Digital technology can improve learning

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The publication of the latest guidance report from the Education Endowment Foundation is very welcome. At a time when EdTech is so in vogue and much heralded, advice and support which shines a light to help guide senior leaders and key stakeholders to make educated and informed decisions is a pre-requisite to success.

Learning from Shireland Collegiate Academy (SCA) whose Principal, Dave Irish, helped advise on the main report recommendations is stark. Technology has to have a defined educational purpose, be embedded in effective pedagogy and most importantly be implemented with rigour to ensure sustainability.

SCA is successful because it attends to the minutia of all of these factors and has developed a pedagogical framework which really works; it works because the attainment impact is measured and evidenced, and the variables are well understood. In short, the SCA team know what levers to pull.

This agile approach and their innovative use of technology as a support to great teaching is exactly what the EEF is proposing. To quote directly from their report: “to improve learning, technology must be used in a way that is informed by effective pedagogy”. So how is effective pedagogy evidenced, and in particular if the aim is to extent best practice to other schools, how is it transferable?

BECTA found many years ago that great teaching practice was as much about the leadership and culture of the school as it’s practice. Indeed, about half of all EdTech best practice they identified was found not to be transferable. So it seems that understanding whether innovations can be shared might be an important aspect when determining sustainability. That’s the wicked problem to be solved.

Recently, the DfE have been seeking input from the education industry as to how to build evidence models around EdTech. They’re looking at 4 main models ranging from co-design though to evidence hubs. Some of this no doubt will be covered in key announcements expected next week. All positive stuff but none of the evaluations proposed focus on transferability. To my mind they should and it feels like there is a major gap in their thinking, particularly if best practice exists within.

So whilst the guidance reports being published are a massive step, I feel that we mustn’t lose sight that best practice should be shared and, if this is the way to ensure sustainability, then the measurement/evidence framework must take into account whether the innovation can be easily shared. It would be a missed opportunity if it is not.

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