I have always thought of improvement in education as being a journey. Sometimes we move quickly, other times slowly. We stop for rests and if we take our foot of the gas we can start slipping backwards. Effective use of ICT is one key journey that schools are making. Big questions remain about the return on our investment in educational technology (EdTech). Are we really making best use of what is available and is our use having an impact on outcomes?
I was pondering what the IT journey for schools looked like, having worked for many years in supporting implementation projects and training. In my role as Head of Education Transformation at Gaia Technologies I am uniquely placed to see how we plan for deployment, procure solutions, solve technical challenges, and make use of ICT to support teaching, learning, management and administration. I was thinking, “Why is this so difficult?”. I sat down to draw the processes involved in successfully establishing ICT at the heart of schooling.
I am a geographer by background and it slowly dawned on me that to show the journey, or more strictly journeys, I would either have to draw a very complex flowchart or a map. The very best map for showing interconnecting routes with multiple stations is the London Underground topological map. So I started drawing, assuming the stations to be points that you had to pass through to to achieve the goal of effective ICT implementation with educational impact. You certainly cannot put all the stations on one line. There are lots of travellers involved from educators to technical specialists, from project managers to manufacturers. So emerged my new map – the Gaia Educational ICT Travel Map.
Now this may appear confusing but if you assume that to get to where you want to go you may have to travel along a line from a starting place and that the start and finish places might vary, it becomes clearer. You may have to journey on different lines to visit the ‘task stations’. You may have to jump off one line and take a separate journey. You may have to go back up a line to complete tasks that were missed earlier. For example, logic might suggest that that you start at stakeholder engagement and proceed along the red (Central Line) via ICT Vision, Strategy, Finance Plan etc towards the Implementation station. However, if you are a brand new school you may have entered this world through procurement of an ICT partner and solution or you might be starting from commitment to educational innovation. How many people really understand this, or what all the stations are and what the tasks involve? How often is CPD left off because we spent all the money on kit? It is no wonder that it is all so complex and the risk of failure so high.
So now I was left with the thought that if we were to evaluate the journey and set it against a model of school improvement , then I would need to devise a simpler schema. Hence the Improvement with EdTech matrix. This approaches from another direction – where are we at , rather than what do we have to do to get there. The matrix has a school improvement journey as its horizontal axis. Here a school is travelling from a fresh start (New Directions) , through action at the journey start (On Track), into improvement (Driving Forward), becoming transformational and outstanding (Sustained Change) through to helping others (Reaching Out). It is an old idea revisited from work in a previous school improvement context.
Against this self-evaluation statements placed on the matrix and categorised in key areas associated with success: vision, leadership & professional learning, technical solutions, use for teaching & learning, use for management & administration. Now scanning left to right you can place yourself against the journey for each sub-theme of the sections above.
OK, this will tell you where you are but the resulting discussion may reveal why you are at this point on each of the journeys. Now refer back to the travel map. Which stations did you not visit in the past? Perhaps you need to travel back there in order to make the next step on your improvement journey with EdTech?
Head of Education Transformation (Gaia Technologies PLC)