2018 – the edtech year in review

How was 2018 for you? It was a busy one in the world of education and digital,  from a new education minister at the start of the year through to Nesta predicting that AI will mean the end of exams (in 2019 – so watch out for that…) via Life in Likes, phones in schools, fake news and robotics engineer Barbie. Here’s our review of the year…


A new year, a new education minister. Damian Hinds took the helm at the Department for Education following the departure of Justine Greening but schools minister Nick Gibb was spared the hatchet in Theresa May’s reshuffle.

The Children’s Commissioner was quick off the mark with the first major report of 2018 – Life in Likes, an in-depth research-based window onto the impact of social media on the daily lives of 8-12 year olds. We blogged about the key findings.

Meanwhile, BETT was criticised by the chief executive of the government-backed research fund the Education Endowment Foundation as an “Ikea of education” where “wonders and snake oil” are sold without evidence.


Reports and surveys galore this month. The #StatusOfMind report from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Young Health Movement ranked social media platforms according to their impact on young people’s mental health. YouTube tops the table as the most positive, with Instagram and Snapchat coming out as the most detrimental to young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Refreshingly, the UK Safer Internet Centre found that young people are more likely to have a positive experience online than a negative one while O2 and the NSPCC revealed that almost half of children aged 5 to 16 say their dream career would be in tech. Top choices are vlogger (30%), animator (15%), software developer (14%) and web designer (14%). In contrast, parents’ top two career choices for their children are doctor and teacher.

The annual Childwise report, surveying children’s media consumption and spending habits noted that that nearly a fifth of five- to six-year-olds own their own mobile phone, jumping to 41% by the time children are aged seven to eight, and 59% for nine- and 10-year-olds. By age 11, 91% have their own phone. Three out of five children with phones use them to access social media content.


March saw the launch of Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, featuring a 200MHz increase in peak CPU clock frequency and around three times the wired and wireless network throughput. Meanwhile, social media networks are failing to tackle cyberbullying, a new survey of young people found. Almost half of 1,089 11 to 25-year-olds questioned had experienced threatening or nasty social media messages, emails or texts and 83% want social media companies to do more to tackle the problem.

The Edtech 50 report, which shines a spotlight on those pioneering a new future in education through technology, was released this month. London CLC was commended!


April was all about the upcoming GDPR. DfE produced a beta toolkit of guidance to help schools develop policies and processes for data management and South West Grid for Learning has also published advice and guidance to help schools and colleges when it comes to managing personal data: GDPR Advice and Guidance for Schools and Colleges.

A Child Trends research brief was published that outlined five ways in which screen time can benefit children and families while the New York Times reported an investigation into whether and how YouTube is collecting and monetising the data of children under 13 through its main site.

computing for boys / girls


Screen time for children was in the news again with Jeremy Hunt’s letter to media companies. Amy Orban, a scientist who works in this field, examined the debate and whether scientific evidence backs up Hunt’s policy (spoiler: it doesn’t).

Apple announced a cheaper iPad for education and there was a lively discussion among edtech tweeters about an academy head’s decision to abandon 1:1 iPads in his school (reverting to, among other things, homework diaries and smartboards). The discussion expanded to digital leadership (or lack of) in senior leadership teams.

New research from Microsoft found that girls in the UK are much more likely to consider a STEM career if they have a role model who inspires them – while more than half of the respondents who looked up to either fictional or non-fictional people involved in STEM said they were interested in getting a job in the sector, less than a third of females without a role model said the same.


June was another bumper month for interesting reports. The Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills in Schools, published its final report yesterday and was a must-read for teachers. Key findings are that only 2% of children have the critical literacy skills they need to tell if a news story is real or fake, half are worried about not being able to spot fake news and two-thirds now trust the news less as a result of fake news.

