British schools take advantage of new tech

Private schools have been the driving force for educational technology innovation in the United Kingdom.

North America has traditionally been the stage on which new educational tech initiatives are presented to the world. American and Canadian universities are at the forefront of launching innovative ventures. Many schools across the continent have experimented with programs that could potentially shake up modern approaches to academics, including the integration of MOOCs, remotely accessed virtual classrooms and expansive mobile device networks. Across the Atlantic, British schools have also begun to investigate how burgeoning technology can facilitate the teaching process and benefit their students.

Private schools driving innovation
The Independent's Stephen Hoare recently examined how several schools in the United Kingdom had successfully implemented new technological initiatives aimed at enhancing their students' educations. Hoare found that, in general, independent schools with no state connections were more open to allocating funds toward experimental technological programs. With less government oversight, private schools are given more freedom to pursue potentially innovative ventures. In addition, since funding is largely provided by private donors and enrollment fees, esteemed and highly sought after independent schools may have more available resources to invest in technological initiatives than public schools, which must keep expenses under increasingly tight budgets. The Guardian reported that, through 2015, education spending in the United Kingdom will be cut by more than 14 percent. That figure represents the largest education cut since the 1950s.

Tech advancements foster greater communication
A major focus among British schools experimenting with new educational technology has been enhancing communication between students and faculty. Boarding schools tend to attract students from across the globe, leading to campus environments that are veritable melting pots of disparate cultures and languages. For instance, in one of the schools Hoare examined, ACS Hillingdon, approximately 90 percent of the student body came from other nations, with 40 different languages being spoken on campus. School officials found that by providing each student with a tablet running on the same operating system, they could dispense translation apps that significantly reduced the language barrier.

The tablet program has also opened up more freedom in both teachers' approaches to their lesson plans and the ways in which students respond. Instead of being tethered to a classroom computer, teachers can create their own course materials and exercises and pass them along to their pupils over a wireless network. In addition, students can use the resources loaded onto the tablets to create their own materials, pulling information from the internet and reference books to mold individual, privatized research documents. They can then share these resources with one another, enhancing the educational environment.

At the Seaton House School in Surrey, administrators have used recent technological advancements to foster better communication between the school and parents as well, Hoare reported. By integrating a new piece of software into the school's information management system, staff can program automatic alerts to send parents emails and text messages about developments on campus or in emergency situations. As a result of the initiative, communication between parents and the school has been greatly expedited. Officials have also noted that the program has reduced the amount of time and money spent creating documents such as newsletters to be distributed to parents.

Creating a personalized curriculum
Perhaps no better example of the potential benefits of upgrading educational technology is the progress made by Derbyshire's Repton School. In addition to outfitting its classrooms with state-of-the-art electronic whiteboards and data projectors, the institution has implemented changes with more specific applications, according to The Independent. Technological additions to the school's design and manufacturing, language and music departments have fostered a more customizable learning experience, allowing students to craft a more personalized education for themselves. As technological advancements proceed, schools across the world will be able to provide students with an education that is geared towards their particular strengths and interests.

Are schools investing enough in education technology? What can public schools do to close the resource gap with private schools? Tell us what you think in the comment section below!

Heman Mehta

Heman, aka: He-Man, is the "Master of Deep Freeze" and Director of Product Managment. He has been with Faronics for more than 10 years and is (of course) the biggest evangelist of Deep Freeze. When not living the "PM Lifestyle", you'll find him traveling the world—his last count was at about 35 countries visited.