Edtech: a new outlook for 2020

Tech guru and Apple Distinguished Educator, Abdul Chohan, discusses his thoughts on what needs to happen in 2020 to make edtech work in every school

With technology becoming increasingly simple and reliable over the last 10 years, we now live in a time where access to cutting-edge tech is within reach for almost everyone.

For some, the idea of a 1:1 technology programme may still be a debatable issue, but a number of schools I’m working with in different countries rely on equitable access to technology. The focus must always be adding value to the teaching methodology used by teachers. A number of schools have initiated the use of digitised verbal feedback over images of handwritten books as part of their digital strategy, so the handwriting is not hindered, as final exams are still ‘pen to paper’ in many countries. Others are using the ‘dual-coding’ approach, as hypothesised by Allan Paivio of the University of Western Ontario in 1971, albeit captured in a digitised format with simplistic hand-drawn visual imagery and supporting voiceover.

Today, it’s imperative that we teach our children when and when not to use technology. Digital intelligence, as outlined by the world economic forum, is an area that needs promotion in schools and with adults in society.

Is it effective?

Simply increasing technology and delivering devices is not always an effective digital strategy. It’s important to measure tools for simplicity and reliability. School leaders must consider operational efficiencies that allow for saving time, cost and help develop the workforce through CPD, for example.

Whilst completing several impact studies in schools in different contexts and countries, it’s possible to see some operational benefits, including but not limited to, reduction in photocopying, reducing the time it takes to provide written feedback, easy access to resources and increased home access.

Keeping on track

To implement a digital strategy, there are some key areas to think about:

– The right communications: getting your communications right to staff, pupils and parents is a must. You should outline the vision and the ‘why?’ along with an agreed workflow (how students send and retrieve work from teachers), and also adopt a clear approach to managing screen time.
– Access: students should be able to use technology to support additional gaps in their own learning needs. Dyslexia, EAL and visually impaired students, amongst others, can be supported by features embedded in technology. Ensure your school makes use of this.
– Development: regular and relevant professional development is crucial. Share best practice across the school. Students can be trained as digital leaders to support their peers, teachers and parents.
– Effectiveness: measure your approaches and ideas, including the digital tools for simplicity, reliability, effectiveness. Determine qualitative and quantitative approaches to measurements.
– Efficiencies: look for opportunities to save time, cost and develop the workforce. Reduction in workload, photocopying and routine tasks can be done more efficiently through cloud-based technology like G-suite and Office365.

Every context is different and it’s important to ask, ‘What will this technology allow me to do now that I couldn’t do previously?’. The end goal is to support a better, adapted, personalised learning experience where tech adds value. It’s important that we’re not distracted by the new but focused on the significance of the new.

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