This article is published in Telegraph and Business Reporter
Written by Ji Li, Managing Director, Plum Innovations Ltd. @lijiukcn
Does EdTech work?
Steve Jobs once said computers were the equivalent of a bicycle for our mind. In education, can technology be the vehicle for educational improvement? Does so-called EdTech really have a positive impact on education? This is a question that preoccupies leaders in education today and while the debate is ongoing, with the right training, relevant performance measure and a transformation of classroom culture technology can begin to drive better education in all our classrooms.
What is the link between EdTech and improved learning?
The whole process has to begin with a clear link between technology and learning goals. Speaking at a BESA insight event Bob Harrison, a UK educationalist who works with the Department of Education (DfE) and Stanford University, said there was a correlation between how teachers used EdTech and learning outcomes.
Mark Chambers, CEO (ex) at Naace, the national EdTech Association, further supported this claim when he pointed out that more than 700 schools across the UK accredited with Naace ICT Mark and Third Millennium Learning awards have consistently demonstrated that the utilisation of EdTech provides a multiplier effect leading to improved outcomes for young people.
According to Chambers well-managed EdTech leads to significant savings for schools in many aspects of resourcing and can markedly improve their systems including, for example, their communication process with community, parents and carers.
He said: “Naace members report that, where schools continue to invest in their staff and the competent and appropriate use of EdTech, significant gains can be achieved across the whole range of activities of the school but critically, in student achievement in English and Mathematics.”
How to measure the impact of EdTech?
Perhaps the hardest area to set out clear markers is the measurement of technology’s impact on schools’ success. According to the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA)’s recently published research, teachers were the most valued source when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of EdTech (44 per cent in primary schools and 36 per cent in secondary schools).
The research also found there was insufficient information available for schools to assess the efficacy of EdTech systems with only 11 per cent primary and 10 per cent secondary schools feeling there is “definitely” enough information. The survey was conducted among 454 primary schools and 252 secondary schools.
Caroline Wright, Director General of BESA said: “Naturally, teachers highly value the recommendations of their colleagues when it comes to deciding what EdTech product is best for them. It is only natural, given they have the first-hand experience of what is working in their classrooms.”
She also stressed it’s important for schools that the wide range of EdTech solutions were fully considered, and information needed to be available to make an evidence-based decision. The initial inquiry would be checking if the EdTech provider had signed up to the BESA Code of Practice, developed in consultation with teachers to ensure quality products were being offered.
Future of Learning - building the ark before the rain?
When considering the change of culture that needs to take hold throughout schools and wider education, John Camp, Senior Executive Headteacher at The Compass Partnership of Schools said: “It is important that young people grow with a deep understanding of the transformative potential of technology on the way we live but also have an acute understanding of the inherent threats that come with it. We should aim to embed digital intelligence into the way we work so that children become informed users and creators.”
Camp feels his newly formed and fast growing multi-academy trust (MAT), has an opportunity to shape education for their pupils so that it is fit for the new age. “We are living through an emerging age of connectedness that compresses time as well as distance and also completely democratises access to specialised knowledge and skills,” said Camp. “We have to begin to ‘know’ the new age, try to understand it and operate effectively within it.”
Mark Chambers, a former Headteacher, also said: “to serve the needs of our students for a relevant and empowering 21st Century learning experience, to improve outcomes for young people and to save money for schools we need to re-evaluate our thinking with respect to EdTech and we need to urgently prioritise the professional development of all staff, not just teachers, so that we use it effectively right across our schools.”
Cloud – castle in the sky?
In order for this cultural transformation to take hold, the foundations on which EdTech is rolled out need to be in place and fit for purpose. This largely depends on schools’ broadband connectivity and wider IT infrastructure, for instance, whether or not they have systems that allow them to connect to the cloud.
At the beginning of 2017, the DfE released the Cloud Computing Services guidance for schools. In the section “Are cloud services for everyone?” the guidance stressed some essential conditions that must be met before migrating to cloud services: readiness to transition, broadband and ICT infrastructure. Broadband connectivity easily sits on the top of the requirement list.
According to BESA’s ICT in UK state schools research in 2016, only 44 per cent primary schools were feeling well resourced for broadband.
London Grid for Learning (LGfL) and TRUSTnet, a London based charity provides high-speed broadband and learning resources to more than 2500 schools and 50,000 school staff across Greater London and England, announced at their annual conference for computing leaders and school business managers that TRUSTnet will offer free upgrade to a minimum of 100MPBS supercharged fibre connection for all schools. The announcement is hugely welcomed by schools that wish to move onto cloud services but are yet to have the budget to do so.
John Jackson, CEO of LGfL and TRUSTnet, said: “Our organisation is committed to an acceleration of next generation digital platforms to enable a fundamental transformation of teaching and learning in UK schools that enables children to fulfil their potential and schools to save money.”
He also added that all of these digital developments will be provided securely as part of their CyberProtect initiative which will deliver protection in multiple layers including firewalls, web filtering, IP transit and malware protection.
New Centres of Excellence for safeguarding, technology architecture and cyber security are built to oversee the implementation of their strategy and the delivery of positive outcomes and savings for schools.
A Cog in the Machine
Regardless if it’s a cloud migration or measurement of an EdTech solution efficacy, school’s IT infrastructure must be working and capable to underpin the digital evolution. If WiFi or local network devices do not have the capacity, then EdTech efficacy is simply irrelevant. Although technical support is only a small cog in the progress of the 4th industrial revolution underway in education, well-prepared school technicians are able to help the whole platform run smoothly and make EdTech happen.
At Plum Innovations, we go the extra mile to ensure excellent services are always delivered in terms of quality work, timely delivery, professional behaviour, and value for money. We work closely with BESA, NAACE and London Grid for Learning to help ensure our clients are able to explore new technologies in an adaptive, modern, stress-free environment. We work tirelessly towards helping reinforce the positive impact of EdTech on students’ learning outcomes and assisting schools to employ the ideal technology, in the most cost-effective way.
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