A temperature check on the state of education technology
At last week’s Bett Show Helen Moran, Director, Shift Learning, a research agency specialising in education, unveiled the results of the company’s Bett Innovation Index – a survey run throughout last year designed as an annual temperature check to look at how innovation is taking place within education.
“We designed the study to be a yearly tracker so that we can really observe longitudinal trends on how adoption is taking place in the sector,” she said.
“We ran the survey at the end of 2017 and had 1,026 responses. Of those respondents, 44% were classroom teachers, 23% were heads of department and 28% were within a leadership role within their institution.”
As well as 78% of responses coming from the UK, 13% came from the EU with nine percent from the rest of the world. The respondents were representative of a wide range of experiences within the sector and nearly a third have been working in education for nearly 20 years.
The demographics of this study were really important to be able to look into the data and cover how different areas of the sector, and individuals within it, were responding to new technologies and trends.
So what are educators’ thoughts on innovation and educational technology? The survey indicated that educators were broadly accepting of technology and are adopting in wide numbers. They indicated that they can really see the benefits of educational technology – both in terms of saving time and improving educational outcomes.
88% of respondents agreed that technology enabled innovation in pedagogy (the theory and practice of teaching). The same number also agreed that it improves the quality of education within the sector and 87% agreed that it has a positive impact on educational outcomes. 84% agreed that it can save educators time.
Moran continued: “The benefits of educational technology, when well implemented, are undeniable. However, one of the things we saw again and again in the open responses was that there were two key words here – ‘well implemented’.
“In order for educational technology to really optimise its benefits it needs to be carefully considered and often offered with targeted training. So, with all this positivity around educational technology, it’s also important to highlight that it can still be seen as a risk in the classroom.
“91% of our respondents personally felt very confident about using technology in the classroom, however, 63% felt that it’s often not sufficiently easy enough for ordinary teachers to use, and 59% feel that education technology is risky in terms of classroom management.”
The survey also revealed that there is a perceived lack of institutional support for educational technology and this was identified as a real barrier to adoption. While 75% of respondents indicated that they were happy with the quality of products, and a similar number were happy with the range of products available, 42% suggested that their institution is reluctant to invest in educational technology and 47% state that the infrastructure at their institution inhibits the adoption of more technology.
Barriers to adoption
While a lack of funding was identified as a key barrier to implementation so was a lack of management support and this was summed up by one survey respondent who said: “Most schools are struggling for funding at the moment but even so, in my experience, the success of innovation depends on how high the driving force is. Where there is significant management buy-in, the pace of change can be exhilarating – without it innovators can feel like Sisyphus (the figure from Greek mythology who was forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only for it to roll away when he neared the top repeating this action for eternity).”
There were some other barriers sighted by respondents. They were resistance by other colleagues who were less confident with technology or who were less open to new systems or methods of working. Another barrier was integration with the curriculum, which is particularly acute and prevalent in subject areas that have been dealing with repeated and sustained curriculum change.
However, perhaps the biggest barrier to implementation was time – lack of time to find the right products, lack of time to trial products, and a lack of time to carefully consider how those products would be best implemented within an institution and best serve the student and teaching bodies.
A lack of time to effectively train staff to use the products correctly was also a factor.
That was an indication of attitudes towards technology in the sector but where is innovation happening and how and where are adoption trends occurring?
“We looked at these in two key areas – the first is curriculum and methods, the second is hardware, software and spaces,” said Moran.
“One of the interesting things to note is those areas listed within curriculum and methods were nearly twice as likely to be adopted as those within hardware, software and spaces. This indicates that in the current financial climate, educators are perhaps choosing more low cost innovative solutions.
“What we saw within curriculum and methods is that blended- and project-based learning are becoming mainstream. 61% of respondents indicated that they have adopted blended learning, and 56% have adopted project-based learning.”
Another interesting factor to note is that terms within these areas were generally well recognised, although there are exceptions to this - design, design thinking, flipped classroom and robotics were less well-known terms and as a consequence were less likely to be adopted.
“Looking at innovation in hardware, software and spaces, we saw that universal access seemed to be a priority last year. 33% of our sample have adopted mobile learning, 30% have adopted one-to-one device policies, and 28% have adopted BYOD – so there’s a real trend towards providing as close to universal access as possible.”
Adoption rates for hardware, software and spaces were generally lower and one of the interesting findings was that it was more fragmented across individual sectors. So what are those trends? Natural user interfaces and adaptive learning technologies are much more prevalently used in SEN (special educational needs) education. Those in higher education are much more likely to be adopting products relating to learning analytics and those in primary and early years’ education are more likely to adopt AR and VR technologies.
In summary, it’s clear that educators can clearly see the benefits of education technology both in terms of saving time and improving educational outcomes. However, it can still be seen as a risk in the classroom, so suppliers may still need to focus on making sure that technology is easy use and implement within school curriculums. It can also be seen as not receiving enough institutional support.
Below is an infographic summarising the findings of the Bett Index.