The annual computing education report from the University of Roehampton, which looks at how many pupils achieved GCSE and A-level computing qualifications in 2017, showed that computing is becoming more exclusive: the typical computer science entrant is “academically strong, mathematically able, likely to be taking triple science, from a relatively affluent family, and overwhelmingly likely to be male (even if the smaller number of girls taking the subject do better in the exam)”. At GCSE, 20% of entries are from female students and only 10% at A-level, even though girls do better than boys at GCSE. Compared to 2014, there are around 30,000 fewer females taking any computing qualification at KS4.

Meanwhile, the Disrupted Childhood report took aim at social media companies that persuade children to stay online for longer in order to collect their data for commercial gain.

Politicians were getting exercised by phones again. Culture secretary Matt Hancock, whose brief includes digital matters, ruled out French-style legislation to ban the use of mobile phones on school premises but called on schools to ban them anyway.

South London pupils experimenting with VR headsets and microscopes at our Garden Museum session.


What’s life online really like for children and young people and what can schools do to support them? LGfL’s pupil survey, billed as the largest of its kind with 40,000 children from 480 schools, provided an insight into the impact on children’s lives of social media and digital communication.

Silicon Valley came under fire in a Panorama programme in which ‘insiders’ told the BBC that social media companies are deliberately addicting users to their products for financial gain.

And…Barbie codes! Robotics Engineer Barbie, dressed in jeans, a graphic T-shirt, denim jacket and wearing safety glasses (?!) launched with six free Barbie-inspired coding lessons designed to teach logic, problem solving and the building blocks of coding.


In what is usually a quiet month in the schools world, education secretary Damian Hinds set out his vision for putting technology at the heart of education. According to Hinds, the impact of technology in education has been surprisingly limited so far but could be transformational in five key areas: access and inclusion; assessment; teacher training and development; administration; and lifelong learning. We blogged about it.


After that little lull, September saw everyone spring back into action. There were more responses to Hinds’ ‘vision’, Nesta urged the government to think smarter about digital skills and invest in the ‘right’ ones that will futureproof students’ skill sets, having analysed the jobs most likely to disappear.

The British Computer Society launched a major review into the new computer science GCSE as pupil uptake stagnates. It’s fair to say that this decision was somewhat controversial.

Children’s phones were banned from all state middle schools in France this month and pupils’ reactions were, perhaps, surprising (“we talked instead!”).

Newswise, a free, cross-curricular news literacy project for 9 to 11-year-olds across the UK, set up by the Guardian Foundation, National Literacy Trust and PSHE Association and funded by Google. We are delighted and excited to be part of the newly formed News Literacy Network with these founding members.


The latest Childwise report into the media habits of pre-school children revealed that the majority of three and four-year-olds now own a tablet or other internet-enabled device and also noted that children were typically spending an average of two hours and 48 minutes a day watching video content in all its forms. Cbeebies was the children’s favourite channel and YouTube the most popular app.

A new report, co-authored by London CLC director Sarah Horrocks, captured what might be learnt from some of the world’s most interesting examples of technology-assisted in-service professional development in lower-income countries. Looking at cases from Kenya, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, among others, this fascinating study from the Education Development Trust also offered wider reflections about the potential of technology to enhance the professional learning of teachers.



STEM Learning, the British Computing Society and the Raspberry Pi Foundation were chosen as the providers of the UK’s £84m National Centre for Computing Education, aimed at improving the teaching of computing and driving participation in computer science.

A report on children’s digital footprints from the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield highlighted how children aged 11-16 post on social media on average 26 times a day, which means by the age of 18 they are likely to have posted 70,000 times. By the age of 13, a child’s parents will have posted on average 1,300 photos and videos of them to social media.

Meanwhile, Ofqual indicated that Computing GCSE exams may be taken using pen and paper because of concerns about the number of school computers that do not work, the TES reported.

Mitchell Baker, head of the Mozilla Foundation, called for universities to incorporate ethical education into undergraduate computer science degrees. We argued that STEM in schools could also benefit from more philosophy and ethics in teaching about technology.

