• Saturday , 23 October 2021

Will the pandemic drive edtech sales in the long-term?

Promethean’s State of Technology in Education research project has been updated for 2020 / 2021 It’s wider reaching and promises to be more insightful than ever. This year the research gathered opinions from over 2,000 educators across the UK & Ireland. Here are a selection of the most important conclusions and some observations from AV News.

Now in its fifth year, with input from over 8,000 educators to date, Promethean’s annual State of Technology in Education report is more important than ever. By gathering the opinions of over 2,000 educators during lockdown, Promethean found out which strategies and technologies schools relied on and how COVID-19 will impact the future of learning. A hybrid approach, while ensuring the classroom remains the nucleus of learning, will create the flexibility needed to respond to the uncertainty of the coming months.

2020

“It’s been a challenging year so far. Still, over 80% of educators have identified technology as a great way to improve engagement in classrooms. Yet keeping pupils motivated, despite the huge reliance on tech, was a number one challenge during lockdown. As such, COVID-19 has forced a realism and pragmatism around tech use. Approaches have streamlined.”

“The Report reveals what’s truly useful and what’s not: it’s not about futuristic, start-up solutions, it’s about using and evolving tried and tested tech. Tools that have pedagogy at their heart,” Promethean’s annual State of Technology in Education report

Key findings

An article in August’s Forbes Magazine posed the question: “Will the pandemic present a positive effect on education technology in the longer term”. The article observed that: “Covid-19 has caused a significant disruption in the world of education, but it has been a boon to education technology companies. Even when a vaccine for Covid-19 is approved, online education is here to stay filling gaps that already existed in education curricula. Online education has been helping reach underserved populations  as well as students with special needs and disabilities.  Additionally, many parents and educators are likely to use online education to be ready for the next public health or natural disaster.”

Educators say that attainment comes first, but more schools are prioritising tech to engage. Tech for engagement is now a strategic priority for almost 40% of schools, up 29%. Yet most educators struggled to engage pupils remotely, highlighting the importance of the classroom setting.

Strategic plans

“The focus on boosting student engagement with tech has grown 29% in five years, now a priority for 39% of schools. Using technology to engage pupils and boost collaboration has jumped up this year but updating technology and providing technology training has significantly dropped. Results and attainment are still the highest priority for the coming year. Staff training and updating technology are still low on the priority list.

• When it comes to technology, the focus on maximising online safety (48%) has increased. 

• Boosting engagement (39%) is the second highest priority for all educators this year.

• 43% of SLT members, however, believe technology should be prioritised as a tool for collaboration above everything else.

• 28% of teachers say schools should focus more on teacher training.

• 57% of IT staff believe schools should also prioritise updating their technologies.”

From these key messages from educators in the Promethean report, we can infer than, while the pandemic has moved edtech into the spotlight. many of the issue the issues remain the same: technology does not get the consideration it deserves; teachers do not get adequate training; or adequate funding.

 

Strategic visions

So who makes the strategic decisions in school environments? The Promethean report tells us that “Headteachers continue to play the lead role in strategy setting: that’s according to 76% of educators. Fewer than 40% tell us it’s a collaborative project.” What’ more “Only 50% of school staff confirm their school has a strategic vision”, and 44% of teachers feel that, even if there is a ‘vision’ it is rarely communicated. “Overall, teachers don’t feel involved in their school’s strategy — 35% provide input, but almost 60% have no say whatsoever.”

So how influential is the pro-tech lobby in schools? “When asked how significant technology is to achieving wider goals, over a third (35%) agree some tech is indeed important. Over 22% confirm that it’s included in the strategy but does not contribute to meeting wider objectives,” concludes the Promethean Report 

IT strategies

Given the renewed focus on edtech of late, surely it merits long term planning and execution? “Only a third (36%) of schools confirm their school has an IT-specific strategy, while the largest proportion (44%) of respondents are unclear whether an IT strategy exists in their school.” Of all the issues surrounding edtech, “Promethean finds that the strategic prioritisation of online safety unsurprising: schools were forced further online in 2020, teaching from a distance, and school leaders were expected to think fast about realistic threats posed by technology.”

“Video conferencing, while finding its moment in the sun over the course of lockdown, was an area of particular concern for IT staff and SLTs who faced issues with safeguarding and security. No standard approach was applied, so the gap in provisions from schools was huge. It was also problematic for teachers, who need face to face contact with pupils to get the most from edtech.”

