Teachers most influential when it comes to choosing educational technology

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The opinion of classroom teachers is what counts most when it comes to educational technology (edtech) recommendations, according to a new report from the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA).

The report, published during London EdTech Week (19-23 June), found that 44 per cent of primary school respondents felt teachers in their school provided the most valued recommendations, as did 36 per cent of secondary school respondents.

The greatest demand for edtech in primary schools is for parental communications; in secondary schools it is classroom content. Only a third of schools feel there is sufficient information available to assess the efficacy of edtech, but there is no appetite for a government body to advise on it.

The report features survey work undertaken by the National Education Research Panel (Nerp) on ICT leaders and decision-makers from 454 primary schools and 252 secondary schools in England. Special schools were not included.

The least influential source across all schools was England’s Department for Education (DfE) (seven per cent in primaries and four per cent in secondaries), with local education authorities — once an influential source of advice — also close to the bottom of the list.

Key findings include:

  • The edtech solution most in demand in primary schools is parental communications (27 per cent of respondents), with demand for learning management solutions also relatively high (18 per cent).
  • Overall demand for edtech solutions in secondary schools is higher than identified in the primary sector, with significantly more demand for classroom content (39 per cent), training (35 per cent) and assessment (28 per cent).
  • There is insufficient information available for schools to assess the efficacy of edtech systems or content solutions. Only 11 per cent of primary schools and 10 per cent of secondary schools said there is ‘definitely’ enough information.
  • Schools strongly disagree with the idea that there needs to be a new government agency to offer advice, following the closure of the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA) in 2011: 85 per cent of secondary schools disagree with the idea, as do 62 per cent of primary schools.
  • Senior leaders and ICT leaders in primary schools are most likely to identify teacher willingness to use edtech as a key obstacle or constraint in making more use of edtech systems or content solutions. Linked to this is teachers understanding the benefits to be gained from these solutions. In comparison the lack of budget availability is less of an issue for the majority of schools.
  • Overall, secondary schools are less likely than primary schools to identify obstacles and constraints; however, like the primary sector, there is an issue with teachers’ willingness to use edtech.

Caroline Wright, Director General, BESA said:

Naturally, teachers highly value the recommendations of their colleagues when it comes to deciding what EdTech product is best for them. It is only natural, given they have first-hand experience of what is working in their classrooms.

However, it is important that the wide range of edtech solutions are fully considered, and information needs to be available to make an evidence-based decision. I would advise firstly enquiring whether the edtech provider signs up to the BESA Code of Practice, developed in consultation with teachers to ensure quality products being offered.

It is also important that the industry works closely with both schools and academics alike to ensure that a strong evidence base is developed to show what edtech offerings work, and what doesn’t. This is why BESA is delighted to be working with the EDUCATE Programme at the UCL Institute of Education to catalyse the development of evidence-based edtech products and services, helping start-ups to use research evidence to improve and evaluate their products.

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Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

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