In our annual report, The State of Technology in Education, we polled educators about their management strategies and primary goals for 2017/18. Attainment was referenced in the top two goals; both in terms of the grades pupils achieve and closing the gap between low socio-economic background and educational results.
Improving attendance and introducing new learning methods also featured in the top priorities for the next academic year. In light of these results, we take a look at how edtech supports these main SMT’s objectives.
The full results
Our report found that the top four SMT goals for the coming academic year are:
- Attainment/Results (19%)
- Reducing the attainment gap (13.20%)
- Improving attendance (11.92%)
- New pedagogical techniques/learning strategies (11.21%)
Overall, 80% of educators agree with the priorities set by their SMT for 2017/18. On top of these goals, providing more creative learning experiences, improving pupil behaviour, and delivering educational benefits through technology were highlighted as areas that should be given more attention.
1. Improving attainment
Engaging more students through learning is the best means of improving students’ grades and results. The introduction of accessible technology in schools is shifting learning away from a linear style to a more pupil-led focus. By tapping a student’s familiarity with his or her own technology, or encouraging learning through various mediums, it allows a subject to be approached from multiple angles, and for members of the class to work at a comfortable pace.
Tablets and interactive panel displays, as well as emerging technologies like virtual reality provide inspiration for kinaesthetic, tactile or participatory learners who may struggle with auditory teaching methods.
2. Reducing the attainment gap
The discrepancy in attainment from both ends of the socio-economic spectrum is a widely reported issue across the UK. According to The Guardian, the gap between students from affluent families completing college compared to students from low-income families has doubled since the 1980s.
This gap, sadly, starts early; a three-year-old pupil from a disadvantaged family is likely to have a learning readiness one year behind that of a pupil from a richer family. The same pupil will also be 15 months behind in vocabulary development, according to TeachFirst.org.uk.
Technology in schools has been shown to significantly improve learning and results when used to enhance learning, rather than for technology’s sake. A report in the US from the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) reports that giving both affluent and low-income students the same access to technology can aid achievement, boost engagement and improve readiness to learn. What’s more, it can improve communication skills, the ability to self-manage and increase collaboration with peers.
However, the key to using technology to reduce the attainment gap is doing so correctly. Giving all pupils the same level of access and ensuring ongoing in-class support is essential. Otherwise, the likelihood that more advantaged pupils have greater access to digital tools at home only compounds the disparities in achievement.
3. Attendance improvement
According the Department for Education, the absence rate in the UK across state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has remained unchanged since 2014/15 at 4.6%. It has been on a gradual upward trend since 2013/14.
According to our report, there is a focus by SMT to improve this figure. Hillocks Primary School in Nottingham, for example, is a school in an area of higher social disadvantage and unemployment, and suffered lower than average attendance as a result. The school deployed a number of effective strategies including weekly attendance monitoring, closer teacher/parent relationship building, as well as offering prizes to both pupils and parents for a 100% record.
From a reporting, communication and transparency perspective, technology can serve to streamline these and other attendance-improving initiatives. By providing instant feedback, digital tools can give pupils more ownership over their absence, and can emphasise the importance of school attendance to parents.
With real-time assessment features and the facility to send individual rewards and badges, free software like ClassFlow provides a central hub for parent and student communication, and gives pupils a motivating factor to improve.
4. Introducing new pedagogical techniques
The education industry continues to focus on engaging mixed-ability classes through differentiated learning. The most effective way to do this is by introducing new pedagogical techniques to engage a broader range of learners.
Over 11% of our respondents highlighted the introduction of new learning techniques as a focus for the coming academic year. This corresponds with the primary SMT goal of increasing attainment, ultimately providing pupils with more motivation to learn.
In some cases, the use of digital resources can highlight a skill or passion in students with less academic ability, while others might work more effectively with non-traditional resources and mediums. Arranging some lessons around collaborative workstations and setting a mixture of digital activities as well as traditional auditory-focused learning is a perfect mix to engage different learners.
The use of cloud-based apps, gamification, VR, AR and robotics in the classroom is growing in prominence, as more teachers recognise that technology encourages innovation, communication, and collaboration in the classroom.
Technology, then, is often an untapped resource for SMT to achieve their strategic goals for the upcoming academic year.