The State of Technology in Education 2020/21

YEARS OF VALUABLE DATA

2020/21 UK&I EDITION

Now in its fifth year, with input from over 8,000 educators to date, our annual State of Technology in Education report is more important than ever — and with this year's interactive design, you can join the conversation. By gathering the opinions of over 2,000 educators during lockdown, we found out which strategies and technologies schools relied on and how COVID-19 will impact the future of learning. A hybrid approach, while ensuring the classroom remains the nucleus of learning, will create the flexibility needed to respond to the uncertainty of the coming months.

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It's been a challenging year so far. Still, over 80% of educators have identified technology as a great way to improve engagement in classrooms. Yet keeping pupils motivated, despite the huge reliance on tech, was a number one challenge during lockdown. As such, COVID-19 has forced a realism and pragmatism around tech use. Approaches have streamlined. We've seen what's truly useful and what's not: it's not about futuristic, start-up solutions, it's about using and evolving tried and tested tech. Tools that have pedagogy at their heart.

Where do you want to start?

Key findings from 2020/21:

The possibilities are enormous and I’m genuinely excited by this much needed shake up to education. A realisation that society needs teachers and the important role the profession plays which has been eroded over the years.

Strategy

Schools' strategic plans

This year, the education landscape has been fundamentally altered. That means it's a pivotal time in strategy setting, but teachers don't feel involved. This may be understandable given the constantly shifting landscape educators have been subjected to this year. But now's the time to take stock, facilitate feedback and elicit input.

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The focus on boosting student engagement with tech has grown 29% in five years, now a priority for 39% of schools.

YEARS OF VALUABLE DATA

Strategy

The headlines:

Using technology to engage pupils and boost collaboration has jumped up this year, but updating technology and providing technology training has significantly dropped.

Results and attainment are still the highest priority for the coming year. Staff training and updating technology are still low on the priority list.

What are your school's key priorities next year?

When it comes to technology, the focus on maximising online safety (48%) has increased. Boosting engagement (39%) is the second highest priority for all educators this year.

  • 43% of SLT members, however, believe technology should be prioritised as a tool for collaboration above everything else.

What does your school identify as a tech priority?

But not all school staff agree with these priorities. What else do they say their school should prioritise?

  • 28% of teachers say schools should focus more on teacher training.
  • 57% of IT staff believe schools should also prioritise updating their technologies.

Tech use

Embracing interactive learning

To find out how many teachers believe that technology helps them do a better job, skip to part two — Tech use.

Skip to next chapter

Who is involved in setting schools' strategic visions?

Headteachers continue to play the lead role in strategy setting: that's according to 76% of educators. Fewer than 40% tell us it's a collaborative project.

Who leads your school's strategy?

But only 50% of school staff confirm their school has a strategic vision.

But SLT members are far more confident in this than teachers or IT managers: 44% of teachers are unaware whether their school has a strategic vision or not, compared to just 12% of school leaders. This suggests school strategy is rarely communicated, particularly in local authority schools.

Does your school have a strategic vision?

I have been tasked with creating a vision which isn't acknowledged by SLT.

Overall, teachers don't feel involved in their school's strategy — 35% provide input, but almost 60% have no say whatsoever.

In such a transformative year for education, could a more collaborative approach to goal setting bring about positive benefits and holistic improvement, perhaps?

Teachers' roles in formulating school strategy (%)

Technology is important, but not instrumental.

When asked how significant technology is to achieving wider goals, over a third (35%) agree some tech is indeed important. Over 22% confirm that it's included in the strategy, but does not contribute to meeting wider objectives. At the same time:

Do schools have an IT strategy?

36% Only a third (36%) of schools confirm their school has an IT-specific strategy.

44% The largest proportion (44%) of respondents are unclear whether an IT strategy exists in their school.

Could the fast-tracked tech adoption this year see a refreshed IT roadmap emerge in the new academic year?

Technology is integral to the strategy but loses focus as the training of new IT is slow to disseminate to staff.

