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Chris Neath

From chalkboard to iPad

Chris Neath looks at the process of transitioning to a digital classroom

Posted by Stephanie Broad | May 29, 2016 | Technology

Technology is advancing and educational establishments want to take advantage of the latest methods of teaching and the technologies that enable this to happen. As such, the push to fully digitise the classroom continues apace.

Success, however, relies heavily on having the right strategy in place. From insurance to power and implementation to storage, there are a number of considerations if digital education is to become a successful reality. Here are what I believe to be the seven crucial factors that ensure the foundations are in place for a successful and long-lasting digital strategy.

Set your stall out early

In the planning phase, before any devices have even been purchased, it is important to do the groundwork for what is to be expected. An Acceptable Usage Policy should be drawn up as one of the first tasks. This is a set of clearly defined expectations and goals, ensuring that educators, students and their families manage and use the devices successfully, safely and effectively.

Spread the word

Much like the Acceptable Usage Policy, if you don’t have everyone on board with the plan then problems will inevitably arise. From students to staff, parents to governors, all opinions and ideas should be considered and the process communicated clearly. If everyone knows what you are looking to do, the process to put this in place, and the end goal, then the plan will be far more cohesive and will be incorporated into the current learning environment far more easily.

Meet user demand through future-proofed services

Getting the right devices in place is a major step toward an engaging mobile learning environment. However, just as important is device integration.

Successful device integration is underpinned by multiple systems including security, connectivity and storage. Introducing new or upgraded devices into an ageing infrastructure can have a real destabilising effect, and can lead to other components needing expensive upgrades. It’s important to review new devices against your current infrastructure, and ensure that your environment can evolve seamlessly without the need for disruptive or expensive upgrade. As discussed in the next point, storage is just one of the areas where this future-proofed approach can often be overlooked.

Provide the scope for change in every detail

A recent survey that we conducted highlighted that 85% of respondents expected the student-to-device-ratio to increase in 2016. This shows a major trend in the uptake of devices – something which must be considered in all aspects of the implementation process, no matter how small.

A key example of this would be a charging and storage solution. If you have 15 laptops and storage which fits this perfectly, issues will inevitably arise when the school decides to upgrade to a model where all students use their own tablet as a means to learn.

In our recent survey, when considering device storage, limited space came out as the second-biggest issue for respondents. It is important to think ahead, choose wisely and make sure that you get the most value for your budget, whether that be with storage, charging, or the devices themselves.

Ensuring a positive impact

As much as the technology and infrastructure surrounding it is important, the fundamental fact remains: if the technology does not have a positive impact on the education of students, then it is a pointless expenditure and cannot be justified. It’s important to identify where technology will best serve the classroom or lecture theatre, and implement these solutions carefully, all the while monitoring to make sure that retention, comprehension and core skills are being affected in a positive way.

Embrace the latest edtech trends

Education technology is not known for standing still. Momentum must be applied to education technology, and the latest changes and breakthroughs should be used as much as possible.

Have you implemented devices throughout the classroom? Great, now is there a way to use a cloud system so students can work on different devices? Have you been marking tests submitted online? Useful, but is there a way to use gamification to make sure that these are as engaging as possible?

You won’t always be able to use the latest technology, but by keeping abreast of developments you can ensure that your digital programme is forward-thinking and effective.

Ensure your security keeps up

If students are using devices in order to access the internet, then it is imperative that you have adequate security measures in place to keep the students safe. Although students and teachers will have to sign the Acceptable Usage Policy, you still have the legal responsibility to ensure appropriate content is delivered to those in your organisation. As with other aspects, such as the type of device used and the storage that will house them, security must encompass your entire infrastructure and have scope to grow and evolve to keep up with demand, whether that is from new threats or your expanding digital footprint.

By following these initial steps, schools have a blueprint of where to focus their efforts, and ensure that the digital environment they are looking to set up becomes a reality, and a successful one at that.

Chris Neath is head of new product development at Lapcabby

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