The DfE recently published a research report called: Education technology: exploring digital maturity in schools, in which CooperGibson Research aimed to ‘establish a hierarchy of technology use in schools, as an indicator of their digital maturity’.
If you read the paper, you might be forgiven for thinking it wasn’t the strongest piece of research: mainly primary schools, based on responses from other research questionnaires and failing to find any significant correlations with achievement of pupils (Spoiler: results are a little better where there are more capable teachers!)
However, it did succeed in defining a framework for digital maturity of schools which provides focus and supports discussion. It’s this side of things I wanted to discuss with you today. They identified three key ‘pillars’ supporting digital maturity in schools:
My simple reading of these pillars is:
- Technology – have you got the right equipment in your school?
- Capability – can your staff use the equipment to support pupil outcomes?
- Strategy – have you got a good plan for investment and implementation?
Responses from a range of studies were assessed and standardised to score each school for each pillar… and then aggregated overall for digital maturity. It seems that our National ‘Temple of Technology’ looks more like this:
The heartening thing is that about 60% of schools (surveyed) have the right technology and a similar proportion know how to use it well.
But here’s the body blow: only 9% of schools were classified as being digitally mature.
So what can we do about this…?
Perhaps the obvious strategy is to, well, work on strategy: to write a clear plan to identify, invest and embed the technologies that will most benefit our learners – I don’t just mean in the classroom, but also anything that will free up and enable teachers to focus on the crucial task of educating.
Of course, the strategy has to provide shape for the other two pillars. As examples:
- What technology do we need / want? How can we afford it?
- What CPD is required – both technically and pedagogically?
And it bears emphasising that the key resources of time and money are both seriously constrained in schools. It seems that funding is increasingly squeezed by new pressures, such as salary on-cost increases and fuel bills. The time that can be invested into staff training is very clearly finite and already fought over by a rainbow of stakeholders requiring to include important topics such as safeguarding and literacy.
A successful digital strategy requires planning over several years. Outline budgets typically look three years ahead, on a rolling basis, and a digital strategy should aim to do at least that. Any significant investment, with such high potential impact, will take at least that long to mature:
- Year 1 – identify, cost, purchase, trial and train.
- Year 2 – embed, evaluate, improve.
- Year 3 – fine-tune, establish, look forward.
Given the limited resources, a school might only have capacity for one focus at a time, leading to a plan staggered over five years or more. E.g.:
Running alongside of this, regular scheduled time for sharing of good practise, showcasing of new features and identification of future needs. (Increased buy-in from staff leads to improved capability.)
It needn’t take very much time for such a strategy to start to take shape. Luckily, teaching is still a highly collaborative profession and there are always colleagues in your local family of schools willing to talk to you about their approach – and, of course, a good range of EdTech Demonstrator schools who this is bread and butter for.
Before joining SAM Learning, I was an AST and School Leader, interested in harnessing technology from day 1. I’ve been through a lot of circles of ‘we can’t do this because we haven’t got that’ and teachers feeling so much under-pressure that they can’t find half an hour to invest in saving themselves many times as much.
I did find that we had the best success when we had a decent plan e.g. a three-year Technology College bid (anyone remember them?) or a phased network-upgrade project. And I started to develop a good eye for what would work. I learnt to look for systems that:
- Add value for both Teachers and Learners
- Could work in a good range of subject areas and across year groups
- Are proven to have benefits – preferably independent proof
- Stand the test of time… but move with the times
- Include decent support for your Teachers – they are the real engine of success in any school
I work with teachers every day, with the aim of helping them to help their pupils. Feel free to call on us to support you in framing your digital strategy for e-learning.
David Brown 29/3/22