Schools are the one place where every positive aspect of the digital world can be channelled for good

Stop demonising the internet and let teachers get on with what they do best – teach. “Parental fears about the internet are misplaced in the context of schools,” states Gordon Derham from Computer Systems in Education (CSE), producers of Magellan. “It is the one place where every positive aspect of the digital worlds can be channelled for good,” he says, citing new research from YouGov which shows that the internet has the ability to motivate teachers and inspire children in class.

Motivation and engagement

Against a backdrop of long work hours and low morale cited by other reports, information technology (IT) has in fact a huge capacity to motivate and save time. A survey by YouGov of 847 teachers has shown:

  • 87 per cent of head teachers would be motivated by being given training on how to use cloud computing to save time on administrative tasks;
  • 78 per cent of head teachers would be motivated by being given training on how to use cloud computing to increase student engagement in class.

Public fears about the risks of internet use and the amount of time children spend online are, ironically, ‘clouding’ people’s views on how best to use this resource, and especially on the value of using it appropriately in schools.

Saving time and reducing stress

Few parents realise the amount of administrative and statistical tasks that the average class teacher has to do: basic ‘Key Stage’ reporting, such as individual assessment and results recording, has to be done on a daily or weekly basis by all teaching staff. Measurements, such as sickness and absenteeism, are considered key indicators of a school’s success by OFSTED and must be recorded daily.

All this takes time, not least logging in and out of a range of different systems to record the basic data. A survey published in February this year by the Department for Education (DfE) found that, on average, teachers reported working over fifty hours a week, with primary staff at almost sixty. A majority of teachers said they spent some or most of their time on “unnecessary or bureaucratic” tasks.

The YouGov survey has shown:

  • 38 per cent of all teachers say: “I regularly waste time having to log in and out of different computer systems to access the information I need for work”;
  • 33 per cent of all teachers say: “I would save hours of time if I could quickly and securely access school files from home”.

Anyone who has experienced ‘login rage’ will understand the frustrations and time wasting which can be involved in accessing different systems, with forgotten passwords, and slow ‘virtual networks’ being a prime cause of aggravation and unnecessary stress at this stage.

Safe and engaging teaching using online resources

Public Health England (PHE) issued a report to Parliament recently (16.5.14) stating that ‘overuse of the internet is causing mental health problems for children’ while reports in the media, which talk of a ‘damning dossier of information’, fuel the idea that our schools should be ‘internet free zones’ or sanctuaries where the online world isn’t allowed to intrude.

YouGov research shows the opposite to be true, that banning the internet in schools would be hugely de-motivating, and that judicious use of the internet would in fact improve teaching and help children to learn more effectively:

  • 77 per cent of teachers would be de-motivated by banning all internet access in schools, and only 10 per cent would be motivated by such a step;
  • 31 per cent of teachers agree “I would be able to deliver more engaging lessons if everyone could access the internet in class;”
  • 29 per cent of teachers agree “The children I teach would be more engaged if we could use online resources in class.”

The internet is packed with inspired teaching resources, not least those developed by the BBC such as ‘Bitesize’, but difficulty in facilitating access in whole class teaching situations, or attempts to restrict internet use to ensure e-safety have stifled its use, so that this vast and largely free resource is under-used in schools.

Competition and ‘device wars’ inflating spend 

Competition between brands has conspired to create a range of IT solutions which are often competitive and not designed to work with each other, the so called “device wars” for example, fuelling consumer demand for new products. Parents understand only too well the force of ‘pester power’; schools are not immune to these forces, some schools have a range of fully functional PC’s, but are now exploring iPads and tablets for staff and students.

The Solution

British company CSE, led by MD Gordon Derham, has been working with schools for thirty years: “It was my experience of the problems and frustrations experienced by teachers which motivated me to work on this new software. I was convinced it was possible to make everything work together, for the better. And if we can make it work in schools, so that teachers can access different systems quickly and securely, and there can be well managed whole class teaching and access to the internet, why not other sectors too? I know nurses would welcome the time saving and security this system offers.”

The Magellan software designed by CSE provides a way for teachers to access all their resources through one central secure portal, regardless of what type of device they are using, or what system they need to access. Its facilities include:

  • Access to school based applications and data: systems such as SIMS, which is used in 80 per cent of schools, cannot be accessed from Apple devices; with Magellan, SIMS can be now be accessed from any Apple or android tablet or smart phone, plus of course traditional PC’s and laptops. Data files stored on school based networks can also be made available for upload, download and editing;
  • Single sign-on: teachers can set up touch-screen tiles so that they and their class can click straight onto the internet resource or system required, without the need to use search engines, passwords or login, which lose both time and attention in class;
  • Device democracy: teachers and students can use any device, and see the same screen and share the same functionality regardless of what type of device they have. This means resources can be directed where there is most need, for example offering iPads or laptops to those who don’t have one already, rather than restricting all use to ensure equality and fairness.

Gordon Derham concludes: “I think this is the start of a new and positive phase in sharing and collaboration on the internet, in the spirit of Tim Berners-Lee.  All the best aspects of the internet, IT, cloud computing and different devices can be harnessed in our schools; it will allow them to make better use of their free and bought resources, and save huge amounts of teachers’ time too.”

 

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Sources:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teachers-workload-diary-survey-2013
YouGov May 2014 ‘Internet, equality and access” commissioned by CSE for Magellan