Looking beyond COVID-19: the role of edtech in supporting schools

Haylie Taylor, EducationCity’s education consultant and former teacher, discusses the value of edtech in supporting the needs of schools going forward

Ever since schools were hit with closures, teachers and pupils have been utilising online resources to help minimise disruption to teaching and learning. While edtech products and services have been available for years, COVID-19 has provided a springboard for these resources, with many organisations offering free access in a bid to effectively engage pupils, providing greater assistance for distance learning and supporting educators through this difficult time.

COVID-19 has presented the sector with an opportunity to progress the argument for more interconnectedness, better infrastructure and greater support for teachers. While there are fundamental conversations and decisions to be made on a national scale in regard to ensuring greater equity and access to technology, it’s clear that edtech’s role can enhance and add value to what teachers are already doing well. It can expand opportunities beyond the classroom and continue engaging lessons using high-quality, accessible content regardless of the situation or location.

Changing mindsets

Traditionally, there have been teachers and parents who are hesitant to endorse online platforms as part of education. However, with the current climate we find ourselves in, having to adopt resources and cloud services will have provided greater exposure of the advantages and capabilities. In turn, this has resulted in a shift in mindset and positivity towards greater integration of edtech.

Many of these resources can also be used in tandem with more traditional methods of teaching and lesson planning, which will be especially useful during the phased return of pupils to school. With some pupils still based at home until September, we must ensure they have equal access to content so they don’t fall behind. This includes those in deprived areas, with initiatives already in place to better support this, including additional technology support provided by the government and the upcoming £1 billion catch-up programme.

Streamlining processes

The benefits of edtech are also evident in streamlining processes. For example, many resources have the capability to allow teachers to plan lessons, make use of ready-made content, assign curriculum-aligned tasks to individuals and groups, and monitor progress and identify areas for development.

Teachers are also able to deliver automated and differentiated learning to pupils to suit specific needs and reinforce understanding. This is particularly useful in ensuring the whole class is adequately supported, regardless of their levels, abilities or location. Monitoring performance through online assessments and data platforms is also useful for both teachers and parents, to track pupil progress so that any gaps in their development can be addressed.

At primary level, this cohort of students will miss their SATs, multiplication tables check (MTC), phonics screening check and in many circumstances, the EYFS profile or good level of development (GLD) measure, all of which provide insight into how pupils are performing and data to pass on to the next year’s teacher. Edtech can help ensure pupils are still connecting the dots through practice activities and assessments that provide teachers with gap analysis and progress indicators. These online assessment tasks can also be valuable in supporting teachers with future planning so they can hit the ground running once primary testing is rescheduled.

Reinforcing learning

Learning can continue beyond the classroom walls in a more streamlined way, and 24-hour access to platforms will not only promote mastery but will contribute to the development of skills such as resilience, confidence and skills for independent learning. Allowing children to practice and delve deeper into subjects and topics outside of lessons will positively impact their performance, especially given the dip in engagement due to COVID-19. Investing and integrating this type of edtech moving forward will also help combat the summer slide and any other long periods of absence. Through these resources and platforms, students – and their parents – are also able to track their progress, improving independent learning and motivating them to achieve more and better their performance.

With new ways for teachers and pupils to interact in light of COVID-19, edtech has already made waves in demonstrating its benefits. Being able to get back to a sense of normality without impacting engagement and workloads is a priority; our children deserve equal access and a quality education, and edtech has helped bridge the gap. With a greater understanding and respect for edtech, we’re likely to see further integration as we move into a new chapter, from which teachers and pupils can accelerate learning and make up for lost time.

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