Digital technology trends

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Vital Case Studies . Snapshot Studies . ICT trends/dimensions . ICT strategic advice . Publications re ICT in schools, inc, professional development, mobile devices, strategies

Warning: The guidance we provide is context dependent - what works in one context (place/time) may not work in another context - so you must evaluate the extent to which it is likely to apply in your particular context.


This page identifies some trends that seem to be evident in the digital technology strategies that schools in England are using. This is based on:

  • reading of the literature (including grey literature such as blog posts)
  • meta-analysis across a range of case studies, including (but not limited to) these ones
  • being immersed in the 'educational technology' community

Figure 1 shows all of the trends that we have identified. We then provide an explanation of each trend.

The first row in the diagram (Impact) aims to give an indication of the extent to which each trend changes the nature of what is taught (curriculum) or how it is taught (pedagogy).

Figure 1 Digital Technology Strategy Trends


It is important to note that the trends are inter-related - a change on one is often/normally associated with changes on others. We are not advocating that you should be in any particular position on each trend - being at one end of the dimensions is not necessarily better than being at the other end. However, if you want to move from left to right on these dimensions then you may find our digital technology strategy guidance helpful.


Trends can be thought of as showing how much something has changed from 'traditional practice' - where 'traditional practice' is to the left (or even off the left hand end) and 'newer' practices are to the right. We need to be clear that being further to the right is not necessarily better - it is simply different. The scale of the difference is indicated by the Impact dimension, which is taken from the Education Innovation Framework (EdIF).

Category Explanation
Support The curriculum (what you teach) is fundamentally unchanged whilst pedagogy (how you teach) is made more effective or efficient


The curriculum (what we teach) and/or pedagogy (how we teach) are different, but these changes could realistically take place without digital technology


The curriculum (what we teach) and/or pedagogy (how we teach) are different, and these changes could only realistically take place with digital technology



This dimension is about moving from 'desktop computers' to the use of mobile devices.

Category Explanation


Dedicated rooms are set up containing computers. These tend to be a bookable resource, though use may be dominated by ICT/Computing lessons.

Group sets

Sets of computers which may be permanently located in one area (e.g. in the maths department) or may be bookable mobile devices. There are not enough for everyone in the class to have one - so usage is shared.

Class sets

A set of sufficient machines for each pupil to have one. The Class set is shared between two or more classes.

1:1 loan

Each pupil in a class, year or other grouping has a machine that is allocated specifically for their use. However, access to the machines is limited in some way. For example they may only be allowed to be used at certain times, for certain lessons and they usually cannot be taken home. Importantly pupils do not feel that they 'own' their own device

1:1 owned

Each pupil in a class, year or other grouping has a machine that is allocated specifically for their use. Everyone (at least within one year group) will have 'the same' device. They are allowed to take the machine home and feel that they have ownership of it. Ownership in this context is not to do with who actually owns the device but the extent to which the pupil feels that it is theirs.


Bring Your Own Device. Pupils are allowed to bring in their own (mobile) devices from home to use in school. The devices have to be 'registered' with the school (often by providing the school with the MAC address) and the school controls access to their network and school servers. Schools may limit the devices that are allowed to be used - so that everyone has similar devices.


Bring Your Own Technology. Pupils are allowed to bring in their own (mobile) devices from home to use in school. They do not have to register the device in order to access the school network - it simply connects. Generally the school only provides a filtered Internet connection. Inevitably BYOT means that pupils will have different devices, which has implications for pedagogy.

There is a close connection between a school's position on the Provision dimension and the position it needs to be in on the Network dimension.

The emerging evidence seems to suggest that when you shift from 'loan' to 'owned' there is a significant change in engagement and use. The ways in which devices are used also changes - often becoming more spontaneous and student led.

The Dept of Education, Training and Employment in Queensland has suggested an alternative (and more granular) definition of the BYO models, which they label BYOx. They suggest that there are five different BYO models (from The State of Queensland (Dept of Education, Training and Employment) BYOx Research Project 2013):

BYOx Model Explanation

Model 1

One specific school selected device

Model 2

One specific school selected device, plus students can bring in an additional device of their choosing

Model 3

School selected range of approved devices

Model 4

Any device that meets school determined minimum standards

Model 5

Students bring any device which can connect to the Internet, suits their learning styles and meets their specific curriculum needs

End of provision section

What device


This dimension was added as a result of the Snapshot Studies in Australia - where device choice was a significant issue!

Category Explanation


Devices are desktop computers.


Devices in use are laptops, within which we would include Tablet PCs and other fully fledged computers with removable keyboards.


