Evidence-based solutions and the path to transformation

We hear from Patrick McGrath, edtech strategist at texthelp, on the importance of evidence-based decisions when choosing educational technology, to maximise the potential for change

Digital transformation

Transformation. It’s a big word with an even bigger meaning – particularly when it comes to education. Maybe it’s overused, perhaps next to impossible to achieve – but it is aspirational. Transformation is perhaps simply a more generic term to talk about something that, as educators and technologists, we all seek to deliver – change. For most, we approach technology integration with enthusiasm and a real belief that whether it’s a product or a teaching strategy, technology used well has the ability to make a difference in the lives and the learning experiences of our students.

The reality, though, is that the road to this change has, in some cases, been littered with tools, devices and software that haven’t delivered. A recent survey across the US found that 65% of teachers had abandoned the use of some form of technology over the last two years. Student response systems, whiteboards, VR, tablets, software – purchased, tried and abandoned. That’s not creating meaningful change, let alone ‘transformation’.

Tech integration

The question, then, must be asked – is this the fault of the technology? The educator? The infrastructure? A lack of CPD?

It’s a complex question to answer because successful technology integration requires a mix of strategies and support that varies region to region and country to country. It requires both vision and detailed planning.
There is one crucial thing we can do as we plan for technology. And it’s something that as educators, we gather and use every single day – evidence. We need to explore proof of impact and we need to weigh this up with the outcomes and change we’re striving for in our classrooms.

We can, of course, take anecdotal evidence, read case studies, talk to peers, visit classrooms and listen as students voice their experiences. All important things. But, we have to start looking deeper at outcomes and efficacy, because we can no longer afford to spend time on speculative technology implementations based on the promises of transformation.

A recent survey across the US found that 65% of teachers had abandoned the use of some form of technology over the last two years.

In my role at Texthelp, I’m fortunate to be part of a team that passionately believes in the positive impact our products make to the lives of students. With over 20 million users worldwide, it would be understandable that we might sit back and assume that success is proven.

Read&Write efficacy

We don’t. Instead, we embarked upon a year-long independent study to evaluate the efficacy and impact of Read&Write, our flagship literacy product, with a focus on obtaining measurable impact data across a range of students and within a number of different school settings.

Our goals from the outset were clear. The study had to be robust and transparent. We then published the results, complete with all the data gathered over the entire academic year. Through this process, we’ve been able to apply metrics to the impact that our software has on the students using it – a rise in reading level bucking the national trend, plus rises in writing and vocabulary across a range of abilities. We learned a huge amount about measurable impact and areas we hadn’t even considered before, including improved motivation, behaviour and focus.

Worldwide edtech development

We all understand the potential of education to change the future of nations, and it’s encouraging to see some exciting edtech projects across the developing world: 1.2 million devices across Kenya, 1,000 primary schools 1:1 in Jamaica, 1,500 schools in Rwanda will have smart classrooms, and many more. However, the approach of simply providing devices without policy, training, evidence or a pedagogical base won’t deliver the change that’s needed.

These new programmes can’t simply follow the practice of those countries who are perhaps considered ahead of the edtech curve. They need to learn from them, and understand that the right choices for edtech, in all its forms must be based on evidence of impact.
Making such evidence-based choices at the outset will maximise the potential for change, and at the very least set us on the right path towards transformation.

For more information about Texthelp, visit: text.help/et-oct