Education Technology must be Evidence-Informed to Succeed

This is a series of occasional blogs by BESA members and is part of their paid membership service. These views are not necessarily those of BESA and a published blog does not constitute an endorsement.

by Andrew Goff, ONVU Learning Director

Twenty years ago, as a young Design and Technology teacher I admit to being taken in by headlines that promised educational technology would help me achieve my aspirations for my students – whether that was a new computer programme or a digital whiteboard. At the same time, I was drumming into my students the fundamentals of good design – the design cycle process of Problem – Research – Ideas – Solutions – Make – Evaluate (PRISME) and at the same time using them to design my own workshop machines.

This conflict came back to me when I read Martin George’s insightful article in the TES on the importance of research in EdTech. It’s vital to remember that EdTech is not a golden bullet and is only as good as the teachers that apply it as a part of their teaching arsenal at the right time aligned to students’ learning needs in front of them

The good news is that teachers have become more sceptical about education technology over time. So even the less obvious educational areas of EdTech have introduced academic research in response. When I took PlayStation’s education strategy into schools our Little Big Planet software was backed up with research from Don Passey of Lancaster University and his team and a research paper of the findings was published for teachers to build upon.

At ONVU Learning we are now constantly evaluating and considering every aspect of our work so that it supports teachers to achieve their objectives. We won’t get everything right but as our school customers have told we must listen, innovate, evaluate and improve to meet teacher and schools needs as quickly as possible.

We are continuously taking both academic research and classroom feedback into our development. For example, a key problem that academics face when measuring impact in school is the Hawthorn Effect – the fact that the presence of teachers or researchers changes the dynamics and atmosphere in the classroom. I remember observing a young maths teacher in Wolverhampton. Normally he would have had some banter with the students about football results as they entered his classroom and through that engaged and checked the students in for learning. However, when being physically observed by senior leaders in the back of the classroom he acted as he thought a “model teacher” should. The students looked puzzled and wondered where their normal teacher had gone. What a waste of everyone’s time!

The result of this experience is that the Lessonvu solution is as discreet as possible. Students and teachers forget that our cameras are in the ceiling within a day or so and normal teaching and interactions are recorded. And we’re very keen to offer this opportunity to other EdTech companies who would like to really see the impact they are making in the classroom – “building windows into classrooms” in the words of Dame Alison Peacock of the Chartered College of Teaching. If any EdTech companies would like to talk over how we can help them explore how their products are used in real classroom environments then please make contact and we’d be delighted to share practice.

We also involve academic rigour in our design process. Dr Sean Warren, our Teacher Training and Development Manager uses the Lessonvu system on a daily basis to remotely coach teachers in the UK and now also in India. His work in coaching teachers is based on his and other’s published academic research and his feedback and innovations are a key part now of our development cycle.

A final piece of personal reflection – I was testing a Lessonvu system in one of our new school customers’ classrooms and I logged into an anonymous room to discover that it was a DT lab. But not just any lab – it had two of the workshop machines on view that in my early teaching career I had helped to design. A vindication of the PRISME process and the importance of good design!

We hope you enjoyed reading this blog piece. Visit the ONVU Learning website to read more content like this and to find out all about the Lessonvu solution and how it is revolutionising teacher training and development through self-reflection.

Until then!