I suffer from an unfortunate form of doublethink. In my personal life, I tend not to be an early early adopter. That’s because I rarely have an urgent need for whatever it is the new technology has to offer. However, when I was head of department in a school, and then when I ran a team of advisors and technical support staff in a local authority, I was very keen to spend money on brand new stuff.
Watching home movies. Remember: this was cutting edge once! Photo by Wessel http://www.flickr.com/photos/wildebees/
I believe that if budgets allow (and granted, that is a very big “if” these days), having what I call an “innovation fund” is not merely a good idea. It is essential, for at least five reasons.
First, if you experiment with new hardware or software to see what it can do and what its limits are, you are then in a good position to recommend it, or not, to colleagues. This is something my team and I were able to do when the first tablet computers appeared on the scene. Ditto student response systems (which we put to good use in senior management). Ditto visualisers when they first came out.
Second, having this new stuff will enable you to show colleagues what it can do that they may wish to do, but cannot with their current facilities.
Third, it will show your curriculum area to be at the leading edge. Apart from conveying a good message to others (ie you are walking the talk), it will almost certainly help to get kids fired up. Maybe colleagues too!
Fourth, it will enable you to start creating (or managing the creation of) how-to guides for colleagues should they wish to borrow it, or buy it for themselves.
Finally, and perhaps this is the most important reason of all, it will help to engender a learning culture, if one doesn’t exist already, or reinforce it if it does.
Does spending money on new technology sound like an irresponsible suggestion, given tight budgets and the ever-existing demand for stuff you know you can use already? I don’t think so, because by experimenting with new things you may discover a way of saving money in the long run – or saving time, which comes to the same thing.
What would be irresponsible is blowing the whole of your budget on new gizmos. Ideally, you should be given an “Innovation Fund” quite separate from your subject allowance. Or the school as a whole should have such a thing. In the absence of that, maybe you could allocate a proportion of your allowance for experimentation.
In present times, this may sound like pie in the sky. But stranger things have happened. And after all, if you don’t ask, you don’t get!
cross-posted on www.ictineducation.org
Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant with over 35 years of experience in education. He publishes the ICT in Education website and the newsletter “Computers in Classrooms."