feel I’m going it alone when it comes to getting the best technology into my classroom.

I think that if every teacher had access to a network like mine in which they could brainstorm ideas and share resources, the implementation of education technology in our schools would skyrocket. However I can certainly understand why this is not always going to be possible. For one thing as teachers we’re time poor. I was lucky because - being technologically inclined to begin with - I was speaking to my friends and colleagues already, but most teachers can’t spare the time it would take to set up a network of their own. However with technology in the classroom becoming more of a necessity than an option, teachers are now having to use it whether they feel able to or not. 

In my opinion, this is an area where schools could really benefit from a little more guidance from the government. I think even the most sceptical would agree that technology is here to stay in our schools, and students are increasingly expecting the best tech to be available to them in the classroom, but where does this leave teachers who don’t have the strongest digital skills? For me, the worst way a person can be introduced to technology is by being given it without proper explanation or adequate support, as it just fosters resentment and frustration, but this is happening more and more as schools bring in new technology. Classroom technology is amazing, and can massively enhance teaching and learning, but implementing it can’t happen in a vacuum.

This belief is why I took part in Instructure’s Driving Digital Strategy campaign last summer. I think that if there were a clear, coherent strategy for schools on the kind of technology that is required in schools, how best to use it and how best to procure it, schools would have a foundation on which to build their classroom technology. As it is, I worry that teachers who would otherwise be leaping on the opportunity to enhance their teaching and learning with tech are being turned off by basic issues.

Not every school has access to an IT specialist or technology enthusiast who is able to take the lead on getting the right tech into classrooms, but with a nationwide strategy I feel that the government could begin to take up that position. If there were a national technology framework for example, school would be able to have the information that they need to start putting together their own classroom digital strategies. And if there were a countrywide digital space for collaboration and sharing of resources, educators would be able to speak to and learn from their more experienced peers on all areas of technology and learning.

I know that, as a self-confessed geek, I’m always going to be an advocate for bringing the best that technology has to offer into the classroom. However, what I’ve experienced of the way that my school has used technology to enhance the learning and skill development of our pupils has convinced me every teacher in every school can get on board with edtech. It’s been a long journey since I spent my evenings working my way through coding manuals, but I’ve seen the way that tech is used in the classroom evolve remarkably in that time. We’re at the stage now where teachers want to make sure that they’re getting the most out of the technology that is available to them, and I know that with a little help, and a lot of collaboration, we can make that happen.

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