What does this tell us about 2020?

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  • The strategic prioritisation of online safety is unsurprising: schools were forced further online in 2020, teaching from a distance, and school leaders were expected to think fast about realistic threats posed by technology.

  • Video conferencing, while finding its moment in the sun over the course of lockdown, was an area of particular concern for IT staff and SLTs who faced issues with safeguarding and security. No standard approach was applied, so the gap in provisions from schools was huge. It was also problematic for teachers, who need face to face contact with pupils to get the most from edtech.

  • In many instances, school strategy setting is rarely a collaborative or communicated project, with the focus most commonly on school results. This presents a chance for gathering strategic input from teachers and IT staff, and setting more specific goals.

  • Teachers have become reliant on technology for basic lesson delivery in 2020. In doing so they have identified an opportunity to focus on training and development, and bringing their school's software and hardware up to date.

  • While front-of-class technology is often considered a basic requirement in schools, there continues to be a training gap. Schools could, however, focus on edtech manufacturers that offer related content for training and support, like Promethean.

Strategy

Trends over time

What are your school's key priorities next year?

Logo YEARS
OF VALUABLE
DATA

2020/21 UK&I EDITION

Our year-on-year data reveals a widening disconnect between the importance of teaching with technology and ensuring staff are well armed to do so.

  • The ability to boost engagement and collaboration with tech has been realised over the years — growing 28% and 18% respectively.

  • While MAT schools offer more robust training, the focus on updating technology and providing adequate training for teachers in local authority schools has significantly dropped — down 7% and 23% in the same period.

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2020

I believe technology will now feature as part of the school's strategy as a direct result of the pandemic.

Assistant/Deputy Head, Academy Secondary

London

2016

Too often technology is used as a pacifier in the classroom. Children's engagement in social media and gaming is significantly having a negative impact on many students' lives and time available for learning.

Deputy Head Teacher

Saint Helens

Should strategy be a collaborative project?

Find out from this headteacher why creating a community of problem solvers is essential.

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Have your say

Do you agree with these priorities, opinions and predictions? This year, you can join the conversation.

Tech use

Embracing interactive learning

Are IT managers schools' unsung heroes for 2020? With fast-tracked remote working deployment and a universal reliance on technology for basic teaching, the technical staff kept schools up and running. With this, there's a fresh perspective on school tech. Schools now recognise which tools truly aid learning and boost results, and which don't. This realism can be the first step to a refreshed tech roadmap.

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86% say tech should be a core part of learning. But a third admit they avoid using it because school hardware is often unreliable.

YEARS OF VALUABLE DATA

Tech use

The headlines:

2020 is the year edtech came home.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, almost 80% of educators agree that technology helped them do a better job in education this year. Some could argue it let them do a job at all.

Without technology at the moment the school would not function!

Technology helps me do my job better (%)

When it comes to boosting learning outcomes:

  • 84% have identified that technology is a great way to improve engagement.
  • 33% believe it can improve behaviour, too.

I find that technology allows me to bridge the knowledge gap between seeing and living concepts in the classroom. It can open doors to the impossible and improbable.

It's not unexpected that distance learning, apps and video conferencing software have seen huge uptick in popularity, this year.

In terms of hardware, however, traditional photocopiers, printers and desktops are still the most commonly used equipment in schools.

But if most educators agree that tech improves engagement and behaviour, shouldn't schools prioritise using future-proof tools at the heart of the learning experience instead?

Tech/ICT equipment available and used

Tools/strategies available and used

What does this tell us about 2020?

  • This year, schools were forced to rely on technology for basic lesson delivery, homework setting and marking. Thanks to this, remote teaching software and video conferencing solutions have come into their own, supporting teachers and pupils remotely. This, however, has presented its own challenges.
  • Despite this, video conferencing was minimally effective for learning during lockdown. Children learn through social interaction, so the classroom is and always will be the nucleus of the learning experience. The true benefits of tech are realised when the educator is there to combine it with appropriate, tried and tested learning methods.

