Edtech in schools improves outcomes and reduces workload
Recent times have seen a drive towards a greater use of technology in schools, with research linking the use of innovative ‘EdTech’ to improved pupil outcomes, higher teacher satisfaction and a more efficient school system.
Education secretary Damian Hinds last year called on tech companies to work more closely with the education sector, noting that placing innovative technology in schools can boost performance by “support[ing] access, inclusion, and improved learning outcomes for all”, as well as reducing the administrative burden on teachers and making assessments “more effective and efficient.”
The Department of Education has also pointed to the impact that technological innovation is already having for some schools in Britain, observing:
“State-of-the-art technology is bringing education to life…while also slashing the time their teachers are spending on burdensome administrative tasks.”
From a pupil outcomes perspective, effective EdTech has been shown to boost academic achievement and even bridge the attainment gap between groups of students by offering a more personalised experience better suited to all pupils’ needs.
New technologies can tailor teaching to a pupil’s learning style, ability level and speed, allowing students to work at their own pace and combatting some of the challenges posed by increasingly big class sizes.
For SEN pupils, technology affords a variety of possibilities for improving the learning experience, with tools such as inbuilt voice recognition, screen descriptive tools and adjustable text size and formatting options all helping to support students’ learning.
For teachers meanwhile, updated classroom technology can save time with efficient new solutions: minimising the need for basic administrative tasks like printing and photocopying, delivering simple and immediate assessment feedback to students during lessons and even streamlining complex data collection tasks to monitor and analyse class performance.
Automatic pupil assessment data generated by online learning programmes enables teachers to quickly and easily identity problems for students early on, allowing for faster intervention and targeted support to be delivered and pupils’ education to be improved.
With unmanageable teacher workloads repeatedly linked to low retention and job satisfaction rates amongst teachers as well as lower outcomes, using time-saving technology can benefit both staff and students by alleviating pressure and allowing teachers more time to focus on their primary role of teaching.
To ensure that new technology is as effective as possible, schools must make sure that it is handled properly: identifying the solutions that best fit their overall performance objectives and enacting a considered implementation strategy, taking into account factors like staff training and necessary infrastructure.
Budget options and teacher input
When deciding which technology to invest in, schools should start by asking for feedback from teachers on what would be most helpful, to ensure that the solutions identified by leaders are the best fit for the classroom.
Engaging with teachers as well as senior leaders will both help to identify and remedy ‘friction’ points in the daily teaching process and ensure that staff are more likely to actually use the new technology in the long-term, whilst also reinforcing ties between management and teachers.
Whilst budget considerations will of course be a key factor in deciding on a new technology strategy, schools should be aware of the full range of payment options available for many tech products when tailoring their strategy to a price scale.
As Education Secretary Damian Hinds notes, “schools, colleges and universities have the power to choose the tech tools which are best for them and their budgets,” with a variety of ways to structure payment.
For example, through subscription and buy-back schemes, schools can exchange their old tech and pay for new devices in instalments, avoiding a sudden blow to the budget and allowing the school to stay up to date with the latest technology by trading in products for newer models.
Additionally, some schools may consider using their pupil premium funding to pay for new tech, with access to technology a key factor in improving education quality for students from low income backgrounds.
When a particular solution has been decided upon following feedback and research, school leaders should equally spend time on planning the implementation of the new system.
If possible, it is advisable that schools pilot the product on a smaller scale before rolling it out across the board.
Starting small can allow any teething issues to be dealt with and preparation to be bolstered before the technology is properly launched, avoiding disruption and easing the transition.
Training and infrastructure key
A crucial factor to consider is the training and infrastructure necessary to allow the technology to be successful.
Researchers say that these considerations should be seen as equal if not larger investments than the technology itself, with proper support provisions fundamental to making sure that the time and money spent on implementing a new solution gives a good return on investment.
Despite this however, many schools seem to neglect their training: according to one survey- just 15% of primary and secondary school teachers feel confident in using the technology in their classrooms, with only 33% having received hands-on digital skills training.
When considering training, managers should not only allot time and funding for teachers to learn how to use the new technology, but also for support staff responsible for providing assistance with the tech.
In addition, senior management members should be properly informed as to how the technology operates, in order that they properly understand the systems that their teacher are using and are able to provide clear direction on performance.
Infrastructure is of course also important, with a good network connection fundamental to making sure that technology works efficiently and delivers its beneficial potential to the classroom.
A slow network will defeat tech solutions by slowing down work for both students and teachers, in turn negatively impacting both productivity and motivation.
In terms of logistical considerations, management teams should prepare by considering the potential issues posed by the new tech in detail and deciding on mitigating measures ahead of implementation.
When implementing an individualised tech learning product for example, schools may consider the possible impact of the programme on teachers’ control of the class, and tackle this risk by finding apps that allow them to monitor student activity and lock pupils’ devices when not in use, to ensure that students stay focused and engaged.