The rise of EdTech

During lockdown new ways of teaching emerged to support remote learning. But this way of working has also become absorbed and has permanently transformed the way that children and young people are taught in the classroom. We talk to some of our local schools about how they use technology within their curriculum…

Schools are now using a variety of technology in the classroom, from interactive whiteboards to game-based software as well as pre-created content. A recent report called Capabilities for Success: What’s Working in EdTech Today established that the UK education system is a world leader in the adoption and use of technology in the classroom, with almost three-quarters of schools embedding tech in everyday teaching and learning practices. The report explains that many schools are achieving better outcomes as a result of their use of technology.

In the report Jim Knight, Director of Suklaa and former schools minister, says: “While the pandemic changed the day-to-day execution of teaching and learning across the world, it also accelerated the evolution of technology adoption, curriculum, and other key elements of learning. The data here suggests that technology like collaborative software and game-based activity supports increased levels of student engagement and leads to improved outcomes holistically.”
As digital natives, young people respond well to tech initiatives, but is technology always the way? How can schools achieve the right balance between technology and more traditional ways of interacting and communicating? Some of our local schools give us some insights…

Stuart Dalley, Acting Head at Badminton School

Tell us how Badminton School uses technology in everyday teaching and how this has changed in recent years…

The integration of technology into everyday teaching and learning practices has brought about significant changes in the education sector, especially since Covid.

As an independent school, we regularly embrace the use of technology to enhance our students’ learning experiences. The Covid pandemic validated our decision to embrace the Microsoft 365 suite of applications and we were able to rapidly pivot to online learning using Teams to deliver hybrid lessons, whilst OneNote provided a digital alternative to traditional worksheets and textbooks. This use of technology has continued post pandemic back into the classroom, providing easier access for pupils to their teachers and the resources they provide, easily accessing lessons, coursework and online resources. Our pupils have quickly adapted to Teams and, guided by their teachers, have really made the most of its functionality.

We also work hard to ensure that technology does not have a negative effect on pupil wellbeing and we seek to strike a balance when it comes to screen time and have also not lost a focus on traditional skills such as written tasks in exercise books, especially as exams continue to be in written format.

The use of technology has upskilled our teachers and students and has had a lasting positive effect on teaching practices, since students have returned to the classroom. The teachers, staff, and pupils have all grown in confidence learning these new skills and are true ‘digital natives’.

How has technology improved collaboration and inclusivity in the classroom?

Technology has significantly enhanced collaboration and inclusivity in the classroom. One of the most significant advantages is that it enables pupils to work together on assignments, irrespective of their physical location. Collaborative platforms such as Microsoft Teams and OneDrive provide pupils with the ability to work simultaneously on the same document, which helps them in building teamwork and problem-solving skills. Furthermore, these tools allow educators to track student participation and identify areas where students may require additional support or feedback.

Technology has also increased inclusivity in the classroom by providing alternative modes of communication for students who may not feel comfortable participating in traditional classroom discussions. For instance, students can use chat tools to ask questions or make comments, although we still do encourage as much oral debate as possible. Additionally, students with learning support needs can use assistive technology such as screen readers and voice recognition software to access and engage with classroom content, thus eliminating any potential barriers to learning. By providing learning resources digitally those with slower processing speeds can review content after the lesson at their own pace.

In conclusion, the integration of technology into our everyday teaching and learning practices has brought about significant positive changes. It has enabled us to provide an inclusive learning environment, upskilled our teachers and students, and enabled us to maintain a balance between practical and technology skills. We will continue to embrace the use of technology to ensure that our students receive the best possible support in their education and are ready for a digital future.

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Zak Verry, Head of Digital Strategy at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital

Tell us how your school uses technology in everyday teaching and learning practices and how this has changed in recent years…
At QEH, we are rolling out iPads for Years 7-9 and Windows devices for Years 10 and 11 with a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy in the Sixth Form. This enables us to have the level of control of the devices, which is commensurate to the responsibility of the age of the pupils, whilst also introducing them to and giving them skills with using both the Apple and the Windows environments.

The purpose of the devices is not to replace the excellent methods of teaching found at QEH but to augment them. Our strategy from the beginning of the programme was driven by an underlying philosophy that pedagogy should guide decision making when introducing technology to the classroom. We arrived at five areas that we felt would be improved by devices in the classroom; collaboration, creativity, research, feedback and communication and organisation. As the use of technology increases, we are finding ways that technology can take care of the tasks that are mechanistic so that teachers can have more human interactions with pupils. Counter-intuitively more technology in the classroom should lead to more human interactions between pupils and staff!

There are some specific examples of how technology is impacting the classroom at QEH.

Collaboration: OneNote in the Microsoft suite has spaces that allow pupils to work on material at the same time whilst recording who is doing what. This is also true when pupils share PowerPoint or Word documents. It allows teachers to see the process of development in a piece of work and who contributed what to the final product.

Creativity: Resources are multimodal, whether that be podcasts, clips of videos, articles, interactive resources on revision websites, adaptive questioning supported by AI, short quizzes and especially the gamification of learning on some platforms.

Research: With access to the internet, we are no longer limited to textbooks or other resources that have to be physically located in a room.

Feedback: Outside of the classroom, feedback was almost entirely handwritten on paper. Now feedback can be inked or typed and personalised. It can also be an audio recording embedded in a piece of work which is particularly helpful for teaching languages. There is no need to collect exercise books, as feedback can be continuous and whenever is convenient for the teacher and the pupil.

Communication and organisation: We can now check in with the way pupils arrange their work on a regular basis and everything is all in one place. It’s much harder to permanently lose work. No sheets stuffed at the bottom of rucksacks. Communication between pupils is much easier, if you need to speak to someone you can just message them, no need to hunt around the school looking for them.