Given classrooms have barely changed in 100 years, there's an entrenched traditionalism in schools that's hard to shake. Educators want to use modern technologies more, but updating their existing hardware is proving to be a bigger challenge.

A digital-first approach is needed, but it must be effective. Pupils thrive in a classroom environment and there are technologies available to support class-based learning in more ways than it is used.

Is it time school staff were more aligned?

Who is using which technologies in 2020?

I am confident with technology, but my school leadership's vision about technology is not strong; the reason always cited for not implementing is 'safeguarding'.

Which technologies do you use?

Which technologies do you use? Continued...

Training

Teacher training and school CPD

To find out how many teachers are satisfied with the level of tech training they receive, skip to part three — Training.

Skip to next chapter

I teach computer science, so I feel very confident with technology and am always willing to try something new.

Due to the unexpected school closures in early 2020, a large number of educators were required to work and teach remotely with almost no warning.

This pushed new technologies to the fore, such as remote teaching tools (used by nearly 80%) and video conferencing software like Zoom (used by over 55% of respondents).

What tech serves you best working from home?

Today, educators recognise that technology is invaluable in the classroom

  • 23% agree that technology is best used for teaching academic subjects, compared to 12% that agree it's best for non-academic areas like soft skills
  • 46% agree it enables students to develop in non-academic areas

But there's no patience for passing fads or tech-gimmicks — 94% of educators stand firm that tech should be used where it can be appropriately adapted to the learning situation.

Schools want to make more use of tech, but faulty hardware is an ongoing problem.

The vast majority of educators are confident, competent users of technology. They recognise the school-wide benefits of tech adoption, striving to innovate within their own learning practices.

Yet school technology is frequently considered less reliable than home tech, often due to its age. Of those who avoid using technology, 34% admit it's because it doesn't work. A similar number lacks the time or training to get the most out of it.

The biggest issue is repeated failure of technology in school as opposed to very rarely malfunctioning technology at home.

If tech is available but you don't use it, please tell us why %

I struggle because we massively lack the right technology and resources. The majority of our teachers lack subject knowledge.

Tech use

Trends over time

Attitudes towards technology over time

There's been wavering year-on-year confidence in using tech for learning.

More educators want to use tech to improve student engagement and behaviour this year. Also, fewer educators are struggling with tech: down 5%.

This means, teachers enthusiasm and overall tech skills are on the rise and educators are keen to get more from their tools.

Which of these strategies have you used this year?

Understandably, there's been a sudden, sharp increase in teachers and pupils working and learning remotely (up 51%) this year, as well as centrally available lesson content (20%).

Virtual experiences in the classroom, however, have gradually dropped since 2016 (down 15%).

Perhaps this year we will witness a unification of existing expertise and the skills adopted while working remotely. With that, renewed optimism about the integral role of the classroom, the educator and the learning tools at their fingertips.

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2020

I think technology is the way forward for the learning of this generation and am keen to be at the forefront of this.

Headteacher, Junior School

East England

2016

I work in primary and secondary schools, where the technological gap is huge! The secondary children definitely have more ideas about certain forms of technology than me.

Teacher

Rothwell

How effective is classroom edtech?

Find out why this headteacher thinks edtech is essential, but the people in your building matter more.

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Have your say

Do you agree with these priorities, opinions and predictions? This year, you can join the conversation.

Training

Teacher training and school CPD

2020 has forced schools to re-evaluate how they use technology for the basics: setting homework, teaching lessons, communicating with pupils. Now, with pupils back in classrooms, many educators would like technology to blend seamlessly with traditional teaching methods. Yet training is at a concerning all time low. Only 1% of schools are prioritising tech training. And 41% of respondents say staff have had to find time to train themselves.

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Providing tech training for teachers has dropped in priority by 23% over the past five years

YEARS OF VALUABLE DATA

Training

The headlines:

The need for base-level tech skills has risen this year. It's perhaps not surprising, then, that 41% of educators say they've had to find time to train themselves.

