It's important for education and ed tech that technology is developed to support and enhance teaching.
Last summer, a report was published into how ed tech was viewed in the classroom.
The study, by BESA, found that teachers were the most valued source when it came to measuring the effectiveness of ed tech. Among the least influential were policy-makers and local authorities.
None of this should surprise us. Teachers’ expertise in pedagogy is why they fight unending battles with politicians over what works in teaching and learning, and what doesn’t, and they are usually proved right.
Teachers understand the value of research to help them be good teachers. They want to know what works and what will make them better at their job. Research evidence may not always tell policymakers what they want to hear, but for teachers’ it is a vital tool in their effectiveness.
How we make research accessible is, of course, another matter. A report published recently by the Education Endowment Foundation and reported on by Tes – "Teacher involvement in research has no impact on pupils’ outcomes" – found that membership of a learning community did not necessarily impact positively on teaching practice or make teachers any more likely to engage with research.
The reasons for this are many and varied. Accessibility to research can be challenging, even when the teacher has the time to study it. But who decides what is robust and reliable? And even if the evidence is valid and from a reputable source, how will a classroom practitioner know how to interpret and adapt it if they have never been taught how to do so?
Furthermore, with schools subjected to the government’s high stakes accountability measures, how long is it reasonable to wait before evidence-based practice is shown to yield results?
Part of school life
We know there is some excellent work going on in schools with ed tech. Whether it’s pupils learning how to use augmented reality in the classroom, or a school leader using technology effectively to work out the timetable or using it to communicate with parents, technology is no longer an expensive luxury hidden away in the computer room, but an integral part of school life.
In the meantime, we need to press on with providing opportunities for effective ed-tech development. We will only achieve that by equipping our school teachers with the skills and knowledge they need to be confident and effective users of ed tech. and introducing them to a world beyond the classroom, in which they learn how to apply research to improving teaching or the day to day functioning of the school.
We need to train school staff to be more reactive to academic research – and to identify good evidence. If you are a headteacher, it may help you to evaluate the use of ed tech in your school and make important decisions about its effectiveness.