Exploring how EdTech was viewed before the COVID-19 crisis, and how this has changed as staff and pupils have adapted to remote teaching and learning, Bukky Yusuf, an EdTech enthusiast and Senior Leader at Edith Kay School, shared how to harness the power of digital hardware and software for teaching in the new academic year and beyond.
A Positive Change
Bukky was very keen to praise the education community as a whole, recognising how colleagues right across the sector have embraced the remote teaching and learning situation they were forced into as a result of COVID-19. Many have had to upskill while working from home in order to effectively utilise, or even learn to use, different forms of EdTech, and the dedication to make this work, even among technophobes, is a positive outcome of the crisis.
There has been widespread appreciation for the CPD being released in recent months, often in the form of short ‘how-to’ style videos from education leaders as well as tech companies to help educators upskill. This has also lead to collaboration and sharing across the sector what works for different forms of teaching or other activities.
Bukky has been working with fellow EdTech enthusiast Mark Anderson to gather experiences and feedback from educators on how they’ve dealt with this journey. You can explore this further via #CovidEduStories.
While the sector may have adapted well, the increasing use of EdTech and various online platforms does not come without its challenges and concerns. Privacy and the use of data in particular is a difficult area to navigate as not all platforms are totally transparent with what is being used and how – or at least this information isn’t easily accessible. Bukky highlighted the importance of staff researching as much as possible around this before delving in to make use of a new platform.
Another issue that lacked clarity, but also inevitably differs from family to family, is the role of parents and carers. Many looked to their child’s school for guidance on this, and while for some the assumption was that they just might act as an auditor, checking the list of tasks a child had been assigned had been completed, others encouraged more of a mentorship, or even teaching, approach. But when utilising EdTech, Bukky emphasised the need to think about the perspective of a parent or guardian, and the resources they have available, for example there may not always be a printer at home for the pupil to make use of creative worksheets being emailed out.
This is particularly true for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, which is an issue that has been widely covered through the pandemic, although as Bukky mentioned the categorisation in relation this may still mean some children are left without the digital resources they need for effective learning. Furthermore, the assumption is often made that pupils who are 16+, especially in a further education setting, have both the resources and abilities they need for remote learning, but this isn’t necessarily true, and educators must be mindful of this.
In the same way that assumptions can’t be made about the digital competencies of staff, staff cannot assume that digitally-native pupils have the right skills to use technology for learning.
Making Best Use of EdTech
Bukky was very clear that schools must have a clear purpose for their use of technology, in order for it to work well. EdTech should support specific goals of teaching and learning, or perhaps school management, reducing teacher workload, but advised against using digital technology just because its new. Without a clear plan, and tracking system to measure impact, EdTech is unlikely to work well and risks causing disdain among staff and pupils.
In thinking about using EdTech to support the learning experience of pupils with SEND, staff should be even more specific with their goals here, especially because of the vast range of different learning needs. Contacting EdTech Demonstrator schools for advice and then applying this to your own school contexts is something Bukky encouraged.
The EdTech Demonstrator schools may also be able to share advice or guidance on utilising technology even on a very low budget, or none at all if your school is not in the position to acquire anything new. Bukky recommended evaluating the current hardware you do have, and thinking about how this can be re-purposed, as well as looking at free tools or software you already have and exploring how to use this in a new way. As an advocate for Microsoft PowerPoint, and in the conversation she shared how this is at the core of her journey to becoming an EdTech champion, Bukky doesn’t believe that high expenditure on EdTech necessarily leads to vastly improved educational outcomes for young people.
During the conversation we challenged Bukky to share her views on whether EdTech should, or has the power to, reform or revolutionise the curriculum. In a thoughtful response, she reiterates that ultimately it’s about schools figuring out what works best of pupils and curriculum delivery in their contexts. For the time being however, the use of technology is likely to be reactionary, for example learning to connect in new ways, and track learning being done remotely, for example using forms to understand different needs. There is scope however to become more innovative with approaches to blended learning if this is done in a way which is more intentional and proactive.
As we have entered into the new academic year, with the lingering backdrop of COVID-19, Bukky’s priorities for EdTech include finding out the progress her students have made, and how receptive they are to learning on-site as well as to blended learning. This means ensuring the curriculum is purposeful and delivery can work in both settings. Technology being used must be able to facilitate the teaching and learning approaches required for different learners, and to learn more about this Bukky encourages others to continue making the most of free resources being offered to the education sector.
This blog was published by IG Schools hub, as part of their latest IG Schools Discussion Webinar, for which they teamed up with the Schools and Academies Show and the EdTech Summit to chat with Bukky Yusuf about the vast potential, and the pitfalls, of education technology.