The use of technology in education is constantly evolving, driven as much by edtech’s own development as by schools’ requirements. Steve Moss, chair of Naace, sheds some light on the current landscape for technology in education
Education technology has been developing rapidly in recent years, and has had a transformative effect on classrooms up and down the country. More than ever, teachers are among the most impassioned and committed advocates for edtech – and it’s not hard to see why. Research conducted by global education technology provider, Promethean, revealed that 83 per cent of teachers said that technology helps them to do their job better, and the majority indicated that they are striving to innovate by using technology as a tool for education.
Promethean’s State of Technology in Education Report, which has been running since 2016, is a useful resource for measuring attitudes and opinions to edtech. It has also recorded progress in how teachers are using classroom technologies to improve educational outcomes. In the 2019/20 Report, 90 per cent of teachers suggested that technology is a good way to engage students in the classroom, up from just 32 per cent in 2017/18. A further 41 per cent believed that technology helps improve pupils’ behaviour.
Education technology is clearly benefitting students and teachers alike, but that’s not to say that we have reached an all-inclusive edtech utopia. Research which charters the progress of education technology over time enables us to celebrate its successes – and rightly so – but it also reveals areas that still need attention.
When it comes to edtech, it’s not just a case of getting as many resources as possible into schools. Even where classroom technologies are available, there are factors which impede edtech uptake. Infrastructural readiness is crucial for edtech implementation – be it internet connectivity or device compatibility, the practicalities of installation and usage require consideration.
In any school, existing infrastructure must be supportive of new technologies. Infrastructure was a particular focus of the government’s flagship edtech strategy, published in April 2019 under the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds. Internet connectivity, especially, was earmarked as an area for improvement as hundreds of schools throughout the UK struggle with inadequate speeds.
Despite a top-level government initiative to achieve nationwide full-fibre connectivity by 2033, the Department for Education has pledged funding to help hundreds of the most affected schools improve their internet access within the next two years. School management teams must take a comprehensive approach to edtech strategy, making infrastructural upgrades capable of supporting new equipment and ensuring all future purchases will be compatible.
Of course, this is not always easy, and many schools lack the resources to invest as they would like to. This is where independent bodies such as Naace are best equipped to provide impartial advice and guidance for schools looking to improve edtech provisions according to their budget.
In times of political uncertainty, the exact future of education funding remains unclear, but schools will always need to take a considered approach to edtech investments if they are to make the most of new technologies.
Confidence and capability
The quest for effective edtech usage is much like a puzzle – many different pieces must be put in place if the ideal outcome is to be reached. Even if the infrastructure behind edtech is appropriate and teachers are positive about the new resources, there simply won’t be an immediate impact. Teachers’ edtech capabilities will continually evolve through experience and training. Past the practicalities, teachers still need to be given the right support to use their classroom technologies to best enhance teaching and learning.
Teacher willingness is not a major problem – the latest State of Technology in Education Report saw 89 per cent of teachers suggest that technology should be used in the classroom as it is integral to everyday life – up from 52 per cent in 2018/19.
Teachers clearly have an ambition to make the most of classroom technologies, so it’s a case of empowering them to do so. Training has been identified as a key area for improvement in the government’s edtech strategy as well as numerous independent reports.
Teachers must be supported in using the edtech they have on-hand – the crux of this lies in specific training sessions, but ongoing continued professional development strategies will also help build teachers’ confidence and capability.
It’s important to recognise that training sessions are an investment for schools when time is limited and budgets are tight. By making this investment, though, schools can pave the way for edtech excellence through staff proficiency and ultimately improve learning outcomes.
Maximising resource mileage
There’s no easy fix to the financial and time pressures faced by schools, but there are resources available which can help without adding additional strain. Of course, even finding these can be tough, with schools’ senior management teams wading through a myriad of options to find the best solution.
Having provided independent advice to schools for over 30 years, Naace is keenly aware of the struggles they face and how these have changed in relation to edtech. The Self Review Framework (SRF), published by Naace, is a tool designed to help schools and teachers looking to improve their use of education technology.
As a non-commercial entity, Naace is best placed to provide impartial advice to schools and teachers alike, with a view to supporting positive education outcomes.
The Self Review Framework exists in two forms – in text format, available as a free download for Naace members, and as an online tool available to those with a ‘School’ level Naace membership. It provides advice on six key areas, encouraging improvement throughout school life. This includes leadership and management; teaching and learning with technology; assessment of digital capability; digital safeguarding; professional development; and resources and technology.
The government’s edtech strategy highlights effective procurement practices as a vehicle to success. The Department for Education is exploring the creation of ‘recommended buying deals’, where certain hardware, software and services are available to schools on negotiated rates. Such opportunities may prove invaluable to schools once available.
EdTech in 2020 and beyond
So, how might edtech develop through 2020? According to the latest State of Technology in Education Report, we’re set for significant strides in cloud-based lesson planning and delivery. The government suggests there will be a breakdown of the barriers to edtech implementation and usage. If the commercial sector is anything to go by, it’s ongoing investment into innovative solutions that support teachers, school leaders and IT managers.
One thing is for sure – the future for edtech is undoubtedly bright. Teachers’ attitudes are more positive than ever, the government is streamlining its strategy, and school leaders are committed to the betterment of educational outcomes. Despite ongoing financial pressures and concerns regarding teacher workload, there is an increasingly united front for education technology striving for improvements through 2020 and beyond.
To download a copy of the 2019/20 State of Technology in Education Report, visit tinyurl.com/w9gqf7d. For more information about Naace and the support it provides to schools, visit the association’s website below.