EdTech (or ‘ed tech’ as it is also commonly termed) is becoming one of the hottest topics of discussion among parents and educators around the world.
Whilst education has remained broadly the same for hundreds of years, new technology is now changing that, transforming the way teachers teach certain topics and becoming an essential part of classroom life.
The edtech definition
The term ‘EdTech’ refers to educational technology that is helping teachers and schools achieve their education goals in new and fascinating ways.
Simply put, the EdTech definition is the use of technological processes and resources to improve education. This can include products, apps and tools that all enhance learning and pedagogy for students, parents and teachers alike.
The Edtech Impact
EdTech is not just about reformatting books and training manuals, or even about the various technologies themselves. Rather, it is more about applying digital technology to deliver a new form of learning architecture.
This new learning architecture will be one that harnesses the social reach of the internet; delivers personalised learning and training that can adjust to an individual’s learning requirements, and analyses big data to understand the most effective ways for learners to progress.
By fulfilling these needs and more, EdTech has the power to create efficiencies by taking some of the workload off teachers; cutting costs; increasing student engagement and improving students’ digital literacy, to name a few.
It could also change the future of how education is resourced, taught, consumed and the results that it can then yield.
Below are some of the huge benefits being experienced so far in the EdTech industry.
The impact of EdTech on costs
It’s no secret that traditional education systems are inherently inefficient.
Worldwide, the combined education and training industries account for the spending of more than $4 trillion, representing a huge 84 percent increase since 2000.
In the UK, education spending is the second-largest element of public service spending (behind health), representing about £91 billion in 2018–19 in today’s prices or about 4.2% of national income. Total school spending per pupil has fallen by 8% between 2009-10 an 2019-20, which has been delivered through cuts to resources and higher class sizes, which have grown by 17%.
From the costs of teaching resources to bricks-and-mortar institutions, teaching staff and more, it can be easy to see were EdTech might be seizing a valuable opportunity to provide more value in classrooms, with a lower price tag. This is especially true when one considers the cuts to school spending in the UK, and how technology could fulfil that gap with potentially reduced maintenance (once initial implementation had been done.)
The same is true for e-learning methods, which are credited for the ability to deliver one-to-many on a completely new cost basis.
However, cost efficiencies are not only the domain of the e-learning world. Reliable broadband services and adoption of other technologies like the Cloud have facilitated policies like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in schools, allowing pupils to use their own equipment. As a result, less money is spent on hardware for schools – which currently makes up 60 percent of IT budgets.
Increased user engagement and better learning outcomes
If education technology is able to save schools money on educational and training budgets, then surely more money can be allocated to educational materials, such as smart learning software that provides tailored lesson plans, or innovative digital content such as engaging videos.
Because of what we now know about the learning process, user experience and level of student engagement is fast becoming the main factor when it comes to today’s huge array of education technology.
Through multi-media, the growth of gamification, mobile-casual and informal learning apps and peer-to-peer learning platforms, educational content is becoming increasingly immersive, meaning students are not only more willing to learn but are also likely to stay engaged for longer periods of time.
For example, video learning formats have already been shown to be a more attractive information format and have helped to accelerate learning in students. Now, with the advances in software and addition of 3D animation, the link between video and immersive environments is growing closer, as can be seen in the video games market.
EdTech is also creating a stronger link between what happens inside and outside the classroom. By making digital educational resources available at all times through apps and internal learning platforms, teachers are able to create a series of ‘touch points’ in the student learning experience. This leads to students feeling like they have more support and can provide better learning outcomes overall.
Education accessible for all
Edtech not only has the ability to reduce school costs and engage learners in new and effective ways. It also has the potential to equalise standards in education and make knowledge and learning accessible for all, resulting ultimately in the democratisation of education.
Online platforms, mobile apps and new learning formats have massively improved access to education, as well as enhancing the learning process itself. Meanwhile, online and cloud technologies also bring their own exciting opportunities for possible standardisation of learning content.
One only needs to look at how online learning in China is currently allowing 180 million students to continue with their studies, after the Covid-19 outbreak closed schools for many. Without the option to study the curriculum virtually, the virus crisis could have led to millions of students’ attainment and future prospects being affected.
The accessibility that ed tech and online platforms provide also means that a rundown, inner city school could receive the same standard and level of content as a well-funded one in a wealthy area. This is true not just on a school by school basis, but between countries and globally, offering developing nations access to developed educational institutions, both in an academic and professional learning setting.
Building the knowledge economy
Whatever knowledge and skills we invest in for our children via the schools system, through to higher education and beyond, is ultimately going to support us for the rest of our economic lives.
By failing to invest in education, we will likely lose our ability to develop skilled workers, build competitive advantages as nations and generate growth in various sectors.
Therefore, developing the knowledge economy like any other requires investment – in skills, teaching, resources and probably most importantly, innovation, in order to improve the efficacy and efficiency of our learning systems.