Edtech 50 Schools launched. Oh, and we are in the Bett award finals!


The potential end of exams is a happy note on which to end the year. Nesta’s annual predictions suggest that, in 2019, artificial intelligence will start continuously assessing students, making exams increasingly unnecessary. We think that’s a wildly optimistic timeframe but share their excitement about the potential for a less stressful exam season and how AI tools could change what we assess as well as how we assess. This month, MPs of the Commons Education Select Committee were told that online testing would allow pupils to sit GCSEs when they were ready.


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Upcoming CPD

Summer primary school computing conference
Summer primary school computing conference

This event will build upon the Autumn computing conference by inviting subject leaders to reflect on their year in the role, sharing their successes and challenges. It will also introduce new ideas, tools and approaches through talks and practical activities led by members of the CLC team, with opportunities for attendees to share their own expertise and experience. Over the course of the conference activities will touch on the three main areas of the computing curriculum: computer science, digital literacy and information technology. We will also feature advice and examples illustrating the use of technology to support blended learning.

- 15:30
Computing subject leaders, Teachers...
Creative Arts, Digital and children – CLC meets More Than Robots online
Creative Arts, Digital and children - CLC meets More Than Robots online

Combining forces for the first time, the Connected Learning Centre and More Than Robots have created a session for teachers, youth organisations, researchers and policymakers interested in the digital provision of creative arts for primary aged pupils.


The Play Observatory - Prof. John Potter

“In their own words”: Westminster Abbey & CLC digital projects - Sian Shaw

Building (and maintaining) a city-wide primary arts curriculum to raise attainment - Kate Fellows

More to be added soon

This interactive and inclusive meet up will include inspiring examples of how technology can be used to support learning in music, visual art and drama in person and online at home drawing on our experiences as Tate Exchange associates and our partnership work with a range of cultural institutions.

This informal event is an opportunity to discuss real examples of what does/doesn’t work, meet colleagues from other sectors working on similar challenges and share useful research, news or updates

The morning will include case study presentations (details below) followed by a Q&A. There will also be an opportunity for a rapid sharing round for launches, project updates or requests for help and a short break to avoid zoom brain drain.

- 11:30
KS1, KS2
Subject leaders, Teachers...

Upcoming Special projects

The News Project
- 14:25

Special project in collaboration with First News Education

For a third year, building on two successful previous projects, we are once again partnering with the children’s newspaper First News, fellow member of the national Making Sense of Media and News Literacy networks. This special project with a literacy, PSHE and citizenship, as well as computing focus, highlights our specialist interest in this important aspect of digital and critical literacy.

The News Project will enable participating classes from year 5 to immerse themselves in news and current affairs using First News and the Bett award-winning First News iHUB, which will be provided free of charge during the school-based part of the project over a six week period. Under the guidance of their teacher, pupils will be supported in their development as a community of fully informed news readers. Classes will test their new critical skills and knowledge in the culminating virtual celebration event which will include a news competition and team-based critical literacy and editorial activities. After the event, schools will be able to use the resources from the day in their school.

The project will launch with an introductory CPD session for teachers to set the context, demonstrate resources and to plan for the school-based activities. 

Initial CPD session - Thursday 21st October 4pm-5.00pm. 

Project work undertaken in school - October and November.

Special event - Thursday 25th November 9.30am-2.45pm.

The Garden Museum

The CLC is once again partnering with the Garden Museum to offer a partnership project for KS1 pupils (primarily suited to Yr2). Located next to Lambeth Palace on the bank of the Thames, the museum has an inspiring collection that provides the ideal stimulus for young learners to explore the world around them.

Pupils will use technology alongside the museum’s collection to explore the wonderful world of seeds.

  • How are they planted?
  • How do they spread?
  • What is inside them?

 The Garden Museum has a large collection of seeds and tools that pupils will engage with.

These half-day sessions will take place at the Garden Museum.

There is a limited number of dates available, so please book early to avoid disappointment.

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