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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Well, Christmas draws ever closer and along with it all the associated activities that we view with a mixture of excitement, dread and fascination - putting up the decorations, baking the Christmas cake, negotiating where you will be with the various factions of the family and, of course, Christmas shopping.

I am not great at shopping at the best of times - I am no longer allowed to do the grocery shopping on my own after the “ice cream incident”. And, I do tend to rise to new heights of ineptitude when it comes to Christmas shopping.

My problem is that I head out onto the high street (both physical and online) and I’m immediately sucked into the dazzling world that it has mutated into since the middle of November. Everywhere I look there are bright lights, the latest gadgets and gizmos, beguiling perfumes, glittering jewellry, the perfect gift for your partner...

Within minutes I have no idea what I had set out to purchase and bounce from idea to idea like some sort of demented pinball machine.

The technology environment can feel remarkably similar for schools. For example, BETT is approaching at the end of January and the sheer scale of products on offer can be overwhelming for the casual visitor. We can end up either paralysed by indecision or impulse buy until the money runs out. And of course, once we get all of those shiny new technical solutions back to school they don’t seem quite as exciting as they did at the show.

At this point there is a real risk that they will end up gathering dust in a corner somewhere and the opportunity to invest in something that will make a real difference is gone. So what can we as educators do?

The crucial thing to remember is that you need to have a really clear idea about what you want to achieve. This means stepping back from the shop window for a moment and considering what your core teaching and learning objectives are. These are the most essential concepts that will underpin everything that goes on at your school. But, it can be all too easy to lose sight of them in the day to day goings on at school, never mind when someone starts dazzling you with the latest gadget or ‘must-have’ software.

Once these objectives are clear in your mind - your shopping list if you like - you can then start to look at the tech tools that will help you to achieve them. Be ruthless every time - if you can’t see how it will help, then you don’t need to waste time and money implementing it. That’s important to remember, this is not just about the money - introducing anything to a school takes time and energy, and a poor choice can impact negatively both on the outcomes for your students, and your standing with your colleagues.

The right technology can be transformational in a school environment, but ultimately it is still a means to an end and not an end in itself. Be clear what those goals are and you should find the choice of technology is easier to make.

So this Christmas I have tried to step back from the bright lights of commerce and think about what I want to say to my family. Shopping has taken a little longer this year, I’ve still got a few days left thank goodness, but it has felt a much clearer process and I feel happier both in my choice of gifts and the messages that they embody.

Like Christmas, education is about the interaction between people - technology may enhance that relationship, but it must not replace it.

Merry Christmas everyone and a prosperous New Year - see you at BETT!

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