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'Tech can make teachers' lives simpler – but it can also do the exact opposite'

Technology can be used to address teachers' heavy workload, but it comes with a mild health warning, writes one ed tech expert

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Reducing teacher workload is, to my mind, a complex issue that doesn’t have just one answer – if only – but instead needs to be approached in many ways. And tech could be one tool that could prove particularly useful. Nicky Morgan, England’s esteemed education secretary, certainly seems to agree with me here: at the opening of the Bett Show this year, she stated that she believed education technology could in fact play a critical role. So, how might this look?

Well, for me, one of the big ways that technology can help teachers is in assessment and data analysis. Whether it’s fast, formative, ready-made assessment tools like Socrative, Kahoot or Quick Key, or full-on tracking and assessment systems like SIMS or Classroom Monitor, capturing data digitally can potentially make analysing it and turning it into something meaningful and useful a whole lot easier. Like any tool, though, it is how it’s used that is the real key to this.

What tech can also do is to make it easier for teachers to share stuff – and we have a lot to share. From planning and resources, to ideas and vital info, I’m not sure where I’d be without it all. I’ve used the cloud to plan lessons with colleagues, who I’ve struggled to find time to sit down with in school, and even collaborated with teachers who I hadn’t met in person at that point (thank you, Twitter).

And lastly, where I’ve seen technology really have an impact is in how teachers communicate with parents. Texting services, virtual learning environments, the humble class blog – all of them go some way towards enabling teachers to get messages out to parents and carers quickly and simply. Schools building their own dedicated apps are also a growing trend. Of course, these all require parents and carers to download, install or engage on the other end, but the potential is there.

In a way, all of the above comes with a mild health warning, because, yes, tech can make our lives simpler in lots of ways – but it can also do the exact opposite. Keeping myself in check is what’s needed here because my natural disposition as a bit of a gadget geek can be to use tech solutions just because they are there and I can. Forcing myself to question if tech is really needed for the job, or if I can do it better without, helps to maintain some sort of balance and not add to my workload – because that is definitely big enough already.

Claire Lotriet is a teacher at Henwick Primary School in London. She blogs at www.clairelotriet.com and tweets at @OhLottie

This is an article from the 29 January edition of TES. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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