One of the most common questions I often get asked by colleagues in other schools is which devices should a school buy. Laptops or Notebooks? iPads, Chromebooks or Windows 8?
My answer: I’ll tell you what we’ve chosen at Simon de Senlis and why but I’ll also tell you why in almost all cases, I think it’s the wrong question to be asking.
The only example I can think where the choice of kit defines success is in Formula One, where the manufacturers seem to influence the eventual winners of the championship more so than the drivers. In every other example I can think of, it’s the vision, commitment, mind set, execution and resilience of the individuals/team that makes the difference. Cristiano Ronaldo would still be one of the word’s best ever footballers whether clad in Nike or Adidas, Ian Botham would still have taken the Australians apart in 1981 whether he was wielding a Duncan Fearnley, Gray Nicholls or Slazenger Bat and I’m willing to bet that outside of the sporting world, today’s most successful individuals and companies would have achieved equally highly, regardless of which car manufacturer, brand of clothing, deodorant, laptop or mailbox provider they chose to use. You get my point.
Moving this back into the educational world, my view is the same around a choice of phonics scheme, curriculum resource or data tracking package. It’s never about what you choose; it’s always about how well you use it, how this supports the overall vision for learning and the leadership that follows. With technology and in particular devices, this is critical as the stakes are high, both from a cost and time perspective with any new implementation.
I’ve written recently about the process that we have undertaken to create our vision for learners and digital strategy at Simon de Senlis and this has been crucial in supporting our implementation of Windows 8 devices and combination of Yammer/Office 365/LP+ SharePoint learning environment.
We have chosen Windows 8 ahead of other technologies because it offers us a combination of hardware and infrastructure, at a price that we can afford to implement with low ratios of student to device. I believe that Microsoft offers the most manageable, cost effective solution to a school with a (growing) range of quality educational tools that support our vision for learning. Creating the environment for classes to be able to work 1:1 with mobile tablets and also the full functionality of office and an online/app environment gives us the platform and flexibility (we think) to support our vision of creating curious, industrious agile learners who make a positive dent in the universe.
Moving on to the BETT Show, this week thousands of teachers will descend on the Excel centre in London for the biggest educational technology show in the world. Going to BETT always reminds me of this scene from Red Dwarf. For those who didn’t watch it, the Cat is a humanoid who has mutated from the ship’s cat over several million years. In this clip, he gets completely besotted by ‘shiny things’, like kittens do with balls of string. Similar uncontrollable excitement will be available at BETT – but will we be able to articulate what it is that the shiny things will do to make better learning and teaching? Or will our kitten-like enthusiasm forget to watch out for the vision, strategy and pedagogy that will inevitably sit behind any genuine school success story?
My goal this year is to look for the learning not the technology; look for questions not answers and enjoy the shiny things!
PS – One of the markers of aging in a school is when the NQTs start and declare their Dates of Birth. Mr Prosser’s admission that he was born in 1991 was a cat amongst the pigeons last year and brought both hilarity and sheer panic to the staffroom. The other arbitrary measure is how many people remember the comedy programmes that are referred to within conversation. It used to be me who smugly shook my head and made jokes about UK Gold when well-respected staffroom elders talked about Monty Python; now it’s me that gets a bewildered smile and nod when quoting Blackadder, Ferris Bueller or The Fast Show.
Last week when we were planning our visit to the BETT show this year and I showed this video of ‘Cat’ from Red Dwarf, several teachers revealed that they were far too young to have ever seen it.