Leading UK voices in edtech argue we have reached a pivotal moment in adoption and innovation

Some of the best minds in the education technology sector came together, at the annual Westminster Education Forum Policy Conference, to discuss standards, quality and accessibility, the experience of lockdown and next steps for edtech strategy. We have put together some of the key takeaways from the event which have highlighted an undeniable need to capitalise on some of the incredible learnings from the past year.

The forum was chaired by Rt Hon Lord Willetts, who was joined by a number of keynote speakers including Caroline Wright, Director General of BESA and Ty Goddard, Chair of EdTech UK.

Priorities for edtech strategy post-pandemic

Caroline summarised how the EdTech Strategy, launched in 2019, was a baseline knowledge for teachers on edtech and how it could enhance SEN education. Over the course of the pandemic there has been a period of significant change, where educators have enhanced their technology skills even further, whilst simultaneously delivering remote learning.

“We need a new edtech strategy, we need to think longer term about what has been achieved so far, how we can embed that and how we can move it forward. And I think collaboration is the key – I don’t think we can continue to have a command from the front control style of leadership across the sector. I think it is very much about looking at how we engage schools. Schools know what has worked, they’re doing it, they’re living it,” said Caroline.

The response by the education sector was commended by Caroline, particularly how edtech companies rose to the challenge. Between the short period of March to June 2020, BESA calculated around £30 million of free resources and support had been offered to schools in the UK.

BESA believes that there are five key elements that need to be considered during planning a post-pandemic edtech strategy:

  • Placing educators and industry at the heart of the development for a new edtech strategy
  • Industry support for edtech training and CPD
  • Edtech innovation to solve new challenges and reduce workload
  • Quality content to help address catch-up and skills shortages (teachers and students)
  • International collaboration.

Caroline concluded by highlighting the importance of training and CPD as the sector moves forward. By enhancing the knowledge already learned throughout the pandemic this far, there is real potential to improve efficiencies, reduce workload and ultimately save educators valuable time.

The edtech sector today and prospects for the future

Ty opened by saying: “I want to celebrate the role, adaptability, innovation and commitment, of school leaders, teachers and indeed young people. They have adapted – and adopted – technology to support teaching and learning, and it has not all been easy. It has probably been the biggest adoption and use cycle of edtech that we have ever seen.”

Acknowledging all experiences were not uniform, Ty commented on the “vast landscape” and the important lessons that have been learned about the neglect of digital and investment in recent years, including digital poverty in the UK.

Ty stressed the need to celebrate the strides that have been made but also recognise areas the sector can improve. Elements alluded to include a gap in digital professional qualifications in teacher training and CPD.

“What we need to see is profound learning about how edtech can support teachers, support learners and support institutions, but also begin to show us a glimpse of how teaching and learning can change and can be supported by edtech - where appropriate, used with purpose and used with evidence,” added Ty.

What next?

Lord Willetts opened the forum proposing: “It is possible that edtech will lead to a rethink of pedagogy,” and indeed the contributions from keynote speakers put a spotlight on the wealth of potential and opportunity there is for edtech to bolster pedagogy post-pandemic.

Lord Willetts identified five key action points from the opening half of the forum:

  1. Digital connectivity – gaps still need to be addressed in the availability of tech and getting online.
  2. The role of Ofsted – should be actively promoting and assessing online education.
  3. Teacher training – taking advantages of new CPD opportunities and a need to incorporate digital as part of education training for new teachers.
  4. Harnessing the power of data – using data for research to identify effective pedagogy.
  5. An ethical framework – the need to move to an ethical regulatory framework or code of ethics for online learning.

Laurence Boulter, Naace Chair, attended the event and has commented: “The forum discussions have affirmed the need to capitalise on what is a rare opportunity to substantially elevate the adoption of technology in schools - and innovation of its use, enhancing teaching methods and improving learning outcomes. Edtech has the power to make future education even more inclusive and resilient for both educators and students.

“Strategy is incredibly important in collating valuable input, formulating plans and monitoring progress. Training and CPD will continue to be a key enabler to success, promoting best use of technology and giving educators the tools and confidence to continue to innovate.”

Watch the full Westminster Education Forum Policy Conference here.

To date, over 14,000 schools have used the Naace Self-Review Framework to identify where they are in their technology strategy, plan next steps and record their progress. Find out more about the Naace Self-Review Framework and how it could help your school here.

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