The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Education Technology, chaired by Damian Hinds MP, has published it’s report on ‘Lessons from Lockdown: What we learned about Education Technology in 2020’. The group was established to assess the ways that EdTech could:
• enhance learning
• ease teacher workloads
• improve back-of-house processes
• augment support for students with specific learning needs
• facilitate parental engagement
• open up access to lifelong learning
• support international development
This study into the current standing of education technology within England, reflects on the successes achieved during the pandemic so far and future challenges. Specific areas that must be addressed are noted as:
- the inequality of access because of the ‘digital divide’ both between different schools and between pupil groups within schools,
- the lack of a unified approach to EdTech across the country and
- the need for pedagogical innovation and integration of EdTech.
Reference is made to the Department for Education’s 2019 EdTech Strategy which listed among its ten sector “Challenges” the need to identify those technologies that best serve to level the playing field for children with SEND. Based on the evidence collected the most effective use of technology for pupils with SEND tended to be person-centred, taking into consideration the specific needs of each child. This broad recommendation is welcome; however, it was also noted that the challenges faced by children and young people with SEND have remained a much under-reviewed area during the pandemic.
One positive step towards addressing the gap in our understanding of effective EdTech for children and young people with SEND is the creation of a new Assistive Technology Testbed, that will see trials of technologies take place in 100 schools. Further support for the sector will include adding curriculum content on accessibility to initial teacher training, NQT training and creating a nationally recognised programme for assistive technology specialists.
It is hoped that the rapid adoption of technology in schools and colleges as a result of COVID-19 represents a significant opportunity to improve education providers’ digital skills, accessibility awareness, and inclusive practices in the long term.