In the fast paced development of EdTech, the human factor is needed more than ever, shares Al Kingsley.

A not-so-popular TV presenter used to shout this at regular intervals on breakfast TV, but in the case of the changes – and perhaps, more importantly, the pace of change with technology in education – it seems quite an apt summary.

Lessons learned

We all have lived and breathed the enormous challenges that our schools have tackled over the last 18 months but it’s important not to lose sight of the array of positive lessons that have been learned, not least the pivotal role edtech can play in schools in underpinning and facilitating teaching and learning, communication, collaboration and much more.

With that in mind, what I hope is that, as we return to more of a sense of the ‘old normal’, we don’t miss this opportunity to embrace some of the tools and approaches that have worked and ensure we embed and build on those in the year ahead.​

We also learned that the human factor is always king, not least that the path to successful technology adoption (and, most importantly, it having an evidenced impact) was inextricably linked to staff CPD and confidence in the tools used. Not just a quick INSET session, mind you, but good ongoing CPD to build confidence and beyond, so that new skills became embedded in the daily delivery of teaching and learning. We all build confidence from access to peers with experience of tools with which we want to develop our skills, and educators have embraced the sharing during the pandemic – social media, podcasts, events and, of course, great written resources much like this magazine have all helped in finding the right solutions, approaches and innovators in their use.

A voice within EdTech

I’d also argue that, at this point in time, the teacher has a voice within edtech: from shaping the needs and solutions best suited to their class, to co-producing solutions and services by working with vendors, through to the increased focus on selecting solutions that  are validated and research-informed to back up the high-level marketing promises. That’s the way it should be – and ensuring you know the questions to ask and how to effectively evaluate a solution is key as we move forwards with edtech becoming a more common and accepted term in our schools. 

The pandemic has been an amplifier for the edtech discussion: it has brought items often sitting fairly low on the priority list to the fore, it has given schools and teachers a licence to take a few risks and try new solutions, it has resulted in a few wins (like online parents’ evenings and delivering online resources for our students to consume whenever). Undoubtedly, a few solutions selected will have ended up as losses, but lessons have been learned and now, more than ever before, we have the appetite, skills and opportunity to embrace the potential benefits edtech can offer.

Schools have done an amazing job in increasing communication with their families and communities. Edtech has been part of that journey and I hope we can build on this momentum in the year ahead. Alongside that, workload and wellbeing have been severely challenged for many. No single solution can claim to be an answer for that, but looking collectively as a school or MAT at how technology can help reduce staff workload, deliver better communication and support (both with staff and particularly our more vulnerable learners), could and should be an ongoing priority.

The world has gone nuts, but we’ve shown without a doubt that if our schools can deal with “nuts”, they can deal with anything and, of course, by working together, sharing experiences, best practices, our successes (and our failures), educators will continue to lead the “build back better” charge for all of our learners.

Author

  • Al Kingsley

    Al is CEO of NetSupport, chair of a multiacademy trust, chair of his local governors’ leadership group, Regional SEND Board chair and member of the Regional Schools Director's Board. Well-known in EdTech, Al speaks regularly at international education events and has authored three books.
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