Edtech: Is your school’s technology-plan aligned with the needs of your pupils?

While today’s generation may be happier with a tablet in hand than a pencil and paper, procuring technology – the right technology, at the right price, with the right provider – can be a daunting task for school leaders. Jane Ashworth, UK MD of SMART Technologies, brings us up to speed on the latest research into the impact of edtech and how you can use this knowledge to procure the technology that will make a real impact in the classroom and on student outcomes

412239725873550.T1dCCypse4ZKxtkcI8Au_height640Creating effective school environments and better outcomes requires that school leaders have a strong strategic technology plan and vision. Most schools and executives have priorities that include the conversion to mobile, cloud, 1:1 devices and advanced security. These are valuable endeavors in building a healthy technology foundation to support and enhance learning. However, when thinking of the most effective system-wide technology-plan, school leaders must also consider the heart of their mission: the pupil.

Students of the digital age

Today’s students have advanced mobile skills and use social media like no other generation before them. As we continue to drive learning towards useable, lifetime skills, and preparing students for viable futures in a technology-based society, we must include fit-for-purpose technology to support group learning, collaboration and the more social aspects of education which are gaining importance and are already being measured.

BESA’s 2016 annual ICT in UK State Schools survey found that, on average, primary school pupils spend 53.7% of their time engaging with ICT and, on average, secondary pupils spend 55.5%. Yet, for the last several years, while pupils are spending over 50% of their day on technology we’re told that education technology has little measurable impact on education outcomes. That’s a lot of time and budget spent if technology is not meeting the needs of pupils!

An aligned approach

Teaching, Technology and Learning: Understanding the Interconnection – a global study commissioned earlier this year by SMART Technologies – concluded that teaching and school management involving collaborative learning, supported by complementary classroom technology, leads to more positive results among students.

Our study sought to discover how technology and collaborative teaching are best used together; the results show that great teachers are the unsung heroes behind improved student success. However, it also highlighted the instrumental role school leaders can play in bringing the benefits of technology to learning environments.

What the research says

  • 4 times more likely to achieve outstanding success when frequently using teaching best practices and complementary technology. The highest success comes from great teaching complemented by software and hardware, in that order.
  • 70% achieve positive success when frequently using collaborative software alone.
  • Assessment software is most closely tied to success, followed by collaborative and content creative software.
  • Interactive front-of-room display hardware outperforms projectors.

Impact on student outcomes

School executives must take into consideration the impact of technology. Seventy-six per cent of survey respondents reported that their efforts in technology and collaborative learning pedagogy strongly or very strongly improved students’ social and emotional skill development.

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The research confirms that active learning success is enhanced when classroom technology is paired with pedagogical best practices. Additionally:

  • certain types of technologies support student and teacher outcomes significantly better than others;
  • the use and frequency of teaching and learning best practices make a difference in technology-rich classrooms;
  • software is more closely related to success as compared to hardware and devices. When software – such as whole class, collaborative software – was used daily, or for most lessons, for student co-creation, respondents achieved positive success;
  • concerns about technology being a distraction are most prevalent with less experienced educators and increases as students age.

Technology has an impact when implemented with outcomes in mind

While I truly believe that success in the classroom begins with great teachers this study shows that schools may not be realising the full potential until varied technologies are integrated into the classroom – this is where innovative school management and investment comes in.

School leaders need to work with technology partners – not only on products and budgets but also on enablement – to make sure that teachers can make a meaningful impact in their classroom and on student outcomes. Technology purchases made without thinking of the outcomes are a meaningless and expensive waste of effort for the school.

When purchasing technology solutions consider the following questions to determine whether the outcomes will be in line with the goals of the school:

Does your technology partner:

  • support student participation inside and outside of the classroom with teacher visibility of student contribution and understanding?
  • have an open online and advocacy community where teachers can share best practices, download lesson plans and exchange ideas?
  • provide online and in-person training as well as offer ongoing support to champion efficacy and implementation?
  • offer continuous technology innovation to meet the change in your pupil population, instructional requests and school requirements?

If you’re going to do it, do it right

It’s clear that the right technology, used in the right way, has the power to transform teaching and learning and secure a brighter future for schools and their pupils. That’s why SMART, alongside our partners at TES, have just launched an online space that gives educators, managers and education leaders the tools and ideas for inspiring greatness and improving learning outcomes. The hub aims to share the tools, stories and best practices for unlocking the potential in every student, teacher and school.

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