Last week on Twitter, the DfE made the announcement of a new Educational Technology (‘EdTech’) Strategy. The press release contains the links to the full strategy document and a helpful 4-page crib sheet with the key points summarised for readers.
Personally, I was very pleased to see the publication of this document and the approaches it suggests.
At ESS, we are completely focussed on building software and services that create better outcomes for learners in all sectors of education, whether they are in schools, colleges or universities. And, here, from the DfE is a strategy that has very much the same aims at its heart and recognises that EdTech has a role to play in driving efficiency in educational institutions and supporting teachers, lecturers and all those working in education to deliver more for their learners.
If you are reading this, and have been around for a while (like me!) then you might remember the last such strategy called ‘Harnessing Technology’, then labelled as an ‘e-strategy’, which helped focus education on the development of a digital and communication infrastructure and really heralded the move to ‘online’ solutions and services, and the importance of what has since been an unstoppable transformation across education in the last 15 years.
There is still some mention of ‘infrastructure’ in the new strategy – however, this is now less of a focus. We all think of internet access today as a utility – like an electricity, water or gas supply. It’s not 100% true across the nation, but it’s rare now for me to visit anywhere that does not have fast reliable internet access. Don’t we all get a bit grumpy when, for whatever reason, we ‘can’t get on the WiFi’? Ten years ago, getting on WiFi was (to me at least) like an amazing magic trick, and one that we have become completely used to. Now, we are again on the edge of the 5G ‘revolution’ (or so the mobile telephone companies would like us to believe) but most schools, colleges and universities already boast more connectivity than they know what to do with.
And, in my view, it is the ‘knowing what to do with it’ part that is important in this new EdTech Strategy. Now the digital infrastructure is largely there, what should educational institutions be doing with it? How should they be using it to improve the life chances of the students they have in their care? How are they going to use EdTech to improve outcomes for learners?
In August last year, Damian Hinds set out his ‘EdTech’ challenge which challenged EdTech companies like SIMS to “launch an education revolution for schools, colleges and universities….to help tackle the five biggest issues facing teachers today.” I wrote a blog about that at the time, explaining then why I thought ESS was perfectly placed to help with some of the challenges set by the Secretary of State. Since then, we have been working closely with colleagues at BESA, supporting the LearnED Roadshows and LendED programme in schools as one part of our response to the EdTech challenge.
So, given the earlier ‘EdTech Challenge’, it is not a surprise that inside the strategy document you’ll read about the desire for a clearer vision around the use of EdTech to solve REAL problems in schools, colleges and universities in England. Examples given include using EdTech to save time on preparing, marking and analysing data in schools, to looking at how anti-plagiarism software can help ensure rigour of assessment in colleges and universities.
It is good news too that the planned actions for developing the use of EdTech are wrapped up in further activities that support ongoing professional development, building skills capability, improved digital security and supporting lifelong learning.
Finally, and maybe most exciting of all, the Strategy talks of “new EdTech Leadership Group, made up of representatives across the education sector and industry to continue to drive this agenda forward, find new ways to collaborate.” It mentions “a series of innovation competitions to promote product development in areas where the existing market offer is not yet well developed” and it suggests the creation of “leading ‘demonstrator’ schools and colleges to exemplify how these technologies can be used to best effect”.
At ESS, we look forward to working with the DfE, partner companies, BESA and most importantly, a range of schools, colleges and universities to turn some of the aspirations mentioned in the strategy into reality.