A positive vision for the transformation of technology in the education sector in England
The Department for Education (DfE) recently announced the education technology strategy to promote a positive vision for the transformation of technology in the education sector in England. With practical implementation in mind, the strategy places encouraging emphasis on overcoming barriers – to both technology take-up in the classroom and to innovation by EdTech providers – so that the industry can tackle a range of challenges. These challenges include reducing teacher workloads, continually improving learning outcomes, increasing efficiency, and addressing accessibility and inclusion.
The strategy makes a range of commitments to education providers across four essential aspects of effective technology implementation: infrastructure, skills and capabilities, procurement, and safety and security. Guidance documents around implementing technology infrastructure have been published and online technology training courses are being made available. Also, a network of technology ‘demonstrator’ schools and colleges is planned, for peer training and support.
A role for EdTech to play in administration, teaching, CPD and lifelong learning
The vision is to bring about change for the better in administration, assessment, teaching practice, continuing professional development (CPD) and lifelong learning by, among other things, reducing the burden of non-teaching administrative tasks, cutting the time it takes to prepare and mark assessments and homework, improving access and inclusion to reach every learner, supporting adult learners, and helping educators evaluate their development needs and benefit from more flexible CPD.
In all of this, technology has an immensely important role to play. Learning platforms can streamline tasks, freeing up time to the benefit of teachers and students. They can help transition static, one-way teaching models where educators instruct groups of students with the same materials at the same pace, to ones that are more interactive and dynamic.
A modern learning environment
A modern learning environment aligns the learning experience with other aspects of the lives of students and tutors, where technology plays an increasingly central role. Today’s learners expect technology-enabled learning options, such as access to learning materials on their smartphones and tablets. Our world is now one where information is accessible at any time, from a range of devices, where collaboration is regardless of physical location, and where thoughts, ideas and content are shared in real time. EdTech enables this capability for learning and, with the integration of formats that aren’t text-based – such as video and audio – it can also be visual, stimulating and adaptable to students’ learning styles.
Crucially, digital tools can help improve the learning experience for students who require greater accessibility assistance. Accessibility requirements can be met through EdTech features such as speech-to-text and text-to-speech, enabling teachers to create pedagogically sound courses which free up student time from making their own adjustments, to focus solely on their studies.
The right level of support
However, for the benefits of EdTech to be realised, technology implementations need the right level of support, so that teaching and administrative staff gain the necessary skills and capabilities they need. Not only that, but the processes – and mindset – must be in place to enable lecturers, tutors and other members of staff to refresh their knowledge and skills as technology and teaching models evolve. That’s why the emphasis in the EdTech strategy on supporting teachers in their own CPD is so important and so welcome. Ongoing learning is a critical part of a career in education, and institutions that support staff through simple, effective tech-based development programmes stand to increase staff engagement and operational efficiency and provide the right foundation for continually improving learning outcomes.
The EdTech strategy represents a very welcome shift in thinking about the investment in and prioritisation of technology in the classroom. The proposed greater collaboration between government, industry and educational institutions will help educators to get the most suitable technology for their specific needs, and the support and training they need to use it.