Only 11.5% of educators think full training is provided by their school.

Of all the school objectives identified for the coming year, teacher training is third from the bottom, prioritised over soft skills and updating technology only.

What are your school's key priorities next year?

School leaders share far more optimism about their school's provision of training than teachers and IT managers.

Does this gap point towards a need for more collaboration on training priorities, in future?

  • Staff training is a funding priority, according to 55% of school senior leaders and senior managers.
  • Only 30% of teachers and IT managers agree with the same statement.
  • Still, 41% say school staff are required to find time to train themselves, to some extent.

Is staff training a funding priority?

55% Staff training is a funding priority according to 55% of SLTs

30% Only 30% of teachers and IT managers agree with the same statement

Inset days are very consistently wasted by booking outside speakers who tick OFSTED boxes but offer very little value. I would love for staff to be included in the decision of Inset scheduling so we can help SLT ascertain what our needs are.

What types of training are being prioritised in schools?

  • Pupil safety (29%) and governmental changes (23%) are considered to be the most important aspects of staff training.
  • Just over 1% of schools identify technology training as a priority.
  • 41% of teachers disagree with their school's training priorities.

What does your school identify as a priority for teacher training?

Ask us what training we need or want. Do not assume that tablets for all staff is a good use of limited money.

Why has training fallen down the list of strategic priorities?

Training continues to be a complex issue — staff want more training but feel time and money are holding them back. Almost half of educators (49%) identify budgets as the main reason there's not more training provided at their school, followed by time restrictions.

Why isn't there more training at your school?

I am developing online materials but know that they could be so much better if I had more training in how to best use it and time to develop these materials fully.

What about technology training, specifically?

The majority of respondents (59%) admit that, while tech is available in their school, staff are not trained or provided any support.

  • Only 6% of educators are provided with full tech training.
  • 36% of SLT members believe the provision of tech training is adequate, compared to under 19% of teachers.

School Budgets

Costs and considerations

To find out how many IT staff are critical of their school's allocation of budget to technology, skip to part four — Budgets.

Skip to next chapter

What else should be prioritised, when it comes to staff training?

More group work and learning from each other. Sharing best practice and saving money.

Creating personal tech skills development time within the week, so it can be embedded fully into the lesson planning, learning and assessment processes.

Technology [training] would be nice. When teachers complain that the technology is 'broken', it is deemed to be broken and the fault of the IT Department, rather than educating them as to how they are not using hardware or software correctly.

Staff Training

Trends over time

What level of training is provided for the technology at your school?

Opinions on staff training have shifted over the years.

Unfortunately, according to our survey, the sentiment is increasingly negative.

  • The number that receives adequate training has gone down 11%.

  • The amount of school staff expected to teach themselves has gone up by 14%.

What are your school's training priorities?

What does this tell us about 2020?

We now know that real education takes place in the classroom. Students' learning has been seriously impacted whilst pupils were at home. COVID-19, however, has been the catalyst for change. Tech has been used for collaboration, hybrid and remote learning which presents a fresh opportunity for schools to take a digital first approach.

To assimilate these 2020 learnings into the classroom, however, teachers will need ongoing training to support it, or the benefits of these new skills could diminish.

But why has training plummeted? As teachers become more proficient with tech, seen in our survey, is the perceived need lower? Or have other goals simply taken priority?

  • The data above suggests that a combination is true — issues like online security and safeguarding have become increasingly pressing with the widespread use of online tools, all while teachers have become more and more confident with tech. All the while the number of educators that simply don't know their school's priorities has also skyrocketed.

  • Technologies and tools are constantly evolving. The more confident teachers become, the more they want to learn. Ongoing tech training is required to unite the tricks learnt during lockdown with long-term classroom learning goals.

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2020

I think lack of training has only become evident during the current crisis. It is needed even more when we are back in the classroom.

