The government’s EdTech Strategy 2019: a good start for schools?

London CLC responds to the government’s new EdTech Strategy and argues that context – and funding – is everything.

Computing Support

The government launched its EdTech Strategy this week, designed to help tackle 10 key education challenges including reducing teachers’ marking workload, boosting training opportunities and levelling the playing field for people with special educational needs. The strategy also announces a new EdTech Leadership Group, revives the tech try-before-you-buy service LendEd, suggests new online training opportunities and announces a partnership with Nesta to find technological solutions for essay marking, formative assessment, parental engagement and timetabling technology. It helpfully links to case studies where edtech is making a difference in England’s schools and colleges.

A cautious welcome – but context is crucial

On the whole, London CLC welcomes this new strategy (though to what extent it is either new or, in fact, a strategy is up for debate). However, context is crucial. It should be clear by now that simply introducing technology into teachers’ lives will not necessarily result in what it is intended to do – in this case, reducing teacher workload. The risk that tech leads to unnecessary monitoring of data (leading to more work) is something about which schools should be mindful. Introducing a technology needs to be carefully thought out and it must have an identified and stated purpose and need, whether it is for admin or teaching and learning. Specifically, when technology is used in the classroom, it always needs an agreed pedagogy, as last week’s Education Endowment Foundation guidance report on Using Digital Technology to Improve Learning highlights (read more on that here: technology is not an end in itself). That vital focus on supporting learners is not immediately apparent in this strategy.

Too much power to vested interests?

In his speech launching the strategy at the Schools and Academies Show Damian Hinds talked about schools’ “cupboards of shame” full of unused tech. At London CLC we help schools avoid this common pitfall by working with teachers to test and trial new equipment and resources, lending kit to schools, providing examples of where technology enhances learning (and modelling it). That’s why we focus on the context rather than the technology. We always have a dialogue with school leaders and teachers about what they want to achieve and then – and only then – help them find the cheap or free technology solutions which might help. Will the ‘leading tech companies’ the government is inviting to make recommendations take the same objective approach? Or the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), the trade association for the UK’s education suppliers, which is highlighted as a partner in the strategy?

In addition, and particularly in relation to the very necessary aim of reducing teachers’ workloads, it is crucial to identify the non-tech factors in play, such as the influence of the senior leadership team and head teacher in respect of what is prioritised in terms of teacher workload. Local policy, practices and processes in any individual school, or even classroom, cannot be ignored in the drive to tech as they will always take precedence if not running in parallel.

CPD is critical

The strategy’s aim for “teachers to feel supported to use technology through high-quality continued professional development, and to have understanding of what is available and access to evidence of what works” is to be applauded. The links to Chartered College and EEF are a wise move. We see the impact every week on teachers, children and the wider school community, of the teacher CPD sessions we run at London CLC, which range from using technology for evidence and assessment to the ways that digital tools can be used in subject specific teaching such as English, maths or the arts and humanities.  Our TechPathways programme, funded by the Mayor of London, offers training for educators of 11-24-year-olds to bridge the skills gap between education and the 21st-century jobs market.

The strategy ranges widely, particularly in the ‘lifelong learning’ section, and we have seen firsthand the difference that widening accessibility and improving delivery of online basic skills training for adults (challenge nine) can make, through our Digital Champions project. According to the recent Carnegie Trust report on digital inclusion, Switched On, 10% of households have no access to the internet and 11.3 million people in the UK lack digital skills. Digital exclusion has far-reaching impacts, with digital skills and access are becoming fundamental to participating in society, accessing services and connecting with friends and family. Our three-year Digital Champions project with Lambeth was a huge success, delivering more than 2000 sessions, reaching more than 1200 people and seeing significant increases in knowledge and confidence. These kinds of projects work – but they need funding to do so.

The verdict

Which brings us to, finally, money. While £10m sounds like a large sum, if it was divided between England’s primary and secondary schools alone (and don’t forget that the strategy covers schools, colleges and universities) that’s less that £500 per school for edtech.

Our verdict? A welcome start that needs more emphasis on context and learners and less on the edtech industry. Oh, and of course, more money.

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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.

14/06/22,
09:15
- 15:30
EYFS, KS1, KS2
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.

Presentations

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.

24/06/22,
09:30
- 11:30
KS1, KS2
Subject leaders, Teachers...

Upcoming Special projects

The News Project
25/11/21,
09:30
- 14:25
KS2

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
21/02/22,
-
KS1

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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