UK schools and colleges that invest heavily in new technology are in danger of failing to understand its potential impact, a user group has warned.
According to a report due to be published on Monday by the Telecommunications Users' Association (TUA), schools that adopt new IT and telecoms technologies are misunderstanding how they will change working practices.
Despite educational establishments investing money in new technologies such as email, voicemail, video conferencing and the internet, many have insufficient experience of such systems to be able to manage them effectively and add real value, the TUA claims.
"A lot of money is being punched into schools to buy the latest equipment and there is a lot of focus on teaching staff how to use the technology. But there is not enough awareness of the wider implications of new technologies," Vic Davies, TUA research director, told vnunet.com.
"Schools are in danger of failing to learn from mistakes that businesses have made in using these technologies, and do not understand how they dramatically affect working practices and ways of communicating," he added.
According to Davies, there is clear evidence from the business world that simply adding technology onto old methods of working fails to maximise the real potential of that technology. He said, for example, that many businesses failed to realise that using automated phone systems would lead to heightened customer expectations.
However, unlike the business sector where such technologies arrived over a much longer period of time, schools are having to cope without the gradual build-up of staff experience. The TUA is pressing for more investment to be spent educating staff on the real effect of new technologies.
"In the long term, the government needs to put more money into creating awareness of what the technologies can offer. It is not simply about being technically proficient, but also about how technology impacts how an organisation is structured," said Davies.
The report - Telecoms and IT in the educational market: A ticking bomb - was based on interviews with 20 schools and 10 colleges in the UK. The TUA has said it will use the study as a pilot for further studies next year.
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