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Maximising the impact of connected classrooms

“The real challenge in education is engaging students, getting them interested, keeping them interested and helping them really get excited about what it is they’re trying to learn.” This is what Matthew Glotzbach, CEO at learning platform provider Quizlet, told our researchers during an interview for our Better Connected Schools report.

Connectivity in the classroom

UK schools spend almost £900 million a year on education technology. Nine in every 10 schools with more than 50 pupils at key stage 4 level uses fibre ethernet, a high-capacity internet service, because they rely on online resources and require fast, secure, reliable connectivity with excellent service levels to ensure they can access them at all times.

Fibre ethernet and online learning technologies are transforming teaching and have the power to drive even more positive change in the way schools interact with pupils and their parents, broaden the curriculum and manage administration.

Simply eulogising about them would be misguided. As Mark Seccombe, head of e-learning at Pangbourne College, told us: “what makes it effective is the way that it’s used, not so much what is actually put there.”

Boosting best practice, engagement and attainment

“When you have access to technology and the Internet then a whole plethora of freely available or very low cost services are suddenly accessible that you can bring into the classroom,” says Glotzbach. “Schools and teachers who are really effectively leveraging technology are figuring out ways to bring those resources to bear, to help foster the best practices they are already putting into place in the classroom.”

“We spend a huge amount of time in schools just chucking content at children. The vast majority of the stuff is available online already,” adds educational technology advisor Chris Waterworth. “There’s not really a reason to stand and deliver chalk and talk to children all the time. Let them find the information and plan activities for them to do something with it.”

Waterworth’s belief in children driving their own education forward was echoed by Atif Mahmood, chief executive at lesson planning startup Lumici Slate: “Children are native users of technology. If you give them an iPad or robotics, some technology to use in the classroom, they seem to have a greater engagement. More importantly, they want to become more independent learners.”

Schools need evolution, not revolution

Like all organisations making use of technology and the internet, it is vital that schools take steps to ensure they stay connected, and keep their systems, people and data secure and safe from harm.

Connection resilience is one aspect that needs careful consideration. Beaming research shows that education providers, on average, suffered two notable internet outages each in 2016. Schools must ensure their networks have sufficient capacity to meet users’ needs and that they have the support to restore connectivity quickly.

Online safety and cybersecurity are critical concerns for schools, which are targeted hundreds of times every day by cybercriminals. More than half of UK education providers fell victim to cybercrime last year, with the cost of managing attacks and replacing equipment estimated at more than £15,000 per incident. Students contributed to breaches in more than a quarter of cases.

Guidance from the Department for Education in 2016 requires that governors and managers adopt “an effective approach to online safety” to “protect and educate the whole school or college community in their use of technology and establishes mechanisms to identify, intervene in and escalate any incident.”

What an “effective approach” looks like is subjective. In Beaming’s experience, however, the most secure organisations use cybersecurity and internet filtering technology where appropriate, supported with clear policies and extensive user education.

This last part – education – is particularly important: As Mark Seccombe said: “Part of our job is to prepare our students for the world that’s out there. It comes down to good modelling of best practice by teachers, making sure that – where you set up policies and procedures – there are sanctions if people break them, and doing our best to educate pupils about the potential pitfalls.”

To discover how UK schools are making best use of the internet to boost learning outcomes and the steps they are taking to protect their data and users, download our Better Connected Schools report today.

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