EdTech could transform teaching and learning, but only if teachers – not companies and developers – own it
Too many teachers don't like technology. As a teacher who trains other primary teachers how to use technology, I find this frustrating because, with the right approach, it can completely transform teaching and learning. I have seen first-hand the distant relationships that can exist between teachers and technology, and can see that – in some cases, at least – major therapy will be needed to get things moving.
I'm a big fan of the Mark Anderson, also known as the ICTEvangelist, and his stance on edtech: he says the focus should be on teaching first and technology second. One of the major issues is that the term "edtech" is actually an umbrella term that can be broken down into three categories:
Users want to learn something and are usually happy to pay for a premium service. The money usually comes out of their own pockets and the technology has a direct impact on their lives. An example of this type of tech is Memrise, an online learning tool with courses created by its community.
Companies creating these kinds of apps tend to have more success in the consumer market than in schools, which still focus on teaching in large groups. Schools are slow-moving vehicles that often cannot adapt their practices quickly enough for LearnerTech companies to spend valuable time and money trying to attract them or fit within their rigid systems. But, as a result, teachers and students may be missing out on opportunities to accelerate progress.
This is technology that is adopted by a school's senior leadership team (SLT). SLTTech is predominantly about efficacy, accountability, data and analysis – and therefore often isn't often seen by teachers. This type of edtech usually focuses on crunching numbers, although there are notable exceptions such as Show My Homework.
The trouble with this type of tech is that it is, by its nature, usually introduced from the top down and can be unpopular with staff. The majority of the tech in this area is concerned with data, yet, in an NUT survey about teachers' views on their excessive workloads, 70% of teachers cited excessive data entry and analysis as a cause.
This is the strand of EdTech that, in my experience, has the biggest impact in the classroom. In a world of tight budgets and cuts, SLTs can struggle or be reluctant to pay for it, especially since its impact often can't be measured with accuracy. Teachers understandably resent paying out of their own pockets and so will pass up on TeacherTech that isn't free – and who can blame them?
The result is that the dialogue between ed and tech is disjointed and dominated by people outside the classroom. Perhaps if teachers could coin TeacherTech for themselves – and get some momentum (and cash) behind it – we will be able to take advantage of the the incredible opportunity that we have in front of us: to harness technology to radically improve teaching and learning.