Edtech Snapshot: England

9/6/2012 12:00:00 AM

For a couple of decades, the educational technology sector in England has enjoyed the largesse of various government officials who were convinced that it would be beneficial for the economy in the long term. However, not all of these “gifts” were entirely useful, such as the scheme to send a modem to every school before most people really knew what they could do with it. And then there were various iterations of a “laptop for teachers” scheme. Sadly, this initiative did not provide every teacher with a laptop nor exempt them from the sales tax incurred when buying their own.

Nevertheless, all of these schemes provided a statement of intent and a statement of philosophy. From 1997 until recently, the drive towards making Britain’s schools “e-enabled” (i.e., using educational technology as an integral part of everything they do) became more systematic and more relentless. More money has been allocated to schools for switching to broadband access, increasing the pupil-to-computer ratios in both elementary and high schools, designing a national strategy to beef up the teaching of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), creating a building program for schools, and developing goals for implementing virtual learning environments (VLEs) and online reporting to parents.

Then, a couple of years ago, the new Coalition government came to power. The funding was cut (to zero, for the most part), new builds were cancelled, and the ICT community as a whole took to wringing its hands in despair.

But by that time, ICT had been fairly wellestablished and as you can see from the evidence, most English schools had the following ICT standards in place:

• Very few classrooms are without an interactive whiteboard or projector;
• More schools are experimenting with one-to-one programs involving tablets;
• Almost every school has a VLE, with many using it to actively engage parents;
• Many classrooms have a plethora of other equipment, such as digital recorders, pocket camcorders, digital cameras, and document cameras to name just a few.

Recently, a law related to the ICT curriculum was “disapplied.” This means that while schools still have to make sure they teach kids how to use educational technology, they can do so how they like. Teachers do not have to implement ICT based on how a previous government thought they should. Once you add an increasing interest in teaching computer programming, and several national schemes, pilots, and initiatives for ICT and programming, you have an almost tangible buzz of excitement about the possibilities.

As a school principal said to me recently, “Funding educational technology is not a question of budgets but of priorities.”

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant. He publishes the ICT in Education website at http://www.ictineducation.org, and blogs at http://www.techlearning.com/section/Blogs.

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