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Mark Anderson on how not to waste money on tech – PP102


The topic of the week is Mark Anderson on How Not to Waste Money on Tech.

Mark Anderson, who is perhaps better known as @ICTEvangelist on Twitter, joined us this week for a wide-ranging conversation about ICT.

Mark is an influential, award-winning blogger, author and speaker. Recently recognised in this research as the most influential person in edtech in Europe and then here as the second most influential blogger in the UK. This blog also won the Education Blog of the Year 2015 in the UK Blog Awards 2015 and second in the Education section of the Vuelio Blog Awards 2015. With 20 years classroom experience including that as a teacher, middle leader, lead teacher, assistant headteacher and responsible for some of the UK’s most renowned edtech deployments, Mark is a passionate advocate for developing the modern educator’s toolkit.

Can technology improve learning?

Mark points out that people weren’t convinced about what impact the printing press would have and technology is similar – we couldn’t go back to ‘quill and paper’ and get the same results.

When our children are at university or in work is it more or less likely they will be using technology? Of course they will be.

Mark thinks one of the biggest factors causing an imbalance in the impact of technology in education is teacher confidence. Schemes like student Digital Leaders who are there to support the teacher’s use of technology can have a massive impact. In each setting where Mark has seen dramatic impact of technology on learning, it’s the children who have made the biggest difference. Even where there are great teacher technology champions in a school, they can’t be there all the time. This is where children helping teachers can be really useful – if it’s a function of a particular app or machine, it’s not worth putting a call out for technical help and children can provide scaffolding and support for teachers.

Mark says that the national picture on teacher confidence with technology is patchy and points out that there are still some teachers who see it as a risk to adopt technology when their teaching is already effective – as they see it.

Teacher training is also inconsistent – Mark believes that educational technology use should be embedded into teacher training more effectively, perhaps as a requirement of QTS, so we are not left with pockets of good practice.

Mark mentions the use of ‘technology coaches’ in international schools whose role is to support the use of educational technology and would like to see this replicated more generally in groups of schools – academy chains, trusts, clusters etc.

Virtual Reality

VR is one area in educational technology Mark is excited about. For example Google Cardboard is a very cheap (or even free) way of turning existing equipment into VR equipment which can be combined with free applications such as Google Street View. He believes that children can be given immersive, powerful and authentic experiences like this. Mark has also seen immersive rooms in schools with projectors pointing at the walls so you really feel you ‘are there’.

There are free, 3D panoramas on sites like where you can use the gyroscopic features of a mobile device to walk around and experience the virtual environment.

Mark thinks VR is massively powerful not just in obvious areas of the curriculum like geography but also in subjects like literacy where, in Mark’s experience, for example, boys who have experienced a VR environment and are asked to describe it can be recorded. This recording then becomes their own stimulus for creative writing.

1 to 1 device ratios

Mark believes that whether learners should have their own device for learning rather than sharing one depends on the activity. In an ICT lesson or that kind of activity then it’s right to share a device but having instant access to your notes, your creative apps and your information on your own device is also right. Mark is involved in ways to make this affordable and workable.

Having access to a personal device in a connected world is absolutely right.

Mark is not sure this is right for young children but definitely when they reach secondary school it seems exactly the right thing to do.

Bring your own device – BYOD

Mark says that we are moving towards a blurring of types of devices and applications. For example, Google Docs can be used on any kind of mobile, desktop or laptop. This makes BYOD much more realistic. It used to be that you could only ‘bring your own device’ from a specific list of devices.

However, having a ‘consistent backbone’ of tools, for example, can make teachers’ lives much easier and help to support those who are less confident with the technology. Google have gone a long way towards this but companies such as Microsoft with their Office 365 and apps which are available for all sorts of devices are catching up as well.

What do you want to see most in the ICT and Computing curriculum in the next 5 years?

Mark is pleased about the way in which computing has had its credibility restored recently.

Computing is a real, decent, proper subject with real rigour needed to be any good at it.

When ICT exams had no controlled assessment and consisted of 100% coursework, Mark believes it was not a good thing for the subject.

So Mark would like things to settle down a bit in the next 5 years and for teachers to ‘take it back for themselves’ and feel confident in using technology. He is also excited about seeing what the current year 5 and 6 children can do in year 10 and 11 after some decent computing education.

How can schools make better choices when purchasing ICT equipment?

First of all, decent training can be provided in the use of the existing equipment. Then:


  • Think carefully about what you actually need e.g. do you need Photoshop on every machine?
  • Are there free alternatives e.g. Google Apps for Education, Office 365 online?
  • See if you can work with other schools in your trust or other association to buy in bulk
  • See if third-party resellers are offering better deals that going straight to the software company themselves
  • The Crown Commercial Service has a framework which can be used for purchasing
  • DfE has a memorandum of understanding which can help with purchasing (Microsoft MoU)


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