The EdTech Advisory Forum for England has released an interim report in response to a request from the Education Select Committee to provide an overview of the pandemic’s effect on education.
The “EdTech Vision 2025” report provides a summary of what is working well in edtech in schools within the current landscape and makes recommendations for improvements at a strategic level.
What did it show?
The report has a variety of findings; here are just a few:
- A ‘patchy approach to digital learning’: A lack of funding in England has had a significant impact on the ability of schools to support remote learning, with some schools adapting better than others. As part of this, the report also found that teachers lacked confidence in using technology solutions, which therefore has led to a lack of ‘tech expertise’ in some schools.
- Digital divide: The report highlights how previous studies undertaken before the pandemic revealed the extent of the digital divide. For example, a survey by Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index discovered that 700,000 11-18-year olds (12% of respondents) had no home internet access from a computer or tablet – a significant number unable to access remote online learning during the first lockdown.
- Bringing edtech to the fore: during lockdown, many edtech providers quickly made adaptations to provide extra information to support schools. In addition, those schools who were already using edtech to great effect made the transition to remote online learning more easily than those who did not have those mechanisms in place.
Has anything positive come from this time?
The Government funded the Oak National Academy to develop a full curriculum for staff to use to continue deliver online learning. It also funded the Edtech Demonstrator programme, provided a £1bn catch-up fund, and more. On the flipside, what started off as a positive pledge – the 230,000 laptops, tablets and wireless routers for disadvantaged children – has now been reduced to around a quarter of that number.
However, a huge positive from the first lockdown was that pupils’ and teachers’ digital skills came on in leaps and bounds. Teachers upskilled themselves, by themselves, through necessity, as their learners were depending on them to do so – and students have been motivated to access different technologies to learn and keep in touch with their peers.
Recommendations for now and post pandemic
The report makes several recommendations, but the biggest, in order to boost schools’ use of edtech and the provision of rich, digital-led learning experiences, whether in the classroom or remotely, is that the Government creates an Office for EdTech and Digital Skills to ‘drive forward coherent national change to support the adoption and use of EdTech and a UK-wide approach to digital skills’. This would give the long-term support that they need to prepare students for their roles in an increasingly digital future.
EdTech Vision 2025 report: http://www.ednfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/Edtech-Vision-2025_FINAL_Compressed..pdf