Head of Department/Faculty, Local Authority Secondary

North West

2016

Teachers are not consulted about technology, it is just brought in. We are also often not trained for it.

Teacher

Bristol

Could tech training be improved?

Find out why this teacher thinks communication could improve tech training in schools.

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School Budgets

Costs and considerations

At the beginning of April 2020, the UK government announced it would make funding available to schools to support them with costs associated with COVID-19. However, our survey suggests that many educators were already concerned about the impact of budget on strategy, before the extra pressure of coronavirus hit. This ongoing financial issue, however, has forced schools to invest more carefully in tech that genuinely supports their strategic objectives.

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The number of educators that believe money is invested in the right edtech tools has gone up by 13% in five years.

YEARS OF VALUABLE DATA

Budgets

The headlines:

The use of technology in school at the minute is a frustrating affair. Much of the equipment, both pupil and teacher, is out of date or budget so performance is hampered. Where there is up-to-date equipment it is restricted by knowledge or held back by outdated equipment, e.g. IWBs connected to outdated or under-specced laptops that can't keep up with them.

Budgets continue to be an overriding concern for school staff, despite additional government funding.

Over half (54%) of senior leaders say budget is still a key factor when devising their school's strategy — a further 38% agree it's a consideration.

  • Budgets are expected to make next year's strategic goals harder to achieve, according to 45% of SLT members.
  • All staff members are aligned on these budgetary issues, with a similar number of teachers and IT staff voicing the same strategic concerns.
  • Salaries will make up the largest spend of schools' budgets next year, according to 60% of educators. A further third admit they're not clear where the school's money is spent.

Much more budget needs to be provided for schools to develop their technology and ensure all children have equal access to it.

How do staff feel about the budget set aside for technology?

Of all survey answers, the greatest proportion of educators agree (37%) that too little is being spent on technology in schools. IT staff, however, are the most critical of all: 55% say there is too little budget, compared to a third of teachers.

This disparity makes sense, however, as the majority of teachers have no visibility on their school's tech budget — 45%.

How do you feel about your school's budget for technology?

After 3 years of a deficit budget we are finally at a balanced budget. However there is no budget for further IT expenditure. The deficit budget was in large part due to very expensive leasing arrangements.

School Budgets

Trends over time

How do you feel about your school's budget for technology?

Over the past five years, most educators agree too little budget is allocated to technology. This sentiment peaked in 2019 at 46%.

  • 5 years ago, 29% of educators believed their school's tech budget allocation was at the right level; that number has dropped by 16% today.

  • IT managers have lost the most confidence in their schools' IT budgets: 46% were happy with the level of investment in 2016, yet only 19% say the same 5 years on.

  • But it seems that schools are making smarter tech investments overall. The number that say money is incorrectly invested has gone down by 13% in the same period.

What does this tell us about 2020?

Budgets continue to be a disagreeable subject for educators. Almost all staff agree that financial constraints are holding back their school's potential and their pupils' access to the best educational tools. This hasn't changed in half a decade.

While the weight of concern around budgets hasn't lightened, it's forced schools to think strategically when it comes to technology. There might not be enough funding, but more schools are making smarter investments. They are getting better at repurposing existing tech or choosing upgradable tools with lower total cost of ownership.

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2020

I constantly advocate for the use of technology within the learning environment but lack of confidence from other teachers and limited budgets means it is not always possible.

Teacher/Senior Teacher, Academy Secondary

North East

2016

There is not enough money to keep up to date with the outside progress in technology. By the time schools have bought new equipment it is out of date. We are always playing catch up.

Teacher

London

Is there enough budget for tech?

A headteacher explains why there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to low tech budgets.

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The State of Technology in Education 2020 / 21

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Technology is essential to everyday life. But is it integral to education? With insight from 2,000 senior leaders, teachers and IT managers, this report reveals where schools are strategically aligned and where divisions lie—from workload and wellbeing to budgets and training.

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