Tablets include devices such as the iPad (running IOS) and other devices with a similar form factor that run the Android operating system. They will have a touch sensitive screen, but may also have a separate keyboard.

Tablet +

This category recognises that no one device is suitable for all purposes, and that young people may have more than one device that they use (e.g. smartphone + laptop)

The lack of a category called Smartphones might be seen as a limitation of this dimension. In practice none of the Vital Case Studies or Snapshot Studies involved schools that allowed the use of smartphones unless they also allowed other devices to be used. Some schools did allow iPods, which we have included within the Tablet category (as the key difference is screen size).


This dimension is about moving from wired networks to wireless networks.

Category Explanation


The school has a wired network, which provides managed access to the Internet as well as any internal school servers.

Wireless: closed

The school has a wireless network, which provides managed access to the Internet as well as any internal school servers. Only school owned devices can access the wireless network.

Wireless: controlled

The school has a wireless network, which provides managed access to the Internet as well as any internal school servers. Only devices which have been registered with the school (e.g. the MAC address has been registered) can access the wireless network.

Wireless: open

The school has a wireless network, which provides (filtered) access to the Internet. Any wireless device can access the wireless network without having to be registered. This may be called the Guest network.

Schools may have more than one wireless network, for example having a closed or controlled network and a separate open one.



This dimension is about who pays for the digital technology that is used in school. In all of the four models of funding the school provides the basic network infrastructure and 'backfills' for pupils whose parents do not pay towards the cost of digital technology.

Category Explanation


The school pays for all the equipment used in school. In practice they may have funding from grants or commercial sponsors.


Parents make a (voluntary, monthly) contribution towards the cost, which complements the school funding. In some cases the contribution may only pay part of the cost of the equipment, whilst in others the contribution covers the full cost. The pupil may (or may not) end up legally owning the device.


This is essentially a mix between 'Subsidised' and 'Home' in which pupils who already own a suitable device are allowed to use that (and so don't have to pay for another one, though they may have to buy additional insurance)


Parents pay for the device their child is using. They may already have bought the device and/or might buy it through the school, taking advantage of the Local Authority VAT exemption scheme.

The issue of who pays is quite contentious - see my bliki post about who pays.


This dimension is about who hosts the servers and related services that the school uses, with a movement from the school hosting their own servers/services towards using servers/services hosted 'in the cloud'.

Category Explanation

Local servers

The school has its own physical servers (which may be managed by staff in the school or an external contractor).


The school has a learning platform (Virtual Learning Environment/VLE, Managed Learning Environment/MLE) through which staff and students operate. This closed system may be hosted on servers in the school or may be hosted elsewhere.


The school uses services hosted 'in the cloud' (i.e. by some other provider). The services are part of a closed package.

Cloud +

The school uses a range of services hosted 'in the cloud' (i.e by other providers) - mixing and matching the services they use to meet their needs (i.e not one closed package)

The boundaries between VLE, Cloud and Cloud + can be very blurred - which may mean that the categories are not sufficiently well specified at this stage - so feel free to comment or enhance.


This dimension is about who can access non-confidential areas of the school network from where. There is a general shift from restricting access to devices connected to the school network and to specific people to public access from anywhere (with an Internet connection).

All school are required to have a public website that provides basic information about the school and its curriculum. This dimension relates to other aspects of the school's provision, such as students' work and curriculum resources.

Category Explanation


Access is only available from devices connected directly to the school network (i.e. nobody can access any parts of the school network from outside school)

External (staff)

Staff can access the school network from outside school. Other people only have access from devices connected directly to the school network.

External (registered)

Anyone (e.g. staff, students, parents) who the school provides with a username and password can access parts of the school network over the Internet.


Parts of the school network are publicly accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. This may include pupils work (e.g. blogs) and teaching materials.

There will always be parts of the school network that are restricted because they contain personal information.

Technology model

This is one of the 'unexpected' dimensions that has emerged from research on the use of Tablets (specifically the iPad) in schools. It relates to the extent to which the school is moving away from a model in which it controls all the technology.

Category Explanation

'Learning technology'

The computer technology is controlled and managed by the school. This includes maintaining the operating system and anti-virus protection, installing software, and configuring the user interface/'desktop'.

Consumer device

This refers to devices, such as an iPad or smartphone, which were designed for individual use rather than for multiple users. The user thus controls the installation of software and configuration of the device.

