Education Needs Long-Term Technology Strategy

In January, CEO Neil Gaydon was invited to be a keynote speaker at the Education World Forum, an annual gathering for ministers of education. There, he discussed the role of technology in education. This is part one of a three-part series from his keynote address. This part focuses on the power of combining great teaching, software, and hardware in the classrooms.

I’ve been fortunate to travel to lots of different countries and I’ve seen firsthand how very different schools have very different ways of educating and talking to teachers and students about technology. And I’ve heard from every corner of the globe how important it is to invest in education and I couldn’t agree more.

When we spend, we must spend wisely and spend to the greatest effect. We need to standardize on software for education and rework the way budgets are put together so they fit education’s need for technology.

Education technology requires a very different type of funding model and one that is way more efficient than the ones being used today. In my travels I’ve heard a lot of talk about curriculum and pedagogy — and rightly so — as a long-term strategy. But rarely do I hear the same being discussed for the technology that’s going to support that curriculum or that learning. When it comes to software cumulative, millions of dollars are wasted. As ministries allow individual schools or even individual teachers to make their own personal educational technology choices, they don’t always result in the best decision.  

We must have a coherent and long-term strategy when it comes to technology. We know our learners love technology. They find it easy. We know they are bombarded with all sorts of video chat rooms and social media and for them it’s a regular part of their lives. There’s a lot of noise out there. Over the course of just 12 minutes, 3,600 hours of YouTube video will have been uploaded and over four million tweets will have taken place. During the course of a day, there’s 27 million pieces of content being produced. In order to try to close that gap, education has been trying to embrace technology because it’s how generations accumulate knowledge, find out about the world around them, and communicate with one another.

The OECD report said that technology does not guarantee career outcomes. It might surprise you that as a technology company we totally agree with that statement because no one yet has found the way in which education technology and software can naturally work together. Imagine if you went to work and you’re handed a PC that you weren’t really familiar how to use, and even if you were, the software wasn’t the right software for your business or for what you do every day. You’d find that incredibly frustrating and yet that’s what’s true for many of the schools.

SMART carried out research that uncovered that technology in education isn’t doomed to failure. Great teaching is fundamentally important. We all know that. What we uncovered, though, is that specific education-based software and specific education-based hardware equals success. This is the key aspect in how we’re going to make the marriage of technology and education a natural and normal part of everyday learning.

One of the things I find quite surprising is that there is so much focus on device hardware. For the most part, individual and personal devices will be out of date in two or three years. They’ll be replaced, lost, broken, stolen or whatever. The software that drives devices will continue to evolve if you’ve chosen the right software for your country and for your market. I’ve seen it again and again. When standardization happens more innovation happens. More engagement, more usage, and lower costs happen when you standardize around a common set of tools.

I want to bring that point home. Our Teaching, Technology and Learning (TTL) research matches up with the OECD report. The bottom left-hand graph shows if you have very poor teaching with good technology, the results are not outstanding. The graph above it shows that when you have great teachers without technology, the results are pretty good. The top right-hand graph shows when you combine great teaching with great education, you get outstanding results. The good news in here is, as they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.

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There are lots of different ways the classroom is evolving. It’s evolving from whole class, from student-led, from teacher-led, from individual project-based. All of these aspects are a wonderful area in which tremendous pedagogical change is happening.

So the long-term strategy in education, the one that will drive the greatest success is one where technology plays a vital and huge role along with great teaching. It’s when the right software is chosen along with the right hardware to work in conjunction and in harmony with education. That’s where we see the greatest, most amazing success.

Discover how the research can support your long-term strategy. Download the TTL Report today.

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Neil Gaydon
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About Neil Gaydon

Neil Gaydon is President and CEO of SMART Technologies. Prior to joining SMART, he was CEO of Pace plc, a technology developer for pay TV and broadband service providers. During his tenure as CEO at Pace, he led the company through a major turnaround resulting in a ten-fold increase in revenues to become the world leader. Throughout his career, his hallmark has been defining and executing strategy, creating effective structure and changing business culture on a global scale. He is a graduate of Harvard Business School in the Advanced Management Program.

7 thoughts on “Education Needs Long-Term Technology Strategy

  1. It’s an amazing technology and I believe that this technology will take our education to the next level.

  2. Technology engages learners, combined with good teaching, it has a huge part to play in the future or teaching and learning.

  3. Insightful article about how technology and evolving teaching methods work hand in hand to engage students in their learning.

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