To talk about edtech in terms of threat rather than opportunity it id perhaps unsurprising that the Report finds: “In many instances, school strategy setting is rarely a collaborative or communicated project, with the focus most commonly on school results. This presents a chance for gathering strategic input from teachers and IT staff and setting more specific goals.”

But. “Teachers have become reliant on technology for basic lesson delivery in 2020. In doing so they have identified an opportunity to focus on training and development and bringing their school’s software and hardware up to date. While front-of-class technology is often considered a basic requirement in schools, there continues to be a training gap.

Interactive learning

In trying to encourage the take up of edtech in schools. the channel’s efforts are supported by IT specialist in schools who the report identifies as increasingly well regarded. “Are IT managers schools’ unsung heroes for 2020? With fast-tracked remote working deployment and a universal reliance on technology for basic teaching, the technical staff kept schools up and running. With this, there’s a fresh perspective on school tech. Schools now recognise which tools truly aid learning and boost results, and which don’t. This realism can be the first step to a refreshed tech roadmap. 86% say tech should be a core part of learning. But a third admit they avoid using it because school hardware is often unreliable.”

When it was working, the Report found educators to be largely favourable about edtech: “Perhaps unsurprisingly, almost 80% of educators agree that technology helped them do a better job in education this year.

Technology helps me do my job better (%)

• Strongly agree 31.1%

• Agree 47.7%

• Neither agree nor disagree 16.3%

• Disagree 4.4%

• Strongly disagree 0.5%

• When it comes to boosting learning outcomes:

• 84% have identified that technology is a great way to improve engagement.

• 33% believe it can improve behaviour, too.”

“But if most educators agree that tech improves engagement and behaviour, shouldn’t schools prioritise using future-proof tools at the heart of the learning experience instead?”

Tools

The Reports conclusions recognise the extent that conditions in 2020 have influenced educators. “This year, schools were forced to rely on technology for basic lesson delivery, homework setting and marking. Thanks to this, remote teaching software and video conferencing solutions have come into their own, supporting teachers and pupils remotely. This, however, has presented its own challenges.”

“Despite this, video conferencing was minimally effective for learning during lockdown. Children learn through social interaction, so the classroom is and always will be the nucleus of the learning experience. The true benefits of tech are realised when the educator is there to combine it with appropriate, tried and tested learning methods.”

“Given classrooms have barely changed in 100 years, there’s an entrenched traditionalism in schools that’s hard to shake. Educators want to use modern technologies more, but updating their existing hardware is proving to be a bigger challenge. A digital-first approach is needed, but it must be effective. Pupils thrive in a classroom environment and there are technologies available to support class-based learning in more ways than it is used.” the Report postulates.

Impact of school closures

Training to use edtech appropriately has long been an issue in the education market, and the shortfall in provision was only too obvious when the pandemic led to school closures. “Due to the unexpected school closures in early 2020, a large number of educators were required to work and teach remotely with almost no warning. This pushed new technologies to the fore, such as remote teaching tools (used by nearly 80%) and video conferencing software like Zoom (used by over 55% of respondents).” says the Report.

“But there’s no patience for passing fads or tech-gimmicks — 94% of educators stand firm that tech should be used where it can be appropriately adapted to the learning situation.”

“Schools want to make more use of tech, but faulty hardware is an ongoing problem. The vast majority of educators are confident, competent users of technology. They recognise the school-wide benefits of tech adoption, striving to innovate within their own learning practices. Yet school technology is frequently considered less reliable than home tech, often due to its age. Of those who avoid using technology, 34% admit it’s because it doesn’t work. A similar number lacks the time or training to get the most out of it.”

“There’s been wavering year-on-year confidence in using tech for learning. More educators want to use tech to improve student engagement and behaviour this year. Also, fewer educators are struggling with tech: down 5%. This means, teacher’s enthusiasm and overall tech skills are on the rise and educators are keen to get more from their tools.”

Teacher training and CPD

Edtech training and CPD have long been an issue largely because of a failure to recognise its importance in teacher training and a reluctance to provide an adequate budget from school funs. The Report comments that: “2020 has forced schools to re-evaluate how they use technology for the basics: setting homework, teaching lessons, communicating with pupils. Now, with pupils back in classrooms, many educators would like technology to blend seamlessly with traditional teaching methods. Yet training is at a concerning all-time low. Only 1% of schools are prioritising tech training. And 41% of respondents say staff have had to find time to train themselves.”

