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Edtech: using technology in education

Edtech is disrupting traditional learning practices, here's what it is and how teachers can use it in education


What is edtech?

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How has modern teaching evolved?

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Does technology improve education?

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Importance of digital literacy in the classroom

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What is virtual learning?

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How can you maximise your school’s edtech investments?

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What is the difference between home tech and edtech?

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Is BYOD in schools good for learning?

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Are there any drawbacks to using edtech?

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“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” John Dewey

Teaching practices in schools are constantly evolving, but one thing remains unchanged; a child’s personal development is inherently linked to their school education.

Teachers work incredibly hard to deliver positive results, develop effective assessment practices and engage their pupils throughout the day. Yet teaching is challenging; higher expectations are being placed on educators, with the requirement for more paperwork and in-depth administrative duties.

While the concept of school education has remained, on the most part, the same for centuries, new technologies and smarter devices are emerging in schools.

Edtech is disrupting traditional learning practices. Today, technology in schools is enhancing teaching methods, easing school administrative burdens and providing new, innovative ways to engage pupils of all abilities.

But what exactly is edtech? How does it improve the education landscape?

What is edtech?

Education technology — or edtech — is any form of digital learning, application, online or mobile learning platform, software or device available for the modern learning environment.

Just as we are seeing a digital revolution in the consumer and business world, edtech is pushing the boundaries of traditional teaching. Emerging technologies like Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and innovative gamification techniques are creating an entirely new learning environment, underpinned and supported by the teaching excellence we’ve always witnessed in the UK education profession.

“Worldwide, the combined education and training industries account for spending of more than $4 trillion, representing a huge 84% increase since 2000.”

Edtech gives teachers greater scope to deliver more personalised learning, collect pupil assessment data, and optimise their teaching for the benefit of all their pupils. Technology in education could change the face of the modern school.

Interested in the latest trends and developments in edtech? Download our annual report The State of Technology in Education.

How has modern teaching evolved?

Some traditional educators are wary of edtech; it’s absolutely true, technology can never replace teachers. Digital and e-learning is no substitute for face-to-face education. In 2018, education secretary Damian Hinds said that technology would make teachers’ jobs easier, but would not replace them.

Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” Bill Gates

At the same time, modern learning techniques have evolved over time. As digital natives, our younger generations respond exceptionally well to technology when it’s incorporated into the new learning environment. Edtech has given teachers more tools at their fingertips, it allows them to bring learning to life, and most importantly, it saves them time with assessment and their administrative burdens.

Want to see how modern edtech is helping teachers enhance their learning practices in the classroom? View infographic.

Does technology improve education?

Edtech can significantly enhance the learning environment for pupils, but it has to be used correctly to do so.

“Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event.”
Heidi Hayes Jacobs

In a landscape of severe budget cuts and squeezed resources, there’s very little argument for schools investing technology for the sake of owning the latest devices. Used thoughtfully, however, edtech can help teachers improve their pupils’ motivation, engage mixed-ability classes and inspire students that lack motivation.

While technology has been used to develop soft skills in STEM classes for a number of years, the benefits can be seen across the whole curriculum. At the same time, there’s a clear adoption gap across subjects. Our annual State of Technology in Education report revealed that only 3.6% of teachers believe technology is being used to teach geography; one of the lowest results across the curriculum.

Stephen Breslin of Glasgow Science Centre discusses on Tes the role of technology on future learning. He believes educators of all subjects must change the way they teach, to keep pace with a fast-changing world.

“The key skills our young people are going to have will be based around creativity, communication, and innovative and entrepreneurial thinking.”
Stephen Breslin, Glasgow Science Centre

Find out how technology is being used in schools to create a better geography classroom.Read guide.

Importance of digital literacy in the classroom

The younger generation will leave school to enter a digital-first world, and will feel acute pressure to demonstrate tech-savviness to further their careers, as a result. Ensuring that children develop the necessary IT skills for their futures is a core aspect to a school education.

Developing students’ critical thinking and social engagement with edtech is an essential ingredient to modern pedagogy. The education landscape is becoming increasingly tech-centric, in light of this. Digital literacy isn’t just about putting technology in the hands of students. Teachers need to find creative ways to apply digital learning into existing pedagogical methods and inspiring learning scenarios.

Digital literacy also also means giving pupils the necessary skills to navigate the online world responsibly, understand e-safety, and learning to identify ‘fake news’.

Why not, for example, encourage digital creativity and entry level web skills by encouraging  your class to create a blog or wiki page?

“Teaching in the Internet age means we must teach tomorrow’s skills today.” Jennifer Fleming

Read our full guide to digital literacy and how to use edtech to foster technical skills in the classroom. Read blog.

What is virtual learning?

Educators are frequently adopting emerging edtech like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) to enhance their teaching methods, engage mixed-ability classes, and to motivate their pupils. These technologies in schools are categorised as virtual learning.

The number of free apps designed for virtual learning across the entire curriculum is growing every day. Yet our recent report, The State of Technology in Education revealed that a number of schools are failing to use emerging tech outside of STEM classes.

VR and AR are creating multi-sensory, immersive experiences with the potential to change the world of learning forever. VR helps pupils to understand complex subjects and theories, complimenting teachers’ current teaching methods. With the help of Google Cardboard and Google Expeditions, students can visit genuine locations in a virtual world, and learn about places they would otherwise be unable to visit. VR fuses class-based learning with hands on field work, entirely transforming the modern classroom.

