According to Wikipedia, EdTech is “the study and ethical practice of facilitating, learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.”
In our language (the language of education service providers, educationalists and educators) this simply translates to using technology to improve educational outcomes. Originally EdTech included things like ICT suites and interactive whiteboards; things that are used in the classroom in direct tandem with the students. But now there are many types of EdTech that are actually designed for the adults in the school community, and used wisely have a hugely positive impact on parents, school staff and students alike.
In the 21st century, so many things that we do on a daily basis are streamlined by technology. But we take so many of these things for granted...transport, for example. Modern transport is so embedded into our world that it's often easy to forget that this is a form of technology that makes most people's lives easier and more efficient every day. I know it often doesn't seem that way (Southern Trains...I'm looking at you!) but imagine how many things we wouldn't be able to do because of the time and effort it would expend if we didn't have cars, trains, buses and the Tube.
This absolutely translates into EdTech. Every day at school there are myriad things that can be completed faster and more easily when you bring some well thought out technology into the picture. Taking the register, for example. In a school that uses a traditional register this can take around 8 minutes. It doesn't sound like too long, but 8 minutes out of every hour-long lesson could be 45 minutes (or more) of teaching lost for every student, every day. But when you decide to look to EdTech to solve this dilemma, you will find systems such as Emerge that allow an electronic register to be taken and written back to the MIS in around 30 seconds. Not only does the class teacher have one less convoluted administrative task to worry about, giving them more time to teach, but every student is getting more learning time out of their school day. If we go back to our original definition of “EdTech” we can see that this would in turn fulfill the aim of using technological resources to improve performance.
Possibly even more than teachers, school office staff can hugely benefit from EdTech in their day-to-day lives. By its very nature, an office role is often admin-heavy, with even simple tasks taking a long time to complete. For example, every day when the registers are taken and delivered, the office staff have to then manually go through the ticks and crosses to determine who is in and who is not – and crucially, who is not in when they should be. Here begins the tiresome job of phoning the parents of every child who is absent to find out where they are and why they are not present. Worryingly, in a large school especially, this job can take hours as getting hold of parents on a first try is difficult in itself, let alone when there are dozens to get through. Not only time consuming, this can also be very dangerous – what if the last parent you get through to two hours after the registers were taken actually thought their child WAS at school that day and therefore has no idea where she is? This is now an urgent safeguarding issue. How awful that this could take such a long time to be recognised.
This is not an issue that any school can afford to have, which is where EdTech comes in again. A system such as Messenger reads the register as submitted to the MIS by Emerge (which we talked about previously) and immediately detects any unauthorised absences. All a member of staff then has to do is choose to send an email, text, voice message (or combination of all of them) to every parent of a child with an unauthorised absence. Within minutes each one will know that their child hasn't arrived at school in time for registration and can either contact the school back to let them know they are at home ill/at the orthodontist/running late, or they will know straight away that something is awry and can begin proceedings to find out exactly what is going on.
Sir Bob Geldof endorses the use of EdTech for child safety, stating that “One of my kids was crossing London on the bus to go to school each day and I was worried and this technology lets me know that she’d got to school OK.”
This is truly invaluable. In this case, using EdTech has potentially saved administrative staff hours of their time, but also has the power to save a child who could be in danger. It's not something any school or any parent can put a price on.
Speaking of putting a price of things, you would be forgiven for thinking that something with the word “technology” in its name would probably be expensive. After all, technology is what we associate with iPhones and robotic vacuum cleaners and trainers with flashing lights built into them (or maybe that one is just me...). However, with EdTech, you will probably be pleasantly surprised that even the most state-of-the-art systems will undoubtedly save your school money compared to their non-technological alternatives.
I published a detailed blog entitled The human, financial and environmental costs of paper in schools, but to summarise, did you know that the average secondary school uses at least 1,000,000 sheets of paper a year, amounting to £8,800? Let's be honest, in a time when school budgets are only getting more strained, this expenditure is unacceptable and unsustainable (as are the 125 trees that are chopped down for each school, but that's another story!). Luckily there are EdTech solutions that negate the need for so much money to be spent on paper. ParentPaperwork, for example. This innovative solution gives the school the power to send every single form, memo, slip or questionnaire home to parents online, without a single sheet of paper. Parents can respond to them online and the school can then extract and analyse the data from them in minutes. As well as the obvious cost savings (ParentPaperwork costs 50p per pupil per year), think of all the time that is saved by teachers, students, parents and office staff; teachers don't have to produce paper forms to send, pupils don't have to grapple with getting them home in their bookbags and into the hands of their parents in one piece, parents don't have to deal with filling them out and then battling with their kids to return them in time (or at all!) and office staff don't have to siphon through hundreds of paper forms to get the information from them.
The most important thing to remember about EdTech is that by making the lives of school staff easier and reducing the school expenditure, the learning experience of the students will improve by default. Teachers have more time to teach and there is more money to put into resources for the children.
An article by Matt Britland in the Guardian some time ago stated, “What we must remember is that when schools adopt new technology and services, they must be evaluated. This way, as a school, you know if they are successful and what improvements are needed. Staff will also need training, you can't expect staff to use new technology if it they are not confident users or creators. Any initiative is doomed to failure without well trained, confident staff who can see how technology can support and benefit teaching and learning.”
Taking the time to research solutions that can meet the needs of your school and making the effort to ensure everyone involved knows how to use the technology properly will pay for itself in so many ways and so many times over.
Bill Gates said, “Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.”
Sorry Mr Gates, but in my opinion, technology is more than “just” a tool. It is the tool that gives the teachers the time they need to motivate the children. It is the tool that gives office staff the time and ability to prioritise child safety. It is the tool that allows bursars and financial staff to put money towards the most important thing; the children.
Education technology, used wisely in the hands of the grown-ups, improves the lives of everyone in and around the school community.
|Jocy joined Groupcall as Marketing Executive after she graduated from university and she has now been part of the team for over two and a half years. Amongst other things, her role involves looking after the social media channels and the company blog.|