The Edtech 50 Schools is a celebration of the work going on in schools that use education technology to support great teaching and learning across the UK and Northern Ireland.
The list of 50 institutions highlights digital flagship schools that demonstrate a focused sense of what is useful to them in terms of technology – whether it be in supporting teaching, cutting teacher workload, collaboration across staff teams or consolidating knowledge, enhancing creativity and broadening experiences across the curriculum. Learning through play with technology was important to many and sharpening the understanding of feedback was also key. There is a priority on safety and security, too; with mature and patient dialogue with pupils seen as important.
There's a verve and commitment across these edtech champions, and they deserve real praise. To put yourself forward for a national award, sharing your learning and practice, is a challenge. But it will be a bonus for all schools who may want to develop their digital offering.
The Edtech 50 Schools are making the sensible case that education technology, if used well and coherently, can be of real benefit to education, pupils and teachers. Here are three examples from the 50:
- Telling life stories
Take Alsager School in Cheshire, which chose to highlight a community art and technology project its students are working on, Sway Life Stories. This involves students working with people with dementia, their families, friends and carers in the local community to create personalised "Life Stories" using Microsoft Sway. It’s linked to Alsager’s bid to become a dementia-friendly town. The judges love the idea of making Life Stories books and see a potential to introduce the concept into other schools. Or as one judge put it: “What a fantastic way to improve learners’ digital literacy while also engaging with the community.”
- Opening a window to the world
Then there's Hadrian Primary in South Shields, which used Ireland’s digital strategy as a way of ordering their work and priorities for education technology. As a judge comments, "the improvements in results and in aspirations of pupils to succeed stand out. Being able to reach a real audience opens a window into the world and has impacted on writing standards."
- Giving voice to feedback
To pick a third, let's go with Olive Tree Primary School in Bolton, which recorded voice feedback that has significantly improved students’ understanding of teachers’ feedback and their ability to progress more quickly compared with traditional handwritten marking. Teacher workload, too, has been significantly reduced by using digitised voice feedback. There’s a reduction in teacher workload of around 4.5 hours per week.
It was challenging to award the Edtech 50 Schools, of which Tes is media partner, and so as well as the 50, we highlighted two extra lists, "ones to note" and "ones to watch" – schools that are using education technology in imaginative and innovative ways. For instance, judges liked the productive staff meeting ideas at Acklam Grange School in Middlesbrough and the quietly positive digital offer at Fishguard’s Holy Name Primary. We’ll also need to watch the work going on at Croydon High School, Hampshire Collegiate School and in Kendal’s Crosthwaite Primary.
Uplifting commitment to edtech
The richness and commitment to supporting teaching and learning across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is uplifting. But we’ll need to find out more of what works and share across the system. It was clear that context and implementation itself are key.
There’s a lot to learn from how Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have organised their collegiate support for education technology. A national approach with a variety of (national) resources and sound positive leadership seems to work.
We would like to see support for training – informal and formal – across our schools.
Leadership of the sector is vital and a respectful partnership between educators, manufacturers, vendors and the edtech businesses themselves is of utmost priority. We'll need to see better collaboration between schools and across the edtech sector to benefit the wider system.
Across the UK we finally now have education technology strategies shaped by governments and educators. We hope the Edtech 50 Schools supports this learning, innovation and knowledge to support teachers and their learners.
Ty Goddard is co-founder of the Education Foundation and chair of Edtech UK. You can see the full report here