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Any Education IT professionals out there?

  Matt Egan 10:45 14 Jan 2011

I'm chairing a webinar next week on how to cut IT spend in schools and - to be frank - could use some insights from the people who know. I'm asking the questions, so if there's anything you'd like to ask our panel of experts (representing Micrsoft, school network managers and LEA representatives) let me know. Details of the web event are here (it's free):

click here

  Matt Egan 16:25 14 Jan 2011

It's interesting. That would be my thought too, and is how things work in countries such as the US, but in the best-run schools in the UK IT is at the centre of everything, and it works out cheaper. Think about it - a good network-based education setup means no hard copies of books, no paper costs, more efficient telephony and communications. Controversially - and it's the elephant in the classroom - a good IT solution can reduce the number of staff required to run a school. Again, reducing costs (although not teaching staff).

  Matt Egan 11:30 17 Jan 2011

is that schools care only about results, for better or worse. The network managers I know are not remotely interested in the shiniest kit, simply in being able to plan proper ICT infrastructure. Bear in mind that the average secondary school of 700-1,000 pupils will have at least 400-500 terminals on the network, all of which require correctly licensed software across a variety of platforms (in order to fulfil the curriculum *and* operate a medium-sized business). Are you suggesting they should be sourcing all of that kit via eBay? That alone would be more than a full-time job!

  natdoor 17:22 17 Jan 2011

I believe there are some downsides to widespread use of PCs by schoolchildren. For example, homework is typed up in a study and submitted. Ther is little scope for parents being able to check on work and see the teacher's marking. This could have a negative impact on revision too.

I read recently that Salman Rishdie's old PC and hard drives had been purchased by an American university because this was the only way of getting access to his leters and book drafts, things that ould normally be stored on papaer in the attic and available for research subsequently. The conclusion was that we are in danger of not leaving a record of our writings meaning that future understanding of the way we lived will be unavailable.

I have long regretted that some of my school books were discarded - not by me. I would have constantly refreshed the translation of 23 chapters of Caesar Gallic Wars book 5. I can only rcall, 60 years after, the first two or three sentences ("In the consulship of Lucius Dimitius and Appius Claudius, when Ceasar was taking his winter holldays in Italy, as he was accustomed to do every year, he ordered the lieutenants whom he had placed in command of the legions to repair the old boats and build as many new ones as possible. He ordered the materials for this to be brought from Spain...."). I fear that today's students will not have that chance. Of course, you get get most things from the web so why learn anything? Therein lies disaster. I have just nowlooked at a translation on the web. I am sure that my latin master would have throttled those responsible!

  Matt Egan 09:54 19 Jan 2011

Education is either about getting qualifications to find a good job, or developing as a person in order to have a happy and fulfilled life. Either way, computers are central. The number of people in school now who will not have to interact with ICT in some way in their future lives is statistically zero, so schools IT cannot be an afterthought (which in many cases, it is). That capital expenditure in education is due to fall is obvious, but arguably a greater percentage of it should be spent in IT. After all, better IT means fewer admin staff, and less spend on paper, and ink etc.

  Matt Egan 10:04 19 Jan 2011

"I wonder if saying no spending on IT hardware or software (other then renewing annual licences) for three years would have a measurable effect on pupils' levels of attainment."

Yes. In three years' time the whole lot would have to be replaced in one go and you'd end up paying more to support and run outmoded equipment. IT investment is cost effective when it's planned in one, three and five year cycles, rather than replacing things on an ad hoc basis.

Your reply suggests you are out of touch with the reality in education today. Most schools beg steal and borrow all the kit they can get. They teach skills, not software packages. Open source and free software is a major part of this - you absolutely don't need the most expensive equipment. But IT is absolutely central to education today, and rightly so.

A modern school is a small business, and the challenges of replacing and upgrading equipment with declining revenues can't be solved by simply shopping around for cheaper kit!

If you want to learn more: click here

  Matt Egan 11:59 19 Jan 2011

The elephant in the room is that people are always the most expensive part of any organisation. I wouldn't think that IT could ever replace teaching staff (if a teacher can be replaced by a computer, they should be), but it can make a good teacher excellent. And there is no need in 2011 for admin staff to be photocopying letters to parents 700 times, and delivering them to classrooms. Similarly, as software licensing and cloud computing reduce the amount of commissioning and backup admin that has be undertaken, it's possible that the already small IT staff in schools could feasibly be reduced. Sad but true

  Matt Egan 10:17 27 Jan 2011

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