Monday, 26 May 2014

Getting Value for Money

Over the weekend I read a post from Tom Bennett (@tombennett71) called "iPads in the Classroom - are we machine gunning emus?" In it Tom argues that iPad adoption is an expensive exercise with
"little evidence that iPad adoption has any discernible effect on the educational outcomes of children whatsoever." 
Adding, "however shiny and groovy they are" they aren't necessarily the answer for under achieving children. His thoughts very much resonated with myself, as this an area of concern that I've had for a while. In 2011 I wrote a post called "They Want A Shiny New One", which outlined similar concerns about the way some schools were approaching the buying of what is an expensive piece of kit without any real vision about how they were going to use them. Over the last three years, since that post was written, the purchasing of iPads by schools has increased considerably, and this is now being exacerbated in Wales with money available through the Pupil Deprivation Grant (PDG). Most schools I'm now talking to are buying iPads with this year's increase in money and to be honest I doubt that many of them can honestly say what difference having these devices will make for their free school meals (FSM) children which is where the money is supposed to be targeted. It appears that they just want to have have iPads and the PDG is a means of getting them. 

To help schools it may be worthwhile for them to read "The Impact of Digital Technology" report from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). On page 15 in its conclusions and recommendations it says:
"Studies linking provision and use of technology with attainment tend to find consistent but small positive associations with educational outcomes. However, a causal link cannot be inferred from this kind of research. It seems probable that more effective schools and teachers are more likely to use ICT and digital technologies more effectively than other schools."
As I've seen written several times before, good teachers use good technology well, poor teachers will use good technology poorly. A good teacher will be able to use a resource or tool effectively, what ever it is. It could be an iPad, but equally it could be the ageing PC in the corner of the classroom, a poster, TV programme or a reference book from the school library.

As I have said previously I have no issue at all with the iPad. It is a fantastic personal device that has revolutionised the way the world uses technology. However, it is a product that comes at a premium cost, and I do question whether schools are getting value for money from them. You may have 50 iPads, but so what? What impact is this having on the pupils? The EEF toolkit says that digital technologies are high cost for moderate student progress. The iPad is most certainly at the higher cost end of educational technologies. Therefore couldn't the moderate improvement in student progress be made using digital technologies that provide greater value for money to a school?