Edtech is all part of that innovation, and without it, we cannot hope for the best learning outcomes.
The Global Edtech Landscape
Technology in the classroom is certainly not anything new – we have computers, laptops, iPads and Android tablets, cloud services, online learning and in some cases, even the use of mobile apps.
However, while edtech has already made a huge impact on education, many argue that we have only seen a fraction of what is to come. The technological possibilities have been there for a while, but the way in which schools are now using it and its potential impact is unlike ever before.
Across the globe, educational change-makers are creating and leveraging new groundbreaking technology to improve education and the future of society. Investment in edtech is predicted to reach a global total of $252 billion by 2020, already suggesting the rise of a new education world.
Teachers across the world are currently implementing edtech in many different ways.
According to research by Harris Interactive & Online Universities.com:
- 86% of teachers think it is absolutely essential to use edtech
- 92% of teachers would like to use edtech even more
- On average, electronic teaching resources cost 33-35% less than printed versions.
Edtech in the UK
Though the US and UK have been battling it out for supremacy in the sector, the UK market seems to be booming. Edtech in the UK is set to be worth £3.4bn in 2021, with £170m worth of edtech exports. According to Beauhurst, £90.9m has been invested in UK edtech companies since 2017.
The UK has seen a flurry of EdTech startups in recent years, benefiting widely from innovative technology and edtech products that could give UK schools a massive boost in offering education for all.
There’s Perlego – the London-based startup offering students a digital library of more than 250,000 textbooks for a monthly fee. The company has raised more than £10m from angel investors and has been dubbed the ‘Spotify of textbooks’.
Meanwhile, Kano Computing sells kits that teach children how to build their own computer and then code on it. The kits are powered by Raspberry Pi and the company has raised a reported £4m in funding from the likes of Salesforce co-founder Marc Benioff.
One of John Lewis’ top toys for Christmas in 2019 was US company Learning Resources’ Coding Critters, a storybook and toy set that teaches children as young as four to code simple commands.
Another UK-based startup called Curiscope has developed an augmented reality t-shirt that allows children to explore the anatomy of the human body via an app. The t-shirt is called the ‘Virtuali-Tee’.
Meanwhile, Exeter-based company Sparx has developed an AI-based maths platform that offers students tailor-made class and homework assignments. Teachers in Exeter schools are using the platform to improve individual tutoring for children, and the company claims the reduced admin can cut a teacher’s workload drastically.
Best Edtech Websites
Below are some of the biggest websites writing about ed tech right now.
- Free Tech for Teachers – An outstanding resource providing a great list of free classroom tech resources and advice on everything from starting your own class blog to implementing a tablet initiative in your school.
- Edudemic – This is a huge website for teachers that includes a section on the latest ed tech start-ups.
- Edutopia – A vast teaching resource with lots of different essays and opinion piecs covering all grade levels and subjects. Its ‘Schools that Work’ section features schools across the country that have implemented new ideas, including ed tech ones.
- Big Deal Media – A content-rich collection of trusted and vetted print and electronic publications that offer the information and tools all primary and secondary educators need.
- ResourcEd – This blog keeps teachers and educators across the UK ahead of the curve when it comes to technology and teaching experiences that meet the needs of modern learners.
- TechTrends – A showcase of all the latest education technology news, articles and reviews from UK technology author and journalist Alice Bonasio.
- LearnJam – Originally specialising in digital innovations in English Language Teaching, Learning Jam has now spread its wings into delivering inspired digital learning experiences in language learning and various other subjects.
- ICTEvangelist – Award-winning blogger, author and consultant Mark Anderson combines his knowledge of technology and experience as an assistant headteacher to give classroom advice for educators, app ideas to encourage learning, and personal anecdotes.
- ET Falmouth – Educational Technology are a small team at Falmouth University dedicated to guiding and supporting teachers in their use of technology for learning and teaching.
- EdTech Magazine – Focusing on both primary and secondary school students and those in higher education, Ed Tech Magazine has an enormous collection of classroom resources and ideas, as well as a section on setting up a huge variety of infrastructures such as networks, storage devices and software.
Tips for Using Edtech in the Classroom
Here are just a few of the benefits that edtech can bring to your classroom:
- Boost student engagement
- Track progress dynamically
- Go paperless
- Collaborate with ease
- Improve digital literacy in students.
1. Pick the right tech
The edtech market is saturated with options – so many in fact, that you may not know where to start! Finding the right tech for your school should begin with identifying your needs, then looking for a solution – not the reverse.
It’s important to pick the right tech to fit your school’s individual culture. For example, a programme that incentivises children with intangible rewards like ‘stars’, ‘points’ or buying trendy clothes for avatars may not promote the sort of learning culture you want for your school. Using gimmicks to motivate children has been shown to be counterproductive and only bring short-term benefits at best. Instead, look into technologies that focus on promoting effort, progress and a growth mindset.
