At this week’s Bett Show in London, the annual exhibition highlighting developments in education technology (edtech), Helen Moran, Managing Director – Shift Learning, a research consultancy focussing on education and learning, presented the findings of the annual Bett Innovation Index.
The Bett Innovation Index is an annual temperature check to see what is heating up and what is cooling down in the world of edtech.
This year the index is bigger than ever before – consisting of 2,889 educator voices from all around the world. In the UK the respondents have come from the compulsory schooling sector (just over 1,300 respondents), and hail from a variety of different roles, subject areas and experiences.
The index has mainly three areas of questions and it allows the index to benchmark many of the trends in particular areas. These are: what are the positive impacts of educational technology, and what is driving people to adopt new technology within classrooms? What are the misgivings around education technology for example cost, ease of use, infrastructure and time? And finally, what is the level of satisfaction with current education technology – products and services and institutional adoption.
The index also asks a topical question each year – this time being centred around the impact of policy changes on educators’ time and institutions’ finances.
One of the key findings of the index is that there has been a real increase of educators’ perception that education technology has a positive impact. Around 90% (a rise of three percent), indicated that technology has improved the quality of education in their sector. Eighty-eight percent said that technology is saving educators time (an increase of around five percent).
Edtech is also thought to have a positive impact on educational outcomes – another rise of around five percent. There has also been progress in terms of what’s been adopted in key areas, and they are known to be areas that are also being targeted by Government policy.
Coding literacy and computational thinking is now adopted and embedded by around 23% of institutions. Similarly STEAM is also a very hot area which has been adopted and embedded by around 31% of institutions.
However, it’s not all good news. The index has also discovered shrinkages in some technological innovations which can help to deliver the 21st century skills that employers are crying out for. Project-based learning dropped to 24% this year (compared to 37% last year). Problem-based learning also dropped to 21% this year from 31% last year. Finally design thinking also experienced a one percent drop.
Lack of funding is also an increasing issue and it was an even bigger issue for respondents of the latest survey. Sixty-three percent indicated that their institution would be reluctant to invest in more educational technology. And 68% stated that the IT infrastructure at their institution actually inhibits the adoption of more educational technology.
However, the index has also received very positive feedback about the quality and range of edtech products and services that are available, with 83% indicating that they were happy with the quality and range of services available on the market.
What was also discovered as part of this year’s index was that time pressures make teachers very resistant to change. Teachers are often reluctant to change what they are already doing and presume it will make their job harder for a significant amount of time before it becomes easier. They also feel that they are ‘simply too busy chopping down trees to stop and sharpen their axe’. Edtech is often viewed as too much of a time sponge now, to be viewed as a potential time efficiency tool later.
There is evidence to suggest that new policy initiatives are taking up a significant amount of educators’ time, particularly those that are related to curriculum and assessment. Sixty-five percent of UK classroom teachers state that over half their time over the last three years has been taken up by implementing policy changes.
This is a huge amount of day-to-day time, and the message from the student body that this is coming at a huge cost. Rather than teaching, continual changes in curriculum and testing means more and more time is spent on administrative duties than physical teaching and valuable pupil interaction.
The index has also shown that ease of use of edtech is absolutely key and there is currently a lot of room for improvement. Seventy-four percent of respondents said that edtech is often not sufficiently easy enough to use for ordinary teachers. The same percentage thought it was risky in terms of classroom management should things go wrong.
More than ever edtech needs to be easy to use and implement. Companies that succeed in this area tend to invest in usability as well as quality support services. With low budgets it’s rare that facilitators will be able to afford the extra resource to install, configure and train.
It’s all very well to push an edtech product but what sets a company apart is those that invest time in creating resources to allow for self-installation, configuration and have end-user training resources for free.
Educators are increasingly seeing the benefits of using educational technology within the classroom but they are clearly working in difficult environments where time and money is at an absolute premium. Edtech needs to be easy to use so it is always part of the solution and never part of the problem.