Thursday, 20 May 2010

Technical issues in Primary Schools

The vision for new technologies in primary schools both from the school and from the policy makers isn't really any different to that in secondary schools; get e-learning going, have students accessing work from home, get teachers changing their pedagogy to capitalise on new technologies and organise the school better with new technologies such as engaging parents through ideas like online reporting.

The difference is the capability of primary schools to achieve this and copy what most secondary schools are now tackling.

I was presenting at an event yesterday with both primary and secondary school leaders and teacher. The above picture was clear, we shared the same conversation but the feed back I got from secondaries was one of 'thanks for the ideas, we'll take them back and implement a few' where as from the primaries it was more like 'this all sounds great, but our server is about to fail and we have no one who can sort out web enabled software systems, what should we do?'

Well, when presented with that I gulp and try to hold back comments like 'how can you run your entire school with all your eggs in the one basket with a single ageing server that's trying to cope with everything?' But I hold back, its not their fault, they are doing their best and achieving a lot with limited means.

Some primaries have part time shared technical support and this model works well, some have this support from a partner secondary school and this works even better as it forges linked within the family of schools where everyone in the team has common aims. I can see that top-down regional strategies to support primary schools have largely not worked and they are falling being secondaries in terms of the adopted of high quality IT systems.

The primary schools I see doing well with ICT are often large, approaching the size of a small secondary and thus carry the technical teams and posts for teachers to lead ICT strategy that secondary schools have, albeit often driven by one or two key staff who, should they leave, would take the school's expertise with them.

what's the solution?
For me its go to be bottom up development with 2 types of collaboration. There is either collaboration with the partner secondary school or there is federation with local primary schools or a bit of both.

what can be achieved?

1. Perhaps like schools share technical support share a post 'virtual school coordinator' to look after web based systems, develop content with teachers and train teachers in its use.

2 Perhaps share the servers and have a common learning platform with the secondary paying a share but getting the technical support and hosting from the big brother. There's huge mutual benefit, the secondary get Y7 students who already know how to the use the Learning Platform and bring work with them. There can be KS2-3 transition projects, KS2 G+T kids can access KS3 courses, SEN KS3 kids can access KS2 work and we can move from Age to Stage education that isn't hampered by the transfer from primary to secondary.

3 We get the teachers across the phases collaborating, discussion forums, shared email, content folders all encourage the expertise to cross fertilise.

Alas top down solutions don't encourage this, a secondary school in a BSF ICT contract will struggle to set up a shared learning platform or share the technical expertise to run it. In times where funds are short, does bottom up save money, share expertise efficiently, foster development and aid innovation generating better educational outcomes sooner? I think so.