What impact is edtech having on pedagogy?

Keri Beckingham explores the latest edtech developments and discovers the impact that they are having in today’s classrooms

Education providers across the country are utilising the benefits that edtech can bring to the classroom. But how are these changes impacting both teachers and students, do edtech providers take pedagogy into account when developing their products, and what are the latest trends?

The impact on students and staff

One of the main benefits of the growth of edtech is that it allows teaching staff to alter their teaching style and encourages students to participate in discussions in a new and interactive way. At Stoke on Trent College, some of their courses have adopted a flipped-learning approach, where teachers prepare interactive material in advance of lessons to enable students to develop comprehension of the topic. Explaining the impact that this has had, Emma Brannen, head of quality at the college, explained: “This enables teachers to adapt their delivery in the classroom to encourage learners to develop higher order thinking skills.” 

“Rather than teaching in its traditional form,” she continued, “they facilitate learning via group discussions and learner collaboration which inspires learners to critically analyse concepts and develop their wider communication skills.”

Michael Connolly is headmaster at Cranmore Prep School, and has seen the introduction of smart screens have a big impact in today’s classrooms. As a result of this, he has experienced teachers being more creative with the layout of their classrooms in order to provide the right teaching style to suit the task at hand. Discussing this idea further, he said: “Whilst it is still appropriate to have rows of desks for some lessons, it is quite common to re-arrange desks and chairs into clusters to promote co-operation for group work.

“In addition, the school is exploring some innovative desks which allow children to stand or sit which will further enhance a more flexible approach to the way in which lessons are structured,” he added.

Dr Eileen Kennedy is Senior Research Associate at UCL, and she believes that edtech makes it easier for teachers to engage their students in class by making the learning environment far more interactive. She added: “Virtual pinboards or screen sharing enables students to work in groups and share what they are doing with the whole class, which makes group work much more rewarding for students and teachers.”

The role of edtech providers

With technological advances in today’s world increasing at speed, do our educators believe that creators of edtech keep pedagogy in mind when it comes to developing their educational products? 

In order for new technology to be embedded in the classroom, Connolly believes that manufacturers recognise it needs to be reliable and easy to use, as teachers are likely to stop using products that do not hit the mark. Brannen agrees that edtech providers take pedagogy into account when developing their products, as a result of fierce competition within the industry driving innovation, and Kennedy thinks that for edtech to be successful, companies need to equally utilise tech skills, understanding of pedagogy and teaching experience. However, in her experience this is rare. 

From the perspective of those within the edtech industry, Craig Scott, vice-president of technology at ViewSonic, also believes that pedagogies should be at the core of edtech solutions, especially in terms of product development. In his view, this not only allows for the longevity of the resource, but it also enables it to be an effective learning tool. Discussing this further, he commented: “Every student learns through different methods and be it direct instruction, huddle stations or 1:1 learning, edtech needs to ensure resources allow for a flexible and reconfigurable classroom, and can adapt to multiple pedagogies.”

In support of this, Sharon Hague, senior vice-president for schools at Pearson, says that edtech has huge potential and can help teachers to make their teaching styles more effective. However, the key element to the success of this is ensuring that the different roles the teacher, the learner and the technology play are fully understood.

Commenting further, Hague said: “Our products are used by customers across the globe in a variety of classroom settings, by teachers with differing levels of experience, and students with different learning experiences, so it’s also important to us to then share what we learn with our users to support their own teaching.”

The latest trends

When it comes to edtech impacting pedagogy, what are the latest trends that our educators have seen? 

Kennedy believes that pedagogy should not have trends and that it should be based on a solid understanding of the learning process instead. In her experience, she has seen learning design come to the forefront recently, and the emphasis shift to what the teacher has put in place for the learner to do. For example, in the past teachers may have had little choice but to lecture because of the large size of their class, but now they have the option to explore online learning experiences where students can learn independently.

Explaining the benefit of this, she said: “For example, students are now able to do a web search at home, watch a video or discuss with their peers online.”

On the other hand, Brannen has seen technology enable teachers to deliver personalised feedback to students more easily. As a result, this is giving rise to a two-way stream of communication, and allows teachers to adapt their teaching styles in order to maximise learning outcomes for students. She said: “This is impacting on the way in which teachers at Stoke on Trent College plan for learning, such as using click view short videos.

“It also helps teaching staff to consider how they can most effectively provide visual and audio feedback, in order to inform learners how to further improve their work.”

In addition, Connolly has seen the use of virtual reality (VR) headsets becoming more commonplace in the classroom, and he suspects that this is because edtech companies want to utilise the potential benefit this technology could have for education, based on its use in the commercial gaming world.  

Examples of edtech supporting pedagogy

Stoke on Trent College is using edtech to change teachers’ lesson plans and delivery across a variety of courses. As Brannen explained: “The Engineering, Construction and Motor Vehicle department are utilising three different formative assessment approaches (Socrative, Google Forms and Kahoot) to first assess learners’ starting points in theory sessions. The activity is then revisited at the end of the session to see how far they have travelled and to better inform the content for the next session.”

In addition, teachers at the college are also using apps to plan quizzes for their learners, which allows them to more accurately measure individual learner progress and plan for future learning more effectively. Brannen said: “Teachers are setting individual learner targets based on the outcomes of digital-based learning and assessment, and we are developing blended learning tools to accelerate understanding and enable the application of learners’ knowledge to be developed during in-class activities.”

Another way that edtech is supporting pedagogy is that it also allows teachers to share their learning designs with other staff. At UCL’s Knowledge Lab, they have created a free online tool called the Learning Designer that helps teachers create technology-enhanced teaching and learning sessions and share their designs more easily as a result. Discussing the benefit of this, Kennedy said: “We no longer have to reinvent the wheel every time we plan a teaching session.”