Learn how VR is being used in the modern classroom and why it is engaging pupils like never before. Read blog.

How can you maximise your school’s edtech investments?

According to Gartner, the spending on technology in schools in the UK was around £900 million every year for the last few years. This year, however. the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) has reported that schools will spend nearly 3% more on ICT in 2018-19 than in 2017-18.

“The most important thing that schools can do is not use technology in the curriculum more, but to use it more effectively.” John G. Palfrey

There’s a concern, however, that schools are investing in technology without a clear understanding of it can truly help improve learning, and tech is sitting in schools, unused, as a result. At the same time, a number of educators believe their schools are investing in the wrong technologies, or have insufficient budget for edtech.

According to our annual research; over half (55%) of teachers believe that edtech improves behaviour and engagement levels. Investment in edtech is growing as a result.

So, how can schools get more from their edtech investments?

Firstly, a school challenge or goal should first be identified — better attainment or improved attendance for example — and then appropriate software, hardware or applications could be sourced to solve this issue. This will minimise the sense that teachers must use technology purely for the sake of it. At the same time, collaborate with school staff to work out where edtech is failing to meet school needs, or needs improvement.

Secondly, teachers need sufficient training on their new edtech. Allocating resources to educate staff on the benefits and features of available edtech will go a long way to improving the impact it has on your school’s performance.

Want to know how to improve learning with technology by maximising your schools edtech investments? Read blog.

What is the difference between home tech and edtech?

With more than half of British families owning a tablet, smart technology is now a household commodity. Children are growing up surrounding by devices, taking for granted the impact it has on their development. And the problem with technology, according to Bill Gates, is that it can be addictive to young minds.

It has been argued that AI and use of other home tech can impact a child’s educational development. Yet, according to our report, The State of Technology in Education, over half of learning time in UK classrooms is now spent using technology, with incredibly positive results.

So, what’s the difference between technology used at home, and edtech in schools?

The key difference between edtech and home tech is control and supervision.

In schools, technology use is carefully monitored by teachers. Edtech fosters creativity, collaborative learning and encourages critical thinking. At home, meanwhile, children are more likely to use devices alone, unsupervised. This can expose them to sensitive content and lead to heavy reliance on social media. Modern education, however, is rarely confined to the classroom; the world of digital learning is widening and seeping into home technologies. Used responsibly, devices in the home can also foster positive and educational use of technologies, integrating edtech with home tech.

Find out more about the importance of responsible use of technology in the home. Read blog

Is BYOD in schools good for learning?

With tighter budgets in the education profession, schools are looking at different ways to integrate edtech into classrooms at a lower cost. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a popular budget-friendly solution.

BYOD has positive results on education and learning, such as:

  • BYOD allows pupils to access education apps and resources
  • Pupils are more motivated to work with their own devices
  • BYOD encourages pupils to be more organised
  • BOYD fosters a sense of responsibility and self-motivation
  • Pupils are encouraged to continue to learn at home

In UK secondary schools, almost 30% have BYOD in place. For pupils to have a cohesive, seamless BYOD experience, however, schools must be mindful of their IT infrastructure and ability to support heavy network usage. Some teachers are resistant to using home tech in the classroom, concerned pupils will be too distracted by other apps on their devices.

The downsides to BYOD in schools are:

  • Potential threat to networks from viruses or malicious content
  • BYOD can cause social divisions
  • Pupils may be distracted using their own devices
  • Additional bandwidth is required to support widespread device usage
  • Parents have to supplement the school’s hardware costs

Learn more about BYOD strategies in schools, and find out how it supports modern learning. Read blog.

Are there any drawbacks to using edtech?

Edtech is bringing positive pedagogical experiences to UK schools; digital literacy, collaborative learning and improving engagement across schools. But are there any drawbacks to using edtech? On the whole, when used responsibly, there are very few cons to technology in schools but it has to be used correctly.

“The technology itself is not transformative. It’s the school, the pedagogy, that is transformative.” Tanya Byron

Could technology replace teachers?

Some teachers worry that edtech will replace the education workforce. While automation is certainly rendering some jobs obsolete, and edtech is streamlining admin processes in school, teaching can never be fully automated. The nuanced nature of understanding mixed-ability classes and developing pupils’ soft skills, helping children flourish as individuals are not things that can be achieved by an algorithm.

Does edtech compromise security?

Personal data protection is a hot topic; technology does increase the chances a school may suffer a cyber or ransomware attack, compromising student data. Applications, however, are well encrypted today and modern, up-to-date firewalls are incredibly robust. As long as schools invest in good security management, the risk is minimal.

Is technology in schools a distraction?

When used mindlessly, technology offers little positive impact on pupils’ development. Social media and online games are incredibly distracting, and can expose children to dependency on devices for social validation. Edtech, however, is about using technology in schools under controlled, supervised and responsible conditions. Educators must take positive steps to understand the tech at their fingertips, learn how it can enhance their teaching, and provide an inspiring learning environment.

When used correctly, edtech in schools is not distracting, it’s a platform for providing enhanced skills and advanced educational development.