The DfE EdTech strategy – abort, retry, fail?

Everything is always new in education technology. But the release of a new “EdTech Strategy” from just makes me feel even older than I already do – I remember the release of the last one, in 2005. Wonkhe reports.

The newer iteration is at least as focused on supporting the education technology industry as it is learners. Though in 2005 we did look to the “ICT industry” to bring forward innovations – particularly in the world of educational content – in 2019 we are looking at three clear commitments to support the industry hanging under the industrial strategy.

This is primarily a strategy aimed at getting technology into schools and universities. Where the text does address what actually happens in classrooms and lecture theatres, we see some indication of the contemporary hopes for an edtech revolution. We can cut educator workload by at least 20%. We can identify ways to improve “anti-cheating software” to help tackle the problem of essay mills.

There is a lot to “demonstrate” and “prove”. Can technology level the playing field for learners? Can technology support flexible professional development? Can technology improve the delivery of online basic skills for adults? Can the research community identify the best technology that is proven to help level the playing field for learners? DfE is are not sure.

Technology in education is already doing all of these things but has yet to provide the transformational moment that has been long promised. It is a useful tool, which in certain circumstances can benefit some groups of learners. There is already research (of variable quality, to be fair, but some very scholarly research) that sets this out.

But the whole strategy makes two fundamental errors. Firstly, it assumes that the benefits from new technology will be universal. And secondly, it fails to take any account of the vast amounts of existing technology in the education sector.

Look around the seminar room. An ageing tower PC is embedded in a small, locked cabinet with a wireless keyboard and mouse sitting on top of it. A projector points to a patch of wall where the old and nearly-useless electronic whiteboard used to hang. There’s a box of remote response devices in the store cupboard, next to an ancient set of VR goggles from the last time virtual reality was cool. An academic is late to arrive, having spent two hours uploading powerpoint slides to Blackboard. She forgets to start the lecture capture process and pauses during her introduction to do so.

You would think – with a decade and a half of at best limited success to reflect on – that we need to consider what technology actual educators would make use of. And if the answers are negative – not this, less of that – we should be respecting these expertise and experience-driven answers.

Read the full article  The DfE EdTech strategy – abort, retry, fail?

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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