The 'Consumer device' category emerged with the roll out of iPads in schools. In response to schools' desire to control the technology many providers have developed mechanisms to enable schools to take control of consumer devices. Thus, for example, Samsung's so called Smart School Solution enables the teacher to manage, control and monitor all of the mobile devices in the classroom - turning Tablets into 'Learning technology' rather than being 'Consumer devices'.


This dimension is about who is responsible for managing and supporting the use of digital technology within the school.

Category Explanation

ICT teachers

The ICT teacher/coordinator is responsible for managing and supporting the use of digital technology throughout the school. They might be supported by a technician or external service provider.

Dedicated technology infrastructure team

The school employs a dedicated IT team (e.g. IT manager + technicians) to manage and support the use of digital technology.

Digital Leaders

The school allocates certain students as Digital Leaders who support the use of digital technology within the school. This may involve helping to manage equipment (e.g. ensuring laptops are charged), supporting staff and pupils in using digital technology during lessons, providing input into professional development for teachers, or a range of other roles.

Manage YOT

Staff and students become responsible for managing and maintaining their own digital technology. This may range from ensuring that your mobile device is charged and ready for use at the start of the school day through to being fully responsible for installing software, configuring the device and being responsible for its repair if it breaks.

Movement towards BYOD/BYOT will usually involve a shift towards Manage YOT too.

Teacher role

Our research seems to indicate that the role of teachers is changing as schools move towards 1:1 computing and BYOD/BYOT strategies.

Category Explanation
Sage on the stage The teacher adopts a traditional role as 'presenter of information', director of activity, and marker of work. The teacher is the expert, imparting knowledge (its actually information rather than knowledge) to the pupils.

Collaborative resource designer & Guide on the side

The teacher prepares materials to support independent learning and acts as a guide and facilitator (when needed).


The teacher expects to learn alongside the students. Students may lead 'lessons' on areas they have researched or have particular expertise in.

The boundary between these categories is blurred: in some contexts the teacher may be co-learner whilst in others s/he is the sage on the stage. In our research the most common context in which teachers saw themselves as learning from students related to the use of digital technology.

Pupil role

This is closely linked with the Teacher Role dimension.

Category Explanation
Traditional class teaching Students are framed as recipients of knowledge (normally actually just information) who then practice applying that information in school contexts (e.g. doing worksheets, replicating science experiments). Students generally work on the same (or similar but differentiated) tasks.

Independent & personalised learning

Students work at their own pace through the curriculum, using independent study materials and/or carrying out their own personalised projects.


Students are involved in peer-peer teaching, which may include leading inputs for groups of other students. At times they are also involved in learning with and/or teaching the teachers.

The boundary between these categories may be blurred: in some contexts the students may be co-learner whilst in others they are working independently or in traditional classroom teaching mode.


Professional development is a critical element in any digital technology strategy.

Category Explanation
Formal CPD Traditional face to face twilight sessions and whole day courses, often run by 'external experts', outside school and not evaluated in terms of impact on practice or learning outcomes. Often linked to top down initiatives and priorities.

Informal CPD

Moving towards teachers taking professional responsibility for their own CPD. Often involving a bottom up approach (such as TeachMeets) and the use of Personal Learning Networks (PLNs).

Learning organisation

Professional development is embedded throughout the school, strategically focussed on enhancing practice, and is evaluated in terms of its impact. School structures will support approaches such as the use of Practitioner Research.




Category Explanation


There was no educational vision (or the head/principal couldn't articulate an educational vision) or there was a mismatch between the educational vision and the digital technology strategy.


The vision was clearly technology driven, e.g. To have a computer lab in every classroom; For every student to have their own mobile device.

Apple pie

The vision was aspirational but so fluffy as to be unhelpful in knowing what the school strategies should be. e.g. Every child will reach their full potential.

21st Century

The vision was about preparing students to be 21st Century citizens and/or developing 21st Century skills.


A clearly educational vision, that was sufficiently specific to provide some guidance re appropriate educational strategies.

Coming up with a clear educational vision appears to be very difficult!
An important issue is that the vision needs to be shared by (all) members of the school community if it is to be effective.

Other models

At the same time as we were working on these digital technology trends other colleagues (Mal Lee and Roger Broadie) were working on what they call The Evolutionary Stages of Schooling, which includes an overlapping set of dimensions or Key Indicators of Evolutionary Stage. There is a blog which provides more details of The Evolutionary Stages of School.

It would be interesting to do a mapping between the EdFutures trends and Key Indicators of Evolutionary Stage.

Also see the Innovation frameworks page, which has links to a range of frameworks for thinking about innovation in education, particularly in relation to digital technology.

Some of the outcomes of the Schome Park Programme, re dimensions of practice also overlap with these trends.