The work of the UCL EDUCATE programme has been highlighted in a major £10 million government initiative to improve the use and development of EdTech in schools.
The strategy, ‘Realising the potential of technology in education: A strategy for education providers and the technology industry’, published today (3 April) by the Department for Education, aims to help schools improve and increase their use of EdTech in teaching and learning, as well as in practical ways to ease teacher workload, and to promote the effective development of EdTech by innovators.
Launching the strategy at the Schools and Academies Show 2019 in London, Damian Hinds, the Secretary of State for Education, said that EdTech was one of the “single most important elements in the educational arsenal”. But it also presented the sector with unique challenges, because it was often seen to increase, as well as decrease, teacher workload.
Mr Hinds told visitors to the Show that every school had a “cupboard of shame” in which it had stored EdTech long since forgotten or which had “seemed like a good idea” at the time but was not being used. Schools needed to embrace what technology had to offer and its different applications in the classroom and beyond.
He said education needed to embrace technology the way other sectors had, or it risked being left behind, but it was also important for EdTech developers to “come up with more precisely engineered solutions for the education sector”.
The strategy includes a call to industry, the English education sector and academia to show, using technology, whether it can deliver 10 key challenges by 2021, including improving parental engagement, cutting teacher workload and how AI can be used in online teaching and training.
UCL EDUCATE features in the strategy document under the chapter on ‘Developing a Dynamic EdTech Business Sector’, and outlines its work and unique focus on evidence-based EdTech development.
Dr Alison Clark-Wilson, UCL EDUCATE’s Principal Research Lead, said: “We welcome the government’s commitment to ensuring a pipeline of innovation and encouraging scale-up of proven products and services.
“Our programme aims to support some of the most imaginative and creative young companies to do just this, by helping them to think through how to gather the evidence that their products are working whilst they build them.
“Consequently, the proposed test-bed schools and colleges mentioned in the strategy are just what we need to enable this participatory research to take place, which will better ensure that the needs of teachers, lecturers, parents and of course, learners, are met.”
Dr Clark-Wilson said there was scope for the creation of further initiatives to run alongside the Government’s support of BESA’s LearnEd scheme, which brings together teachers and industry to showcase products and best practice. These ‘HorizonEd’ or ‘FrontierEd’ schemes would enable education leaders to see the EdTech that was on the horizon and still at a conceptual stage, reflecting the foresight and innovation taking place within the sector.
The UCL EDUCATE programme has also already implemented some of the strands of the strategy, including developing an approach for teachers to both conduct and feed back on small pilot evaluations of EdTech, enabling them to contribute their research methods and outcomes to the education community.
Dr Clark-Wilson added: “We take up the DfE challenges – but also add our own meta-challenge, which is for the EdTech community to strive to develop the research methodologies to help everyone make sense of when, if, how, why and whether EdTech impacts on the quality of teaching and learning for teachers and learners of all ages, backgrounds and contexts.”