Across all industries, technology is having a revolutionising effect, and education is no exception. From interactive whiteboards and iPads to technology-orientated teaching strategies, the digital classroom is becoming now a reality.
However, unlike a number of commercial sectors and industries, when it comes to education all changes and progressions have to be carefully considered. While the taxi industry can be uprooted by a disruptive technology such as Uber, in an educational setting, digitisation has to be introduced steadily and prove that it has real and tangible benefits.
Due to this sensitive nature of the industry there is still a need for education and guidance to temper the rapid introduction of the digital classroom. With this in mind, I have outlined below six factors to consider in order to integrate technology into the classroom successfully.
Education and awareness
Before a digital classroom is fully implemented, staff, students and all other stakeholders should be consulted and educated. Acceptable Usage Policies are a good way to define expectations, aims and rules in order to make sure everyone understands the associated risks and best practices. Coupled with this, educational establishments should invest time in educating everyone in how to use technology correctly and the associated risks with it to make sure it is put to best use.
Alongside education comes awareness. After all, the digital classroom is a big step and all stakeholders have to be on board. Communication is vital at the early stages, and if everyone involved feels comfortable in the aims, practices, and eventual outcomes, then the implementation of technology will be a much smoother process.
Security can arguably make or break the digital classroom. Internet-enabled devices can pose a real threat in a school environment and have to be carefully secured, monitored and updated. In fact, organisations have a legal responsibility to ensure that students are safe and the content they have access to is appropriate. Security must be a priority when children are involved.
Alongside cybersecurity, organisations must also remember to secure their devices physically. Storing them in safe locations and password protecting them to prevent those that shouldn’t from gaining access is a good starting point.
Although it sounds simple, the physical risk of technology is often overlooked and schools, colleges and universities have to consider it. Educational establishments will often be storing and charging hundreds of devices. Therefore, they need to be housed away from harm in order to protect the equipment, but most importantly, the students and staff. As well as positioning devices to avoid cables becoming trip hazards, devices must be constantly monitored to ensure that all elements are intact. For example, cables should be stored correctly and not be fraying – if they are then they should be replaced immediately to avoid any risks.
As mentioned above, schools and other organisations will often have to store hundreds of devices together. In this environment, the rising temperature can pose a serious threat. Therefore, educational establishments must ensure that their storage solutions have fire retardant materials housing all electrical components to mitigate the risk of overheating. Organisations should also ensure that their storage solutions have temperature monitoring capabilities and temperature limiters. This way, if devices do begin to overheat, chargers can be shut down until a safe temperature is restored.
Alongside cybersecurity, schools must also ensure that they are introducing physically safe devices – and fit-for-purpose device storage – to the classroom. The default stamp of approval is generally considered to be the universal marker of the Declaration of Conformity (CE). However, educational organisations have to be more stringent in their safety regulation than the CE as it does not take into account the environment of a school or the fact devices will be stored and charged together.
Subsequently, schools should look instead to independent test houses such as TUV, Intertek and SGS, who take into account how devices will be stored and test them accordingly and under much greater scrutiny than the CE. These certificates are not easy to obtain but are a true mark of safety.
Using equipment that is fit for purpose
When it comes to schools, colleges and universities, storage is important due to the sheer quantity of devices. Therefore, organisations need to make sure that they have equipment that is fit for purpose. Can it store the number of devices you need it to? Can it charge a selection of different devices? Does it have a weight limit? And can it scale as more and more devices are introduced and the student-device ratio decreases? Schools need to ensure they have a solution that reflects their unique needs.
Ultimately, it is undeniable that the majority of classrooms can now be considered digital classrooms. And it is vastly improving education. However, due to the sensitive nature of education, there are a number of factors to consider before taking the plunge. It is a careful process, but by considering the above, educational organisations can stand themselves in good stead to make technology work for them in the most effective way.
Chris Neath, Head of new product development, LapCabby
Image Credit: Shutterstock/Andrey_Popov