As education technology continues to evolve, deciding what to implement in the classroom can be a challenge. Professor of Learner Centred Design at UCL in London, Rosemary Luckin, provides her tips on choosing the right technology for your school.
Education technology (ed-tech) is increasingly an integral part of teaching and learning. But deciding what to purchase and use – especially at a time of school budget constraints – can be daunting. Is it effective? How will my students benefit? Will it cut my workload? Does it represent value for money? These are all questions you might ask, but how can you get the best information from the people who want to sell you their technology? Here are some questions that you can ask any ed-tech company before you decide to buy:
This covers infrastructure, staff training and continuing professional development, the ongoing costs, and the sustainability of the purchase.
How long does it take the average educator to learn how to use and implement the product?
Is it necessary to purchase any additional software, etc, to increase the products’ potential?
What software is it compatible with?
What pedagogical training do you provide in respect of the integration of your product in schools?
How do you support schools to sustain and develop their use of the product over time?
The education value and specialisms
This area covers the core benefit the product offers. And, whether it’s going to make a tangible difference to the lives of your students; either on their needs today, or their skills for the future.
How does the product make educators’ lives easier?
Can you explain the product and its educational value in one sentence?
What support does your product provide for students for whom English is not their first language, or for students with special educational needs or disabilities?
How does your technology help to prepare young people for the jobs of tomorrow?
The research and evidence
This area helps you to know that your purchase is founded on principles of evidence. This is especially important given the increased accountability that schools face and the impact of austerity budgets.
Where and how was your product tested? Do you have any results from pilot studies?
How does your company draw on existing relevant research to ensure that its technology stays current and relevant to today’s real-world classrooms?
What research-based evidence do you have to prove that your product is effective?
How were teachers or educators involved in the design or creation stages of your product?
At a school level
It might also be useful to start the debate about ed-tech by conducting a thorough analysis of the educational needs that are a priority for your school and focusing on how ed-tech can be applied to these.
You can then work together to design a way to pilot a piece of promising ed-tech that addresses one of your priority needs.
It is also useful to conduct a survey about teachers’ confidence and competence with digital tools. One of the hardest decisions can be knowing when to switch off existing ed-tech – or provide additional training to staff/learners to optimise its uses – and the results of the survey can help with this decision.
All of these activities can help to keep the school community engaged and active in the processes of learning about and with ed-tech. Of course it’s also important to celebrate teacher and school achievements too.