Deploy 2014, Part 2: The School in Context

This week, on the podcast, Bradley and I are talking about putting your school in context. This is a really important step to take on the road to a major technology deployment.

We start by looking at what you might call the 50,000-foot view: looking into the future and thinking about where the world, our society and the economy is headed. Are we really looking into a future where large-scale manufacturing is coming back, or will we hang all our hopes on "creativity"?

Specific details of the future are hard to pin down but one of my core beliefs is that technology rarely arises from nowhere overnight. There are well-established techniques for what is sometimes termed "foresight analysis", "futuring" or "futurology". This isn't crystal-ball stuff, it's about looking at current trends and making disciplined use of a well-informed imagination to take a shot at where these things might go in the future. It's worth bearing in mind that a pessimistic imagination is just as valuable as an optimistic one - possibly more so.

In the show, I recommend a book that I found useful when I was getting started in applying these techniques to education: "Futuring: The Exploration of the Future" by Edward Cornish (Amazon.co.uk) gives a very useful overview of the field.

We then move down to the national level, taking a look at some statistics published by the UK communications regulator Ofcom. In particular, their 2013 Communications Market Report provides useful contextual data on such factors as home access to the internet and the relative use of desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

While the national picture is what it is, it's always necessary to bring it down to the level of your own school. Most schools will know (or be able to find out) the rough socio-economic breakdown of their catchment area. This is a start, but it's important not to make broad assumptions about what parents will be willing to support based on broad socio-economic trends. I've worked with rich schools and poor schools and the correlation between the financial status of parents and their willingness to support educational technology programs isn't always as straightforward as you might think.

We wrap up with the following tasks for your "homework" this week:

  • Become informed about where the world is going.
  • Use survey data, market research, analyses of the job market, the tech sector and the economy as a whole.
  • Use a broad base and read widely; don’t depend on one or two opinions.
  • Regardless, think critically for yourself about what is right for your school.
  • Be aware of how national or international data applies to your school and your area.
  • Ask parents and ask students what technology they have.
  • Ask the school community how things could be funded sustainably.

I hope you're enjoying the series so far. You can subscribe in iTunes, directly on our site or in the search feature of your mobile podcast client.