back to article Edtech will save our schools from cuts and spare our teachers from burnout, booms

Schools have been told to increase their use of tech to ease the burden on teachers, better prepare their students for the world of work and bring kit into the 21st Century. The British government today issued its education technology strategy, along with guidance to help schools choose the right broadband, assess their ICT …

  1. riparian zone

    Wot, no Research Machines? In my times in schools and colleges, they held the reins on classroom tech, failing everyone.

    1. CountCadaver Silver badge

      Oh yes RM....I do remember they did some cut down Edu computer thing in the mid to late 90s that was about as quick as frozen treacle

      Anyone know what I'm talking about?

      1. mmd93ee

        That’ll be the RM Nimbus, now has a fansite!

        1. CountCadaver Silver badge

          No this was different (several installed in the library circa 1998), my school had loads of nimbus's (286, 386, 486 and a small number of pentium machines (which then necessitated a change in some of the programming demonstrations as they ran the code so fast ithe output was a blur (then again it had been written for a 286, so a Pentium 166 was a ferrari in comparison) ) along with a few AXs (inc 5.25 floppy drives) in the one of the computing labs, inc one with a rubbish bin on the desks in various spots to catch the torrential leaks (funnily enough the roof got fixed about a year after the 1997 election after leaking since I went to secondary in 1994.

          We also got a myriad of even then obsolete Video presentations remotely related to IT, including one from the very early 80s about the introduction of bar codes, which invoked much mirth due to thecondescending nature of the presentation "you may have seen some of these and wondered what they are, well they're called bar codes"

  2. Chris G

    Why not? Who needs actual teachers?

    Let's make education as formulaic as possible, take away any opportunity for individuality and turn out as many drones fit for the Brave New World™.

    First though get a grip on teaching kids to spell correctly instead of the Nuffield Foundation fonettik spelling krapp that so many of them are taught currently.

    Maybe while they are at it they could include some basic science at a better level than the abysmal levels that are currently taught.

    A radical thought I know but possibly program in a curriculum that relates to real life and work.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why not? Who needs actual teachers?

      No problem, just send your kid to a £40000 a year public school.

      And it doesn't matter if, like Rees-Mogg and Johnson, they've never actually learned anything. Because the contacts they make will enable them to rise without trace.

    2. VikiAi

      Re: Why not? Who needs actual teachers?

      Or you could fix your bloody language's spelling.

      The great vowel shift was 400+ years ago!

      (But I still up-voted you for the rest of your rant).

      1. Santa from Exeter

        Re: Why not? Who needs actual teachers?

        What 'great vowel shift' are you on about. Or are you actually comparing English to American (which is actually closer to 17th C English in spelling)

        1. VikiAi

          Re: Why not? Who needs actual teachers?

          What people don't know about their own past (and present) ceased to amaze me some years ago.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like another boondogle is inbound

    This implication that using existing technology will somehow transform schools while "doing more with less budget" reeks of Magical Management Thinking.

    Our Ed Tech people are the unvaccinated plague rats that go to trade shows and spread infectious thoughts about things like Smart Boards and VR in elementary school. They are not the people that are going to be good stewards for a professional development program, they need the development themselves.

    I did like the line in Damian Hinds speech about the "Cupboard of shame" though. Our cup runneth over...

    I think the issue there is that people love to buy gadgets. As a result, vendors love to sell gadgets, and after talking to a vendor for 20 min they are ready to cancel the football team to free up enough budget to buy the next shiny thing. The idea that you can buy a gadget that can grade papers for you, or stop in class cheating, is just to much for them to resist. Then, when they start hitting bumps, they have to spin it as the greatest thing ever to cover that they over committed and under planned. Then you see there CV online bragging about how they were the visionary leader in deploying the new buzzword, and they try to jump ship and leave someone else to clean up the mess. 25 undersupervised students on a minecraft server during class cleanup.

    As least the smoke from the burning forests was virtual, even if the server electricity wasn't.

    I am waiting for one of these strategy wonks to roll up their sleeves and actually deliver a Plan, instead of announcing a Vision or a Strategy. Maybe I can buy a piece of software to improve managerial accountability.

    1. Olivier2553

      Re: Sounds like another boondogle is inbound

      Given how kids are more tech savvy than the regular teacher, it will provide the children all the opportunity they need to cheat on a larger scale.

      And the teacher will need to come-up with different enough exam each year, because previous years will be available in two clicks.

      And have some empathy for that poor teacher that will have to spend 5 minutes per student to enter the grades in the system while it used to take 2 seconds to scribe the mark on the exam paper.

      I work in a Computer Science department of a university. Faculty will devote entering the grades in the system to the secretary because it would take too much time. And of the faculty body, only one dare to do online exams, but he will still do grading by himself.

      But the proposed system sounds great to train brainless robots...

      1. baud

        Re: Sounds like another boondogle is inbound

        Using snapshat or Instagram, connecting to Minecraft or Fortnite isn't what I would call tech-savy

        1. Waseem Alkurdi

          Re: Sounds like another boondogle is inbound

          But with enough YouTube videos and an interest, some have become really proficient at things jailbreaking and tweaking (school) iPads, initially to remove the infamous Restrictions Passcode, later to show off tweaks.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sounds like another boondogle is inbound

        I live in a country that one wouldn't call particularly technologically advanced, but our university gives us online exams on campus for all subjects where no math with steps is required. It's been the case for several years, yet virtually no cheating happens apart from the cheating that could be done with a conventional exam as well. (Peering at others' paper/screen, wireless headsets if no cellphone trap is installed, ...)

        The university would provide to us a bunch of special computer labs for this, locked down to oblivion with Group Policy (yep, Windows, even though Linux would really work), and with a kiosk web browser pointed at an internal URL of the "exam server".

