Exploring Edtech through 2017

Exploring the use of Education Technology

Technology can make a real difference in the classroom in a vast, ever-growing number of ways, from giving students the chance to explore material in a fun way to opening up new paths, enhancing teaching and far more. We’re committed to ensuring that schools can get the very best out of the available edtech - it’s one of the main reasons we launched our not-for-profit exa.foundation back in 2015, running hundreds of tech-focused events across the country every year.

We’ve recently seen the launch of an incredibly detailed report on the state of edtech in 2017 from edtech company Promethean, who create a range of classroom-focused hardware and software options. The report takes a look at some of the ways that technology is currently being used in and around the classroom - we’ve taken a look through the piece below:

The State of Edtech in 2017

The second of their annual reports, Promethean’s study is a wide-ranging review, gathering data from over 1600 teachers and headmasters across the UK, covering practically every kind of educational facility from primary and secondary schools to academies and higher education. As such, it’s a particularly reliable study - we’ll be waiting for next year’s report to see how things progress.

There’s little doubt that edtech can make a difference, with the clear majority of teachers considering technology to be a useful or vital part of day-to-day education. However, there’s a heavy disparity between this positive attitude and the actual state of edtech, with a full 48% of teachers considering edtech investment to be insufficient or wrongly targeted, and a worryingly low 5% of teachers believing that they’ve received full training to use the edtech their schools invest in.

This disparity is a clear issue - while there’s a tremendous amount of effective free or low-cost edtech available, other options can prove costly, while tightening budgets significantly inhibit investment in many edtech choices. Taking a look at the actual proliferation of various edtech options, as shown on the graph below, there’s a few points to consider:

Showing the in-school proliferation of various education technology options

Firstly, with 57.6% of schools having tablets available, whether for in-class use or as part of a wider-ranging tablet scheme, it’s clear that schools have really taken to the many opportunities that tablets up for expanding education. It’s perhaps more surprising to see Raspberry Pi and BBC micro:bit units down at the lower end of the graph, given the low buy-in costs and extremely high versatility that they provide.

One of the most critical factors surrounding edtech is its long-term usefulness. Given decreasing budgets and potentially high costs, it’s fundamentally important that classroom technology delivers great performance for years to come, a need that often doesn’t seem to be met, with 83% of teachers addressing a lack of effective technology. With devices like Raspberry Pi units and micro:bits being relatively new, it’s likely that many are delaying investment until the devices have even more of a proven impact in the classroom.

The modernity of devices also poses another problem for teachers - getting adequate training. While the situation’s getting better year-on-year, about 20% feel that they don’t have the right skills to use technology, or the time to actively learn them. This is one of the areas where our exa.foundation works to support teachers, providing full-on CPD courses covering a number of digital skill areas, helping educators develop a fuller understanding of how edtech can be used effectively.

Despite the issues that many schools are experiencing regarding edtech, it’s clear that schools are benefiting in a variety of ways from incorporating technology into the classroom. Edtech opens up the door to flipped learning, an emerging teaching method wherein students learn about topics outside the class, with in-class time being saved for exercises based around the learned topics, giving teachers the chance to deliver far more effective feedback and support.

Outside of learning approaches, using edtech can also significantly help teachers track pupil progress, creating a more flexible, easy to use and track approach to assessment compared to traditional systems. While we’re still a way off seeing edtech-based progress tracking becoming a standard, it’s clear that the approach is gaining popularity.

One of the chief concerns that schools have surrounding edtech is the potential for misuse - can students be trusted to actually use the technology in a beneficial way rather than using it for non-educational activities, for instance. According to the report, the answer to that question is far more established - and positive - than may immediately be suggested.

A full 55.4% of teachers believe that edtech actually improves behaviour and engagement, a significant jump from 49% in 2016, with a further 34.4% saying that they’ve seen no difference. Just 12.2% of teachers believe that edtech negatively impacts pupil behaviour, an impressively low number. However, there’s significantly more concern as to how edtech affects various skills, with over 60% claiming that interpersonal skills are negatively affected by the use of classroom technology. The graph below demonstrates the effects teachers believe that edtech can have on various skills:

How teachers think edtech impacts various skills for learners.

While it’s clear that the balance is overwhelmingly positive, there’s two areas where teachers still have some real concerns - interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. While the statistics are improving year on year, it’s something to be aware of, tying back in to the fact that using edtech appropriately is far more important than just using it.