Barriers to edtech

Choose and use tech effectively says Sam Blyth, Direction of Schools, Canvas VLE

Q: Do you think the majority of the sector is prioritising edtech investment?

A: For every evangelist who promotes the benefits of classroom technology, there’s a report which claims that investment in edtech does little to improve pupil performance. These reports can lead to institutions not prioritising edtech investment in the way that they should.

But, the more articles on the benefits or pitfalls of edtech that I read, the more I realise that technology proponents and naysayers alike are failing to address the nub of the issue. For me, the problem isn’t with technology itself, but with how it’s being used.

Used badly, or ineffectively, technology can be at best a wasted expense (redundant equipment which gathers dust in the store cupboard) – at worst, detrimental to pupils and teachers alike. But used properly, the right edtech can significantly improve the student experience – and lead to better outcomes.

Businesses are very good at evaluating ‘ROI’ (whether their spend has been effective), schools less so. Stopping existing equipment from being underused or ignored is vital in securing investment in new tech – and schools must evaluate whether they have achieved significant return on their investment on an ongoing basis. Setting rigorous objectives and key performance indicators is crucial, as is making sure that what you’re achieving what you want to from the get-go. If schools know what they’re buying and why they’re buying it, they can justify the edutech investment that’s needed to improve teaching and learning. 

Q: What three things do schools need to think about when looking for the most cost-effective, high-quality technology?

A: I’ve been working with Primary schools for eleven years, and am a parent myself. In all that time of talking to teachers, pupils, parents and carers, I think I have found the most important considerations for any school looking to invest in edtech. These are key ways to ensure that technology is no longer a burden, but instead a genuinely helpful tool in increasing pupil attainment and engagement, and helping teachers out to boot.

1. Work out the problems you need to solve

Teachers face two main challenges: increasing pupil engagement, and easing the burden on teachers. If your main problem is that teachers feel overburdened by admin and bureaucracy, then look for a system which can speed up the marking process or help create reports. If your issue is that pupils don’t care about the lessons, then look for something that will deliver compelling content to support the learning journey. Technology for technology’s sake is bound to fail. If you can’t say, I want my technology to do XYZ, and this is how we’ll use it – then don’t buy it.

2. Don’t leave it to the management

All too often, school technology is bought but not used because systems have been selected ‘from the top’ – by management fulfilling quotas and not by teachers doing the job. If you’re buying technology for your school, my advice is to involve your class teachers in the purchasing decision. It’s often best to get those most resistant to technology involved from the get go, as once you have these teachers on board, they can be truly useful advocates for teaching staff and pupils about the benefits.

3. Engage parents

Parents can be the most fearful group when it comes to new technologies. However, parents can be the biggest advocates your school can have when it comes to edtech, so long as they can see how it can benefit them, and their relationship with the school. Online learning systems bring parents and children closer together, and allow parents to play a more active role in their children’s learning. As with class teachers, engage parents early in the purchasing decision and let them have a say.

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