The Education Insider: Technology in Education
In her latest post for us, education expert Jodie Lopez shares her thoughts on the benefits of using technology for education admin.
I’m a technophobe until I see my pile of paperwork
I am known for loving technology. It would be easy for anyone who has known me for the last ten years to expect me to bound around electrical shops looking for new tech, and it is always assumed that I have a super-duper high speed laptop and all the latest accessories. The fact is, however, that I don’t. I am not saying I wouldn’t love that, but I have neither the cash nor the motivation for such endeavours. My old laptop still works…just…with a lot of patience, so I won’t be replacing it any time soon. You see, I don’t really LOVE technology. It crashes sometimes. Sometimes it loses everything you were working on for the last three hours. It irritates me when a waiter spends half an hour at my table in a restaurant tapping frustratedly at a touch screen when I can see paper and pen in his apron that would have finished the job 25 minutes ago. Technology is just not always the answer. There are times I would happily, and do, swap laptop for good old fashioned pen and paper. Except then I lose the paper. And I lose it more often than a computer does. Organised paper folders which come within a ten meter range of me instantly become piles of mess with no beginning or end.
When I was teaching and a member of the SLT asked me for some form back that was put in my pigeon hole two weeks ago… I panicked. My mouth turned dry and my eyes darted around the staffroom looking for any way out. I cannot do paperwork. For that reason I got into using technology. My wise older brother taught me that if you are bad at something (a bad memory for example) then you just need a system, and you need to stick to that system. So I started using technology to file things and remember things for me, and to organise my paperwork. If I took photos as evidence of learning in the classroom then I needed the cloud to store them for me and order them for me. If I had to keep a running log of results then the computer can keep that for me. I am mostly self-taught out of a need to make my paperwork adequately reflect my teaching.
You don’t all need to be like me. You don’t have to throw all your paperwork onto the cloud and give up your real life folders. There are some things, however, which just make sense to use a technology for. Assessment is one of them.
If you happily assess on paper and wonder why your school has bought an online assessment system, please don’t take it personally. Your paper works fine for you and no one is doubting that. But an online system works for everyone in a way that paper struggles to, especially the bigger the school is. Here is why:
1. An easy read – having a shared system with often binary inputs and outputs means there is less chance that someone has to try and decipher your codes and handwriting.
2. Shared access – those of you who have the neatest, most beautiful, colour-coded folders with inserts and those little tabs for each section…you are to be applauded for it. But I bet you hate that folder leaving your classroom without you?! Having all of that lovely organisation means you can share your wonderful assessment with everyone. SLT don’t need to sneak to your cupboard while you are teaching to have a look at short notice when your SIP visits. And your great practice can be shared with other teachers online too.
3. Whole school overview – from a practical point of view most systems churn out beautiful graphs from data you enter without someone having to pore over multiple pieces of paper from multiple teachers at every data drop. The headteacher can look at trends without having to encounter the likes of me in the staffroom who cannot even remember seeing the latest form to fill out.
4. Access from home – I know that doesn’t sound like a good thing, and we must be careful to not assume people MUST check or input data from home. But if a teacher can add or edit or analyse data at home at midnight, or on the commute, or even from a café, then it does offer some more flexible working. Not being at a café instead of teaching an English lesson at 10am on a Monday, obviously, but maybe working at midnight so they can leave at 3.30pm one day and fetch their own children from school for a play at the park before dark. Quality time on their own terms.
5. No more folders left on buses – it happens. That beautiful folder sometimes goes missing. On a bus, on a train, in the car park. Sensitive data, precious data. Online systems have ways to keep that data safe, and often to retrieve it even if you accidentally delete something you shouldn’t have. The bin men won’t bring your rubbish bags back so this is the next best thing!
6. Flexible input – evidence in online systems can take a variety of forms. Yes you can just tick objectives off but how about uploading photos as evidence, or videos, or sound files. With online systems the possibilities are endless. Loads of companies offer such a thing so if that may be of interest make sure to ask about it before you buy! Or create your own ways to save these onto your servers if using in-house solutions.
7. No more replicating – systems may seem like a lot of work when you have to input your results, whether formative or summative. But actually many offer options which save you then replicating the data again. As well as turning the data into outputs for yourself to analyse, and whole school data for SLT, many systems offer options to send reports or evidence direct to parents too, aiding home-school communications.
8. Marking! – really! Some systems attached to tests will mark the test automatically if taken online and just present you with results and gap analysis. I don’t even need to tell you how awesome that is! Others will track for you what a child is reading online at home if you have ebooks accessible in them. Assessment systems are not always just for results input, many are attached to the teaching and learning resources too, helping you to keep track.
If you are a school with only two classes you probably read all of those reasons and still do not feel like you need to add technology into the assessment pot. If you are a large school you can probably think of twenty more reasons why technology helps! As with many things, technology will not make assessment “better” in terms of pupil outcome. But it could help you save a bit of time and make things that bit more efficient.
Jodie is an award winning ex-primary teacher who now works as a Freelance Edtech Consultant. Her interest in using technology in education has led to her working with a number of educational technology businesses since leaving the classroom. Most recently she has been Head of Education for an assessment system provider and has specialised in helping schools to transition to the new curriculum and leaving levels behind. Follow her on Twitter here.