A ‘tech revolution in the classroom’? A response to Damian Hinds

Damian Hinds’ new initiative to put technology at the heart of education is an exciting and overdue development but it must be led by the needs of learning and teaching – not the edtech industry, says Sarah Horrocks, director of the London Connected Learning Centre.

Education secretary Damian Hinds today set out his vision for putting technology at the heart of education. According to Hinds, the impact of technology in education has been surprisingly limited so far but could be transformational in five key areas: access and inclusion; assessment; teacher training and development; administration; and lifelong learning.

Hinds is preparing to bring education leaders and the education technology industry together in the autumn to discuss the opportunities he has outlined and the kinds of software and products that are needed to grasp them.

At the London Connected Learning Centre we welcome this acknowledgment of the positive role that technology can play in the classroom. We have, after all, long been involved in supporting schools to use technology in effective and innovative ways and can point to concrete examples of how technology has been effective in the areas Hinds highlights.

Improving learning and teaching

For example, our research into using tech tools to improve children’s writing found that blogging can inspire children to different and better forms of writing, with increased engagement and confidence. In maths, we’ve supported work that shows how learning computer programming in Scratch (the free online programming environment developed by MIT Media Lab) can improve mathematics performance at Key Stage 2. At Rosendale Primary School in Lambeth, London, 10-year-olds who took part in the ReflectED programme – in which they used digital tools to take photographs, make notes and keep audio recordings of their work – made four months of additional progress in maths. Technology is also being used in exciting ways in subjects such as language learning – an area we’ll be exploring further in our forthcoming practical forum for language leads looking at how digital technology can be used to aid language learning.

Better assessment

In Hinds’s Telegraph article about his initiative, he alludes to technology’s potential to make assessment more effective and efficient. What it can also do is make learning more visible – we recommend apps such as SeeSaw that allow work to be shared much more easily with peers and parents and to build up a portfolio of work over time. Technology also enables teachers to offer feedback in ways that traditional marking cannot, such as responding to work using video and audio tools.

Easing the admin

Using technology to relieve the administrative burden in schools is a huge area of opportunity. We support schools to use the cloud-based Google Suite for Education to save time, improve workload and we witness the great improvement it makes to the efficiency of the whole school. It’s a relatively simple solution that could be rolled out much more widely.

While we extend a broad welcome to the Hinds vision, the rush to involve the edtech industry needs to be treated with a note of caution. If schools are to make the best decisions about the technology they bring into the classroom, and avoid buying expensive and unnecessary equipment, it is crucial that they receive expert advice and guidance from an objective source – and that’s not those selling the technology. The effective use of technology must be driven by learning and teaching goals rather than a specific technology: technology is not an end in itself.

Creators not consumers

From the earliest years upwards, today’s children exist in the digital world and need to understand it with a critical awareness in order to make the most of all its opportunities – and avoid its pitfalls. The best way to do that is by being creators, not just consumers. Governmental support for bringing more technology into the classroom is an exciting and overdue development but the key to it must be evidence-informed use of technology to support learning and teaching – not a dash to the marketplace.

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