“Providing tech training for teachers has dropped in priority by 23% over the past five years. The need for base-level tech skills has risen this year. It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that 41% of educators say they’ve had to find time to train themselves. Only 11.5% of educators think full training is provided by their school. Of all the school objectives identified for the coming year, teacher training is third from the bottom, prioritised over soft skills and updating technology only. Staff training is a funding priority, according to 55% of school senior leaders and senior managers.”

“Training continues to be a complex issue — staff want more training but feel time and money are holding them back. Almost half of educators (49%) identify budgets as the main reason there’s not more training provided at their school, followed by time restrictions. The majority of respondents (59%) admit that, while tech is available in their school, staff are not trained or provided any support. Only 6% of educators are provided with full tech training. 36% of SLT members believe the provision of tech training is adequate, compared to under 19% of teachers.”

“Pupil safety (29%) and governmental changes (23%) are considered to be the most important aspects of staff training. Just over 1% of schools identify technology training as a priority. 41% of teachers disagree with their school’s training priorities.”

Budgets

With the UK government claiming to have increased school budgets. debate continues about how any extra money will be used. “We now know that real education takes place in the classroom. Students’ learning has been seriously impacted whilst pupils were at home. COVID-19, however, has been the catalyst for change. Tech has been used for collaboration, hybrid and remote learning which presents a fresh opportunity for schools to take a digital first approach.”

“To assimilate these 2020 learnings into the classroom, however, teachers will need ongoing training to support it, or the benefits of these new skills could diminish,” cautions the Report. “But why has training plummeted? As teachers become more proficient with tech, seen in our survey, is the perceived need lower? Or have other goals simply taken priority? The data above suggests that a combination is true — issues like online security and safeguarding have become increasingly pressing with the widespread use of online tools, all while teachers have become more and more confident with tech”.

“At the beginning of April 2020, the UK government announced it would make funding available to schools to support them with costs associated with COVID-19. However, our survey suggests that many educators were already concerned about the impact of budget on strategy before the extra pressure of coronavirus hit. This ongoing financial issue, however, has forced schools to invest more carefully in tech that genuinely supports their strategic objectives.”

“The number of educators that believe money is invested in the right edtech tools has gone up by 13% in five years. The use of technology in school at the minute is a frustrating affair. Much of the equipment, both pupil and teacher, is out of date or budget so performance is hampered. Where there is up-to-date equipment it is restricted by knowledge or held back by outdated equipment, e.g. IWBs connected to outdated or under-specced laptops that can’t keep up with them.”

“Budgets are expected to make next year’s strategic goals harder to achieve, according to 45% of SLT members. All staff members are aligned on these budgetary issues, with a similar number of teachers and IT staff voicing the same strategic concerns. Salaries will make up the largest spend of schools’ budgets next year, according to 60% of educators. A further third admit they’re not clear where the school’s money is spent. Much more budget needs to be provided for schools to develop their technology and ensure all children have equal access to it.”

“Of all survey answers, the greatest proportion of educators agree (37%) that too little is being spent on technology in schools. IT staff, however, are the most critical of all: 55% say there is too little budget, compared to a third of teachers. This disparity makes sense, however, as the majority of teachers have no visibility on their school’s tech budget — 45%. After 3 years of a deficit budget we are finally at a balanced budget. However, there is no budget for further IT expenditure. The deficit budget was in large part due to very expensive leasing arrangements.”

“Over the past five years, most educators agree too little budget is allocated to technology. This sentiment peaked in 2019 at 46%. 5 years ago, 29% of educators believed their school’s tech budget allocation was at the right level; that number has dropped by 16% today. IT managers have lost the most confidence in their schools’ IT budgets: 46% were happy with the level of investment in 2016, yet only 19% say the same 5 years on. But it seems that schools are making smarter tech investments overall. The number that say money is incorrectly invested has gone down by 13% in the same period.”

“Budgets continue to be a disagreeable subject for educators. Almost all staff agree that financial constraints are holding back their school’s potential and their pupils’ access to the best educational tools. This hasn’t changed in half a decade. While the weight of concern around budgets hasn’t lightened, it’s forced schools to think strategically when it comes to technology. There might not be enough funding, but more schools are making smarter investments. They are getting better at repurposing existing tech or choosing upgradable tools with lower total cost of ownership.”

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