Ask teachers in your school about what would help them in their roles as educators. Each teacher will have his or her own level of experience with tech and you should make the most of their insights. Make sure any potential tech is compatible with your curriculum and policies.
2. Choose tech that enhances teacher-student contact
When used in the right way, tech should allow teachers to get to know their students better, and help them to provide more exciting, personalised lessons. It shouldn’t, on the other hand, divide teachers and students with yet another screen.
Edtech in the classroom can be used to provide teachers with detailed data on each student’s performance, strengths, weaknesses and behaviours. From this, they can provide a more tailored and meaningful learning approach and improve their relationships with learners.
3. Involve children in the implementation process
It’s no secret that kids love technology. Rather than choosing tech that creates more work for the teachers, opt for solutions that allow the children themselves to take charge.
Students anywhere from Year 1 to Year 6 are more than capable of putting away iPads or laptops and checking that they’re charged. One idea is to have a group of ‘tech experts’ in the class, who can take ownership of looking after tech tools and provide help to other students when they need it.
This not only leaves teachers with more time for teaching, but also encourages independence and responsibility in students.
4. Opt for a ‘one-size-fits-one’ approach
Tech is at its most accessible when it gives learners options. For some children, this may be through videos and animations that bring learning to life, or it may be slides or buttons where learners can click through at their own pace.
The tech used in the classroom should be specialised for each student as individuals. One child may need an extra zoom to read quickly, for example, whilst another may need a tinted screen, or fonts that are dyslexic-friendly.
By identifying the specific needs of your students, you’re more likely to choose tech that is most helpful for your classroom.
5. Use tech that benefits the offline learning experience
When tech is implemented at its best, it complements the teaching and learning already taking place offline too.
For example, students can get out their whiteboards to help them work out calculations they’re solving on the computer, or make physical notes while learning on a digital platform. This means students can still practise their handwriting and organisational skills, whilst embedding subject knowledge.
Technology should also never widen the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students, or those without access to technology at home. Make sure there are ways for learners to benefit from the technology at lunchtime clubs or before and after school.
Getting parents on board with edtech is also a great opportunity to show both parents and children how tech can be used responsibly, both at home and in school.
Ideas for Using Edtech in School
Eager to start leveraging the power of edtech in your classroom? Below are some ideas to get started.
1. Virtual Field Trips
VR is just one type of ed technology being increasingly used in schools. By blocking the outside world, VR goggles enable the student to become fully immersed in the learning experience and increases engagement. The interactivity that usually follows is also an added bonus.
With the use of VR goggles, teachers can take students on a virtual field trip, exploring the oceans or space, or bending time with historic events, all without leaving the classroom.
2. Learning apps
There are hundreds of thousands of apps specifically created for the classrooms and the education market. Teachers can use an app to enhance learning at every level and across many subjects. There’s practically an app for everything.
To give just a few examples, Kahoot! offers social learning games on any subject; ScratchJr helps students learn about coding, while Bankaroo helps them understand financial concepts like budgets, savings or investing. The possibilities to use learning apps in the classroom can reach every skillset.
3. Smart speakers
Smart speakers like Google Home, Amazon’s Echo Dot or Apple’s HomePod find their way into more and more UK households. If students are used to having a smart speaker at home, they can easily get used to having one at school.
Many teachers are finding creative ways to utilise smart speakers in the classroom, such as assisting with basic classroom management; being a research tool for students and more.
EYFS settings can also use the speakers to promote phonetic learning and practice.
Apple Airplay is a simple but powerful classroom tool that can help teachers clarify difficult problems or tasks; build learners’ resilience, and encouraging class-led discussions.
When a teacher notices something that is a) a misconception or b) a perfect example of what students are learning being put into practice, teachers can take a picture (on their own or child’s device) and AirPlay it to the screen. From there, they can have a discussion about what has gone wrong for the learner, or what they have done successfully.
Of course, a visualiser will have the same effect and many of the same outcomes.
5. Smart boards
The classroom smart board is the next digital step, beyond the classic blackboard and whiteboard. As well as being used to perform the classic activity of writing something for all students to see, it also comes with other advantages such as substituting the class projector and offering whole-class access to personalised learning materials, educational websites or even assessment software.
6. The school LMS
Learning Management Systems (LMS) have long been used to promote a shared and collaborative learning experience. However the LMS of today has come a long way, providing a complete solution for any educational activity.
From managing enrolment and helping teachers offer more personalised tutoring to allowing students to take charge of their own learning journey outside the classroom, a school LMS is an invaluable piece of edtech with many benefits.
One larger advantage of an LMS is that it allows all learning activities to be centralised and tracked, creating detailed reports and allowing educators to make informed decisions.
It also allows parents and carers to become more involved in the student’s learning process, creating a secure learning environment both at home and in school