Technology has the potential to change lives. In fact, it is fair to say that it has completely disrupted many sectors, and still advancements in technology continue to improve outcomes significantly.
Let’s take eye surgery as an example. There are now twice as many people in Europe with shortsightedness (or myopia) as there were 50 years ago. For those opposed to glasses or contact lenses, laser eye surgery has become a more permanent alternative, but it is still an invasive procedure. However, a researcher from Columbia University has developed a new non–invasive way to permanently correct vision that could prove a great alternative to traditional eye surgery. The method uses something called a “femtosecond oscillator” – an ultrafast laser that delivers pulses of very low energy at high repetition rate.
This is a clear example of technology solving a problem in a more transformative way than before, with potentially life changing effects. But, could we say the same for education? The answer, given the complexity of the world that teachers operate in, is not so simple. When technology replaces something, it is often easy to measure the results. When it is used to complement traditional methods, it is generally harder to track its impact. And, given the vast spectrum of needs of children and young people when supporting them to realise their full potential, technology, or EdTech as it has become commonly known will never be used to replace teachers. Instead it should be used as a tool to assist, extend or optimise.
Over the years, the Innovate My School teaching community have enjoyed contributing to the ‘what makes effective EdTech?’ discussion, and we have been honoured to publish many an inspiring article from classroom teachers sharing their tips and tricks on what has worked, and why.
So, having immersed myself in our guest articles, and been once again reminded of the generosity and dynamism of our teaching community, here are five tips to effective EdTech that I have compiled from your words of wisdom:
1. Be clear on the problem that you want to solve or the outcome that you want to improve: ‘We need iPads’ is something you report to hearing more often than you should. The best examples of EdTech are when the decision to procure is objective driven. If you start with the outcome, e.g. you need to improve parental engagement, then you are more likely to find the best EdTech for the job, as well as track and monitor its impact.
2. Read the evidence: Most EdTech companies now understand that you want more reviews of their tools to help inspire confidence. Reviews help expedite the procurement process as you can quickly filter products based on other schools’ experiences. But reviews and case studies are still few and far between, and not held in a central place for easy access and comparison.
3. Find out what works in a school like yours: You talk about the importance of visiting a neighbouring school and seeing something in action. Or going to a CPD event and hearing about an EdTech tool that has had an impact at a school in your group. However, you also want to understand what works in a school like yours – a school drawing on a similar demographic, of a similar size and standing etc. School context is an important consideration when choosing EdTech.
4. Champion, train, implement and embed: EdTech must be implemented well in order for sustained impact to happen. EdTech companies will often provide training, but having an internal champion who can effect change at leadership level, as well ensuring the EdTech tool is woven into continued professional development is key to seeing results and getting value. And develop a plan. A plan that also considers existing pedagogy, and how the EdTech product will integrate and add value.
5. Evaluate efficacy and repeat: Value for money as well as impact is imperative for schools right now. Many EdTech tools are now online subscriptions. This means that annually, or after an initial term you have an opportunity to truly evaluate value for money and impact, as well as do another cursory check of the market to see what else is out there. At renewal time, it’s also a good chance to make sure that your champion is still in place, and that refresher training is conducted for new members of staff.
Whether you're a school or Edtech provider, you can register online at Edtech Impact to explore how technology can shape learning.
If you enjoyed this blog and would like to read more like it, view our Everything Curriculum magazine. The latest issue (issue 6) is entirely focused on using technology in schools, but previous issues focus on health and well-being and outdoor learning in educational environments.