The Edtech Podcast monthly roundup: July 2020

Sophie Bailey returns with the low-down on what happened throughout July in the edtech world

In our efforts to help make sense of the education and edtech community response to COVID-19, we published six episodes of The Edtech Podcast in July, passing 200 episodes to date. Here are some of the memorable conversation moments from this month…

The fallacy of ‘catching up’ 

“We do need an approach in September which doesn’t hothouse the children about ‘Catching up'”

In many countries around the world, the narrative is steadfastly on students ‘catching up’ on the time lost from within the school. (Indeed, here, the Department for Education announced a £1 billion fund to support children and young people to catch up. This includes a one-off universal £650 million catch-up premium for the 2020 to 2021 academic year to ensure that schools have the support they need to help all pupils make up for lost teaching time.)


We don’t dispute that COVID-19 has been hugely disruptive to education, teaching and learning. But, many guests on the podcast have rightly pushed back against this wholesale idea of catching up. Either because the reality of students out of school is wildly inconsistent and not always negatively impacted (some have done very well in their new circumstances), or because the idea of ‘catching up’ is so conservative in its ambitions for our return for school. Shouldn’t we be making more of this moment than merely getting back to the starting point? 


These ideas were especially resonant in episode 199 (Lessons from Home Learning) or episode 202 (Global Education Council on What Matters in Edtech), which call for better research to understand the varied experiences and needs of students. Listen to Ger Graus, global Director of Education, KidZania in this episode: 

Teach back better 

COVID is wreaking disaster and yet it’s exposing and bringing to light opportunities

In the face of the pandemic, one response has been optimism about the renewed vigour for teaching and learning as teachers explore and equip themselves with online learning pedagogies, tools and approaches.


This was true in episode 198, where the director of teaching and learning for the School of Computer Science, the University of Lincoln in the UK, stated: “I don’t just think this is a good time to go to university, I think this might be one of the best times to go to university ever.” 

In episode 202, Ilse Howling, Chair of Educational Development Trust also encouraged the sector to grasp this notion of teaching back better by shining a light on the bright spots of teaching and learning to amplify these success stories and redress inequality.

Nicole Ponsford, award-winning digital educator and founder of
The Gender Equality Collective (The GEC), talked about best practice sharing from the perspective of the edtech demonstrator programme in episode 199. Guests talked of a return to student centricity in this moment, equipped with technology and a sense of purposefulness.


In episode 197, we throwback to a pre-COVID recording with John Brindle – a learning technologist at the University of Liverpool, highlighting many consideration points for anyone new to online pedagogy, and discussing calls for teaching and learning quality to be consistent across multiple technology platforms. 

“You can only convince people to join you on a march if you can evidence you are walking the right way”

Accelerated inequality: how can the tech sector help?

I think we know the steps we can take to reduce inequality in educational systems; the question is do we have the political will to do so?”

A recurring theme across July’s episode was how COVID-19 is not only exposing inequality, but exacerbating it. Eric Abrams, chief inclusion officer, Stanford University Graduate School of Education, called on the tech sector and listeners to come up with creative technology solutions to reduce inequality. (An important moment for the educational technology sector to pause and reset, as it races into an estimated 223% increase in sales in the US – McKinsey.)


Also, Katy Potts, Computing, Digital and Online – Lead for schools at Islington Council, reminded listeners that the lockdown had shown not only a digital divide but also a gender divide, with women at home disproportionately impacted by homeschooling and its effects on working and income. 

Social learning: schools, work experience and online networking

Schools have become much more of a focus in the community”

One thing apparent during lockdown is the socialising and community role of the school. School is not just a building, but a connector between parents, teachers, students and the local environment. How do we continue this during local lockdowns? The importance of ‘live sessions’ to connect and swap notes outside of any formal learning session in school, university or the workplace has become apparent as an important mental health and social wellbeing initiative.To the same effect, episode 201 talked about the early careers space and young people going into the world of work amidst the pandemic. (According to the Resolution Foundation, one-third of 18 to 24-year-old employees have lost jobs or been furloughed during the pandemic, compared to one in six adults above that age.) With internships, apprenticeships, and traditional volunteering opportunities all closing down to some extent, what opportunity is there to support young people better through the use of technology? 

Now is the time for employers to step up and figure out what they can do to offer a really good internship experience or grad experience online”

In episode 201, we talked to the person behind #isolationintern, who are bringing together university talent and start-ups; whilst also chatting to a former KPMG intern from Nigeria, who is ingesting webinars, online courses and networking to make the most of new circumstances. 

In episode 200, 2U CEO, Chip Paucek, talked about the importance of quality remote learning and the importance of online socialising, whilst also recognising the magic of the physical campus. 

You might also like: The Edtech Podcast monthly roundup: June 2020


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