This is part two of five in a series of blogs addressing the five key areas where Edtech can have the greatest impact on British schools as outlined by the Department for Education and Education Secretary Damian Hinds on August 7th, 2018.
The Department for Education and Education Secretary Damian Hinds have called on the educational technology (Edtech) sector to self advocate their ability to create meaningful change within British schools. The first of five key areas of recommended intervention is ‘teaching practices to support access, inclusion, and improved learning outcomes for all’. The phrasing here is quite strategic, and warrants brief notice. Rather than purporting technology as a direct solution to ‘access, inclusion and improved learning outcomes’ the focus is on technological supplementation of ‘teaching practices’, that is to say, how technology can best support educators in their efforts. It’s a constructive concept that resists positing technology as a passive solution. Rather it acknowledges that effective change, in this case the implementation of education technology, is reliant on the knowledge and capability of those implementing it. Teachers already have the intent and ability to ensure ‘access, inclusion, and improved learning outcomes’ but the workload burden placed on them by excessive administration tasks, assessments, and planning prevents them from dedicating the desired time to actually teaching. So this first point is essentially asking, how is technology helping teachers help students?
We will return to this, but first, let’s analyse what is meant by ‘access, inclusion, and improved learning outcomes for all’. Where technology is concerned, access and inclusion are as general a goal as ensuring there is fair and inclusive access to digital innovation for all schools. The Department of Education has specified in its Autumn Budget that funding will be dedicated to installing ultrafast broadband internet at more schools, the foremost prerequisite to employing Edtech. Furthermore, work is underway on an online portal through which schools have access to free training tools and software trials. The Department of Education, working with the British Educational Suppliers Associated and the Chartered College of Teaching, will provide schools with an autonomous means to explore their Edtech options, finding those solutions most pertinent to their needs.
In classrooms, access and inclusion, specifically in regard to producing ‘improved learning outcomes for all’, refers not to physical access to technology, but how Edtech addresses problems of individual access and inclusion to learning material. Once a student has access to Edtech, that software must address individual barriers to access and inclusion, in order to ensure learning outcomes are meaningfully improved. The Department for Education’s ‘Commission on Assessment Without Levels’ stipulates ‘assessment should be inclusive of all abilities’ and acknowledge relative markers of success such as ‘the amount of effort the pupil puts in as well as the outcomes achieved’ in order to produce fair and considered assessments, especially for pupils with SEN and disabilities. The beauty of Edtech is its ability to provide individualised educational support and assessment with a degree of sensitivity that would be unreasonable to expect of a single teacher managing a diverse cohort of students. Artificially intelligent (AI) technology, simply technology that learns by itself, rather than blindly executes what it has been programmed to do, draws on minute behaviours observed in a student and, informed by a massive database of cumulative observations, finely tunes material and assessment to that student’s needs. This does not imply that Edtech supersedes teachers’ preeminent role as educator – quite the opposite – it does the analytical legwork, which can otherwise spell endless hours of administration and data input for teachers, maximising their impact in the classroom.
The Education Secretary was direct in his message though – how can Edtech demonstrate not just its validity as an educational tool, but its commitment to creating meaningful change. At CENTURY, this goes without saying. Our mission, drive, and passion is ensuring a high level of education for all children. For this reason, we will soon be launching our CPD service for teachers. It’s free to use and covers a range of topics from digital safety to cognitive neuroscience. The Department of Education is not asking for for technology that magically ‘improves outcomes for all’ but one that supports ‘teaching practices’ that then produce improved outcomes. We know student success doesn’t just happen – it’s achieved through educators’ tireless passion and dedication – Edtech’s here making that happen.