Two recent publications have given a renewed impetus for the controlled and sensible use of technology in schools:
1. The Education Endowment Foundation published their four recommendations on using digital technology in education (https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/tools/guidance-reports/using-digital-technology-to-improve-learning)
2. The Department for Education published their much-anticipated strategy for educators and technology vendors on using EdTech in schools in England (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/791931/DfE-Education_Technology_Strategy.pdf)
Luckily, these two publications dovetail nicely, with the DfE identifying areas that EdTech can have a positive impact on a whole-school level and the EEF talking specifically about pedagogy and learning.
The summary of the EEF recommendations can be found below:
My colleague in the Sandringham Research School, Karen Roskilly, has written about the report in more detail here: https://researchschool.org.uk/sandringham/blog/pedagogy-technology-and-implementation
The core message of the pedagogy being more important than the technology is something that I have been saying since we started down the ‘Blended Learning’ road at Sandringham School in 2014. Two further articles go into detail of our journey over the last five years:
- Impact journal of the Chartered College of Teaching: https://impact.chartered.college/article/interweaving-traditional-digital-approaches-development-blended-learning-sandringham-school/
- Conference at the STEM Learning Centre, York: https://www.stem.org.uk/resources/community/resource/217053/using-one-one-devices-blended-learning
I was pleased to be invited to the DfE round table meetings with major technology vendors and educators last year that led to the publication of the new strategy. Hats off to the EdTech team at the DfE who have brought this to fruition despite the distractions of Brexit! I am 100% behind one of the other contributors, Dominic Norrish, Group Director of Technology for United Learning Trust where he said “EdTech is not a silver bullet. In the 21st century, it should be seen as an inseparable thread woven throughout the processes of teaching and learning.”
Another contributor to this strategy was Michael Forshaw who has implemented one of the key ideas from this set of meetings: a ‘what works’ platform that has independent reviews of EdTech products with case studies and an assessment of their impact. See his platform EdTech Impact.
A reflection on the last five years is how pervasive and yet hidden technology has become at Sandringham. There is now nothing unusual in going to the sixth form centre and seeing dozens of students working on laptops. Whist here, you may also see students authoring essays in Psychology ‘live’ on Google Docs and getting real-time feedback from their teacher. You might also see simple PDF annotation being used to model answers on the teacher’s ipad for A-level Biology questions, followed up by quizzing on the theory content on Educake, Edpuzzle or Quizlet. Teachers are routinely using collaboration tools for assessment (the Google Sheets tracker for current and predicted grades is a staple in most faculties) and empowering students to manage their own learning via free tools such as Seneca Learning or Gojimo is particularly pertinent in the lead up to exams.
Let’s hope that school leaders can benefit from the advice in these two publications: pedagogy first and find the right combinations of tools, infrastructure and access that suits your individual school setting.