Innovating in education is extremely difficult. Education systems move slowly — like large ships where every decision takes time to change the course of the vessel. These ships are carrying precious cargo – the next generation with their future achievements, hopes and dreams. Therefore, we just can’t risk taking a wrong turn and failing any of our children.
But the waters are changing. When this year’s graduates started school, we did not have iPhones, Google Maps, augmented reality or social media experts. The future is running away from the curriculum and schools are struggling to keep up.
Technology has the power to transform education. However, in order to make sure that technology truly improves learning outcomes, we must first realise that it’s not actually about the technology. Simply rolling out new technology isn’t going to bring about better education – but it is a necessary enabler for the tools and materials that could.
We’re not exactly short of digital content. In fact, it isn’t easy choosing from the countless programming games or language learning apps. The problem is that teachers, school leaders and governments just don’t know which ones of the dozens of similar products out there work – and which do not.
So how do we tap into the opportunities technology gives us to improve learning? We must look up and implement the methods that businesses have been using to successfully innovate. School systems can ensure pedagogically meaningful technology adoption by following 3 steps:
- Pilot new tools and materials – A constant stream of small scale technology pilots across schools and classrooms will test new promising approaches with the only ones who can tell us if something works – the students. Teachers have to drive this and thus require time and encouragement to explore new technologies and approaches.
- Rigorously evaluate efficacy – There is no point in trialling something if you can’t tell if the pilot has been successful. The pedagogical impact of technology may not be immediately noticeable in exam results, especially as our intended student outcomes widen to include competencies, engagement and confidence. Therefore it is critically important to measure the impact through assessment or structured student and teacher feedback about their experience.
- Identify best practice and scale up – Once teachers or schools have found something that works, it should be communicated across similar schools and school system leaders. While no two classrooms, schools or countries are the same, recommendations and case studies are incredibly important in disseminating good ideas and finding appropriate tools for each job. Once something has been shown to work across schools, the system leaders can step in and support a scale-up across the system. This way innovation can be both teacher led and wide-reaching.
Using technology will change the way we teach and learn. It will enable a much more individualised approach and allow us to teach our students based on their unique needs. By piloting, evaluating and rapidly scaling new ways to learn we can better steer education into uncharted territory and ensure that the technologies that truly improve learning outcomes can reach as many students as possible.