After a long wait, the Department for Education (DfE) announced its EdTech strategy in early April. The strategy laid out the government’s expectations of a closer relationship between schools and the EdTech companies who supply them. According to the DfE’s statement, the new strategy “will go further by ensuring businesses are better equipped to develop products which meet the needs of educators, enabling them to build a robust evidence base to demonstrate the impact of their products; and driving demand for both innovative and proven products.”
This is a positive step. Collaboration underpins the most successful technology companies. The lessons that ViewSonic learns from supplying technology to the corporate sector, and to education sectors across the world, are applied to what we do in the UK. These lessons would be much harder to learn, and to teach were it not for a steady flow of information between us and our schools and businesses. We can and do learn from our schools (it seems we are never too old for that) but the two-way flow of information can also help schools realise the potential of technology. Perhaps most importantly, collaboration supports intelligent development, helping to ensure that products meet the needs of teachers and students alike.
Tackling Education Workload with Edtech
In addition to calling for more collaboration, the DfE laid out several challenges that it hopes to meet. It comes as no surprise to see workload singled out as a priority. It’s been clear that this is high of the DfE’s agenda for some time, although perhaps not as long as many unions would have preferred. Education Secretary MP Damian Hinds called for tech to be seen as an enabler and an enhancer, rather than something that adds to a teacher’s load. The onus for this is, rightly, placed on EdTech providers. Ease of use is a priority if we want EdTech to hit its mark. Technology gets truly exciting when the complexity under the lid is just that; under the lid, hidden from view. The complex side of EdTech should be the domain of the developers, for teachers it should just work, and it should allow them to work. Free up the teachers time to teach, and both the learner and the teacher benefit.
Aiding Special Education with Edtech
Another area that received attention is special educational needs. Technology can have a significant impact for all children. However, for those whose difficulties make mainstream education harder to access, its effects can be profound. Interactive and assistive technology can help to ensure that education is accessible to all learners. As the DfE stated, “Technology has the power to bring children with certain special education needs new independence in learning and communicating.”
Guaranteeing Safety and Data Security with Edtech
Other barriers noted by the DfE include safety and data security – topics that have been front and centre even before changes to GDPR. The introduction of new regulations upped the fear factor, but we need a sensible approach to data. Analysis of data is one of the ways in which technology can offer huge benefits but the concerns over privacy and data protection can hinder this. That’s not to say privacy isn’t important, it is crucial, but we need to get past the fear factor and fully exploit technology. Data and the high performing classroom should not be mutually exclusive.
Recognizing the role of Digital DNA in Education
There was recognition of the disparate infrastructure and digital capabilities of schools, which is a critical barrier for many institutions. We call this Digital DNA, it is as the ability of an educational institution to absorb and use digital information, tools, and technologies to the betterment of its educators and students. Therefore creating a strong synergy between the organizational, human, and technological factors in an educational institution. Finding out what your Digital DNA can help a school to ensure that EdTech investments hit its mark. Knowledge is power here; without a clear understanding of what a school is equipped for, investments will carry high risk. There are several ways to determine your Digital DNA, and this knowledge should be used to inform your EdTech procurement to ensure your investments will have the desired impact. Download our free whitepaper to learn more about EdTech in the UK and Digital DNA.