One of the six myths surrounding edtech in schools, identified by the EEF and featured in the Chartered College of Teaching’s January 2019 Impact Journal, was myth number 6: if a little technology is a good thing, then a lot will be much better. This myth not only adds fuel to the fire when considering how technology can best support learning and teaching in schools with respect to measurable impact, but also heightens the misconception that it is a silver bullet. Personally, I do firmly believe that edtech has a place in the classroom, and is a necessity for the future of both educational reform and the modern life we all lead.
A few themes spring to mind while reflecting on this myth, primarily around capacity. Edtech can provide a framework and potential solution to the problems that we face in our schools, whether that’s to reduce workload through automated marking, provide faster and higher quality feedback, write the timetable, write reports, or draw information from several other systems. The list goes on and is a familiar story for many schools across the globe.
Implementation brings about a whole host of other issues. The marketplace is flooded with companies trying to sell to you, resulting in schools being too quick to adopt products. This can then lead to a lack of training for staff, which then leads to poor adoption rates across the school, or the time frame for implementation being poorly thought through.
The purchasing of edtech can be a huge hindrance for schools, with many companies seeking sales regardless of whether their product is right for an individual school’s context. Not all companies will invest the time and support into understanding the needs of the school. Schools either face the possibility of purchasing a product that’s not fit for purpose, need to employ a consultant to suitably guide their procurement strategy, or take on the advice of a teacher who has some experience of a product but perhaps not worked with it at scale.
So how can we be sure that we get it right when it comes to adopting #edtech? We need open channels of communication to share good practice in a variety of different schools like the #Edtech50 tour by Ty Goddard and Mark Anderson. This programme identified a vast range of school contexts across the UK, ranging from schools that were tech-rich to those richly using the little tech that they had. Their findings within the schools they visited will only serve to be ever more prevalent as they shone a light on ‘demonstrator’ schools that have effectively procured, improved assessments and thus improved outcomes for all pupils – key challenges as highlighted in the recent DfE edtech strategy.
The more access educators can get to the evidence that sits behind products, and the context in which they are proven to work, the better their decision making will be and, ultimately, the better the learning experience and outcomes of the students. Now we have the digital strategy, schools can tighten the net and ensure that they are able to use digital technology to really improve learning.
The movement in recent weeks with the release of the DfE’s edtech strategy, releasing the potential of technology in education, brings to the forefront what many have been advocating for years: edtech can and will improve teacher workload provided that teachers are given training on products that are fit for purpose.
So what opportunities are out there? BESA’s free one-day CPD-accredited regional edtech roadshows will showcase products and services and facilitate learning from other education leaders. The Chartered College of Teaching, via Future Learn, offer a free course on “Using Technology in Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning” which explores research-informed ways that technology can be used to support learning and teaching. Coupled with this are platforms such as Edtech Impact, where teachers can now independently review edtech products they’ve used or are trialing within their particular setting.
Thanks to all the evidence-based research now becoming available, there’s never been a better time to make informed decisions about which digital technologies are improving pedagogical practices. Teachers are unequivocally the best people to seek advice from since they’re the end users that using the edtech in their schools. Their feedback provides a truly authentic layer of value and trust as a direct result of the contextualised peer review. After all, it is us, the teachers, that are at the chalk face delivering the teaching that leads to learning in our classrooms.