The recent Panorama exposé of the darker side of hardware sales to schools has brought to the fore an issue which may well have been prevalent within the Education sector for years.
Cast your minds back (or ask someone over 35) to the classroom of the 1980’s. The typical Primary school had a single BBC computer, fawned over by the staff and lusted after by the pupils. Access to the machine was strictly limited whereby the lucky few were able to gain an insight into the world of BBC Basic and, if they were event luckier, Frogger at the end of term. As students of the latest and greatest thing we wanted more – and we didn’t do too badly with this limited exposure to IT.
Leap forward 25 years and now every school is now awash with Laptops, Tablets, and dedicated IT suites. Schools themselves seem to be addicted to Mores Law in that IT equipment needs to be replaced on a regular basis ‘to keep up’ – all at vast expense to a schools budget which is already stretched thin. Surely what you have, of have had for the past 5 years is good enough?
Okay, so what has changed? Why do schools need the latest and greatest kit? One entirely logical conclusion to arrive at is that the children and young adults of today need to be exposed to the latest technology which makes the modern world tick- ergo access to that is achieved through hefty investment in the most up-to-date IT equipment. This concept was reinforced right throughout the governments of recent times, through the late 90’s-late noughties with huge grants to private companies to put IT equipment into schools. Schemes such as ‘Laptops for Schools’ were greeted with open arms as schools awaited their free laptops whilst hardware suppliers fought over who was going to win the deal.
The reality of this initiative fell short. Laptops were indeed distributed to students, however the inevitable issues of security, not only of the laptop itself (ending up on eBay / in a Pawn Shop) but also the integrity of the data held upon it morphed the devices into political hot-potatoes. Regardless of these risks however, governments pressed on with its investments.
So what is the modern face of IT within Education? Well, schools are amply furnished with high-spec laptops, tablets and infrastructure, which is more than enough to deal with the educational tools expected to operate upon them. In other words, one could argue that the 3-5 year refresh cycle is not necessary and that a more efficient use of hardware will help both the schools finances and ‘bang-for-buck’ mentality of today’s austerity drive.