Measuring the effectiveness of edtech in improving outcomes

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Royden Gothelf, from RightICT, discusses how the use of edtech and technology in schools has changed over the last year

Reports from Ofsted Remote Education Research, February 2021, and the Sutton Trust, Learning in Lockdown, January 2021, show that there is a wide variance across schools as to how they managed in lockdown – perhaps not surprising, as there does not seem to be a national standard measurement, more a set of individual surveys asking ‘…and how was it for you?’

RightICT, as it says in the name, helps school leaders to choose the technology (ICT) that is appropriate (Right) for them. We see all the time the challenges faced by those schools with tight or deficit budgets, and the growth in those which have available funds. The Sutton Trust report says the pandemic ‘exposed chronic levels of poverty and disadvantage’. Whatever your school’s situation or experience, these reports show that the most successful schools embed the use of IT in all aspects of the school.

Your school development plan needs to be explicit on where technology is being used to improve outcomes for everyone and, remember, you don’t need the latest and most expensive IT solution.

Anecdotal findings from secondary, infant and primary teachers we work with show that keeping the pupil in a routinehas been good, but being able to teach has been very challenging.

How was/is it for you?

That change for school IT managers and school business managers from doing their utmost to provide internet and computers to staff, making sure email and MIS is working, sorting out the overhead projectors and printers, has been something very different;  keeping staff and students in many locations connected safely was a monumental challenge.

Every school IT technician knows that it is a labour of love keeping the onsite school network running. During lockdown the challenge moved to the pupil or teacher to get the laptop or smart ‘phone fit for remote lessons with reliable connectivity. For some, that connectivity is just not reliable enough for online lessons.

The anecdotal research I’ve conducted highlights that, where the online connectivity has been put in place, it has worked well for both pupil and teacher, in that it has at least enabled communication in a one-to-many setting and, thankfully, in many cases the teacher has been able to teach, and the pupil to learn.

Our experience with secondary schools shows that those who were early adopters of digital platforms such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc., had a distinct advantage, as staff, students and teachers had been trained in how to use them and to get the safeguarding settings correct.

A digital platform, at its most basic, is a form of communication device to take a register, broadcast an assembly, send and receive homework. These are valuable benefits in keeping a dialogue between student and school but, in terms of learning, it depends on the curriculum content and the ability to teach the individual. Value can also be realised by the use of the less expensive – and often free – digital learning, for example, the BBC, or just remote learning without that online digital communication.

Extract of some of the key findings from the Sutton Trust Report

Devices

• 19% of parents, overall, report that their children do NOT have access to a sufficient number of devices suitable for their online learning; however this is 35% for households with the lowest incomes, and 11% in households with the highest.

Remote learning

• School provision for online learning has changed radically since the beginning of the first lockdown. Over half (54%) of teachers are now using online live lessons, compared to just 4% in March 2020.

• However, disparities remain. 86% of private schools are using online live lessons, compared to 50% in state schools – a gap which has widened since the first lockdown.

The attainment gaps

• The impact of the pandemic on learning continues to be unevenly felt, with over half (55%) of teachers at the least affluent state schools reporting a lower than normal standard of work returned by pupils since the shutdown, compared to 41% at the most affluent state schools, and 30% at private schools.

One last thought

For those who did get new equipment, review your plans now you are back in school. Is the teacher going to use the laptop you gave them, or the desktop in the classroom? You may have a lot of spare computers, or need connectors for the laptops to the smart board.

What is the pupil expected to do with the computer you gave them, and who do they turn to if it breaks?

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