‘Realizing the potential of edtech’ - a refreshing vision from DfE

The Department for Education’s edtech strategy was warmly received this year by educators, with a refreshing and clear recognition of the struggles faced by teachers daily, and an emphasis on addressing these with practical solutions - solutions which not only realize the potential of technology in education, but react to remove barriers educators have when it comes to integrating edtech into their everyday teaching practices.

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The potential of edtech for teaching and learning

The ambitious goals outlined in the report are an encouraging vision into the future of education, and what’s especially refreshing is the DfE’s wide perspective on the use of technology for delivering teaching and learning. Not only do they recognize technology as a way to support learners with additional needs, but also as a benefit to all students and educators too - the latter aimed at cutting teacher workloads by reducing the burden of ‘non-teacher’ tasks, time spent on lesson preparation, and marking and assessment. 

All in all, it’s clear that the strategy is about supporting teachers in providing an inclusive education which improves educational outcomes for all, while enabling them to benefit with more flexibility in their job.

We aim to support and enable the education sector in England to help develop and embed technology in a way that cuts workload, fosters efficiencies, removes barriers to education and ultimately drives improvements in educational outcomes.” - Department for Education

Facing real-world problems and reducing barriers

Amidst the enthusiastic vision for the future, the strategy remains pragmatic about real-world problems, from digital capability and skills of educators, to the need for modern infrastructure. 

One of the goals highlighted in the report is the rollout of full-fiber broadband coverage nationwide by 2033, giving all schools stable, high-speed internet connectivity that’s still sadly lacking in many places, especially rural areas. Even with bandwidth obstacles overcome, it’s hard to deploy truly effective edtech strategies without the classroom devices to support them. That’s where it comes down to the other big challenge – funding. While the £10 million edtech innovation fund administered through NESTA is certainly a welcome gesture for technology companies, there’s still a bigger conversation to be had around the need for access to devices and the funding mechanisms for schools to achieve this.

Taking that into account, it’s a big ask to meet the target timeframe of 2021 for delivery of the report’s other subsequent ‘edtech challenges’, which address the areas of administration, assessment, teaching practice, professional development and lifelong learning. So, rather than a ‘strategy’, maybe it’s better to see the DfE’s proposals as a vision looking out to 2025 and beyond. Indeed, as (now ex-) Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds acknowledges in his introduction to the report, it’s just a first step. Our leaders are right to recognize the importance of innovation, but it must be taken in the context of the pressing challenges already facing today’s educators. Vision takes planning, and implementation of that plan takes time. 

Ensuring educators are equipped for edtech

To accelerate the delivery of the Department’s vision, a great first step is to get our leaders, our teachers and the technology community talking openly to identify good practice and effectively implement the great tools that we already have available.

We have some amazing school leaders and some incredible teachers who are already delivering very effective practice through the innovative use of technology. Equally, we have technology companies providing powerful tools that are firmly grounded in academic research and supported by tangible demonstrations of efficacy. So now, it’s about harnessing good practice and supporting educators with continued professional development and upskilling - and it’s great to see that the planned launch of a network of demonstrator schools and colleges is already in motion.

Aligning educators and the edtech industry

Outlined as ‘a strategy for education providers and the technology industry’, the report delivered a vital message that technology providers and schools need to forge an effective dialog that lets pupils and teachers enjoy the full benefit of today’s solutions. The strategy also outlines the vital need for schools to plan their edtech investments wisely. For technology developers, that puts the onus firmly on us to clearly demonstrate the real-world efficacy of our products and solutions. This is where organizations like BESA are playing a vital role in facilitating this dialog, with its pioneering LendED initiative giving schools the chance to evaluate technology for free and review real-life case studies and testimonials before they buy.

We know from our experience that technology has the biggest impact on student outcomes when it is seamlessly integrated into the learning process. What’s important here is a shared vision for technology across all staff, which includes: 

  • creating regular opportunities to use technology within teaching
  • ensuring consistent access to technology across any device and platform
  • providing ongoing support to ensure educators and students are getting the most out of the tools 
  • promoting learner agency through the ability to self-select tools and personalize learning

With our mission to unlock everyone’s full potential through innovative technology, we are dedicated to ensuring learners and educators are enabled with supportive technologies that are woven throughout every aspect of teaching and learning.

To find out more visit: texthelp.com/unlocking-potential-with-technology