        The faculty members would write the questions using Word using a markup format (a little like XML or HTML tags, but without the first line, just single-letter tags .. I believe it's an in-house system, because nothing turns up online for them). At this point, the questions could be leaked (but the paper printout may be equally leaked with equal facility).

        Then a system would spew out an exam time and computer number for each student, which shows up on their phone app. (interfaced to a SOAP service).

        Not really sophisticated, yet saves faculty a bomb in time correcting papers, and students would rest assured that no personal biases interfere.

        The actual problem is the assholes who scribble their math on the displays, annoying if it's an old CRT, really pisses me off when it's a two-day-old brand-spanking-new LCD.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Sounds like another boondogle is inbound

          That's great, but it sounds like they have some controls that prevent some easy methods of cheating. By using specific devices that are correctly locked down and making students be there at specific times, for example. However, there will be many schools that lack the IT staff to do something like that. If, for example, they don't appropriately secure the laptops from running third-party code, it only takes one student with some knowledge and a desire for their friends to pay them for a solution to obtain one and write some USB disks. When I was in school, students with the relevant experience were rather easy to find, and you only need one of them to prove unethical for the cheating problem to be much worse.

  4. steelpillow Silver badge

    What schools are for

    It is not a school's job to understand and specify complex IT systems. If central government wants to insist that its centrally-planned National Curriculum be delivered via hi tech clouds then it should make fucking sure that it has built an acceptable ICT system around a centralised cloud and then roll it out to its schools, along with the necessary centralised user support, all prepaid by taxpayer's money.

    That way we only piss the cost of one failed ICT project up the wall instead of a few hundred.

    1. Disgusted of Cheltenham

      Re: What schools are for

      But there are a few things that could be done. Teaching touch-typing, for example.

      1. CountCadaver Silver badge

        Re: What schools are for

        I had a former head of dept give guest lectures at university, he said when he was head of the dept he tried to make touch typing a requirement but the university wouldn't have it "Its Applied Computing they are studying not clerical work" type reply.

        I used to be able to touch type at something like 50wpm....well until I hit my head on a wardrobe in the dark (don't ask...I was sober) and gave myself a bad concussion, only now about 10 years on am I getting back to being able to touch type with any semblance of speed and accuracy.

      2. VikiAi

        Re: What schools are for

        Yes, but only if I get my own choice of keyboard/layout (I use a BAT chorded keypad for typing English, and have for decades - matrix keyboards now set my teeth on edge when I try to use them - YMMV)

    2. 's water music

      Re: What schools are for

      but if each school didn't choose it's own edu 'platform' independently based on kick backs or sales patter fatigue or whatever then who would employ all the flash and silverlight developers who never updated their skillz?

  5. Diogenes

    No it won't

    Current teacher (8 year) ...

    Former Software Dev (30 years)

  6. doublelayer Silver badge


    Prepare for a bunch of devices with the following options:

    1. Riddled with malware.

    2. Broken because you gave them to kids who are too young.

    3. Too slow to run the malware.

    Technology is fine, but it won't solve many problems. If they start planning for technological solutions that have specific purposes and get field-tested in order to ensure they fulfill those requirements, that can have some real benefits. If it's some company trying to make students code with blocks or sell ebooks, it will fail badly.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Gov makes big proclamation about tech being the saviour of [insert problem] with no understanding of the complexity of what they are talking about.

    I've been to meetings where forced education spending on tech is causing significant cutbacks in other areas. Gov has no concept of renewal with this stuff. Funding is provided on a one off non recurring basis so that after year 1 the school is scavenging funds from other budgets to pay the ongoing costs for the tech. After 5 years when the stuff needs replaced it all goes in the skip.

    Even worse teachers are constantly sold the next shiny in terms of apps and have no concept of any requirement to protecting pupil data, and have no interest in being educated as to what their responsibilities are. Many of these app involve the transfer of personal data to the USA with no safeguards in place. Teachers can and do buy these apps with the school credit card and shift pupil data into the systems. Kids are told to sign up to services they may not be old enough to give consent for. Parents can be told they 'must' buy expensive equipment or their children's education will suffer.

    These things happen daily.

    One school we have is a 'microsoft college' and has just spunked thousands on 1 ipad per child. We have no technical way and no reasources to manage Apple devices since they are much harder for us than Windows. HT was told this and bought them anyway because he likes his ipad at home.

    And on and on and on.

    Then after all this you churn out kids who only know how to consume app services and still can't use a spreadsheet or a word processor. This is usually dismised with a flourish about how these kids are 'digital natives' and can cope with change.

    I wait with glee for the ICO to get stuck in about schools free and easy attitude to kids data but I think even the ICO might be too timid to take on teachers.

  8. localzuk Silver badge


    Its declarations like this that create our cupboards of shame. Headteachers see these things, head off to the next conference and see shiny things promising the world to them and splash their budget on it. What is actually needed are knowledgeable IT professionals with education knowledge to work with these ideas - to prevent things being bought which are just gimmicks (looking at you, "Classroom scale VR").

    Identifying technologies that will improve things is hard work - we're just now looking at Chromebooks because the ecosystem is mature, and the devices cost effective. However, their introduction is going to be slowly paced, so we can try and properly train our staff. Jumping in with a massive change is not easy - especially when you consider that schools only have 5 teacher training days each year. And they've gotta get through the usual safeguarding training on one, and other pressing issues on others. So, IT training time ends up being half of 1 day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: EdTech

      If you're looking at Chromebooks be aware that Google has just changed their terms and conditions to insist on formal parental consent for everyone aged under 15 to access additional Google services such as YouTube.

  9. EnviableOne

    Mr. Hancocks Cool-Aid

    has someone been drinking the HSC secretary's supply?

    "There's an App for that" being his favourite refrain

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