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The Connection between Wellbeing and your School IT Systems: Where to Start if your System is Broken

A row of four students with computers is supervised by their teacher, who wears a dark spotted dress.

When we first created the youHQ school wellbeing app, we had a very limited understanding of what a school digital ecosystem was, let alone how they may differ from school to school. As I naively visited and spoke to schools globally, I was truly astonished to see how two schools in a similar location, with the same needs had vastly different levels of digital resource.

This chasm of technological difference is sometimes due to leadership choice, however as my co-author in this series, Philippa Wraithmell notes in her book ‘The Digital Ecosystem: How to Create a Sustainable Digital Strategy for your School’, it is normally down to poor planning and a lack of investment or funding.  As a result, we are often finding that students around the world are learning on equipment which poorly resembles what they will be required to work on in the world of employment.

An adequately resourced school IT system is not only important for learning; we have seen first hand how a well-resourced digital ecosystem can better support student and staff wellbeing.  With teaching staff now having to use multiple devices and logins, it's so important that new systems are tested, planned and rolled out with correct training.  There is no point in running yoga classes for staff to reduce stress, if the stress is coming from them not having the tools or training to be able to do their job.  

For students, it is vitally important that schools create a digital ecosystem which allows them to reach out and communicate in a way they feel comfortable.  I for one would love it if our young people could physically speak up when they have a concern, however the ‘genie is out of the bottle’ and we now need to make sure we have the systems in place, whereby they can reach out both physically and digitally.

We feel passionately that many schools could be more digitally healthy and that it doesn’t always come from having money to invest.  In this series, we will be giving you the tools, advice and resources to help build a digitally healthy school.

As already noted, I’m no expert in school digital ecosystems, however my co-writer in this series is! Welcome Philippa Wraithmell 👏

Two hands hold a white ipad device with a sage green background. Hovering just above the ipad screen are animated symbols (graph, graduation cap, lightbulb, book, magnifying glass) representing different technologies.

Digital systems in schools have never really taken a front-row seat in education strategy. As Jon notes, schools have a massive disparity regarding what is available to them and how it is used—only adding to the digital divide and inequality in education standards globally. In addition to this, over the past 12 months specifically we have seen an insurgence of AI as well, some are embracing and other shying away further from any technology. So, what are the areas in which we could make positive changes in schools? 

  1. Shift the focus from Technology to Pedagogy Sounds simple, right? Many teachers would believe that this is why they try to avoid using tech in their classes, even in those schools where technology is readily available and supported well. And this is where leadership must be involved. Our digital strategy and pedagogical approach to the use of technology must be aligned, it is a consistent barrier. Many schools fall into the trap that buying the technology is the hard part, but really its finding the why behind the use! To do this, we must change mindsets in our schools. When was the last time leadership reviewed staff's views on pedagogy, and if the technology provided supports this? If never, why not try it?

  2. Continuity of use or Digital Fluency When we use technology in education, we should have a plan. Why is it being used? What is it helping us achieve? I am the first to shout and question why tech is there when it is not benefitting anyone. There is no room for gimmicks. But to do this effectively, we must create a road map of skills. Underlying this is our pedagogy, but roadmaps are not created in silos. Working across the school, mapping resources, devices and basic digital skills across curriculums not only interweaves school curriculums giving room for cross-pollination of subject matter, but also allows the use of skills to be built upon and used in multifaceted ways. It takes a whole community to do it. 

  3. Stop with the blanket assumptions on teacher skills Sorry to be blunt, but just because a staff member has gained a virtual badge doesn't mean that they are able and fluent enough to embed this as core learning to students. Plan staff training with options, build in pedagogy to allow staff to connect the dots, and get staff to share their ideas and concepts with their teams. We can troubleshoot in safe spaces by demonstrating these skills, allowing everyone to learn more. Skills are one thing. They are only helpful if we can transfer this into what we do. Training plans and professional development for EdTech should be aligned with the investment of technology in the school, which in turn should be aligned with your school's vision and pedagogical values. Of course, there are many other things we need and want to do in professional development, but getting this right is key to properly using technology in your school. Ultimately the technology is there to support learning, so focus on the technology aligning to the learning. 

You don't need the savviest, most up-to-date technology to have a digital fluent, EdTech strategy that will benefit your school. Of course, you need to think about the future and make investments, but investment begins here and now with what you have, because tomorrow is always a day away.


About the Authors

Jon Ford is a performance and wellbeing coach and the founder of Life on Time - the creators of youHQ. A qualified sport and exercise scientist, he is trained in psychotherapy and has over 20 years of business and business growth experience.

Philippa Wraithmell is an author, award-winning educator and consultant, who specialises in digital strategy, learning and teaching, and change leadership in schools. She has extensive experience in developing policy and frameworks for government entities as a Subject Matter Expert in Asia and the Middle East. 

In addition, Philippa is an Apple Distinguished Educator, supporting Apple with reviews and regional projects.  Her app design project went from being a small school community project and is now rolled out Emirate-wide as a national coding UXUI design project in both English and Arabic. 

Philippa is keen to ensure that all schools know their “why” in using digital learning and all students have access to be able to unlock their own future. Philippa works alongside small EdTech partner groups, testing and trialling new and emerging technologies which will benefit students' learning. 

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