Damian Hinds calls on tech companies to help transform education

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Education Secretary Damian Hinds has called on the tech industry to help transform education by showing how the use of technology in the classroom can be rolled out nationwide backed up by evidence of its impact in schools, colleges and universities.

In a speech to the World Education Forum the Minister said that only a minority of schools and colleges are currently taking advantage of the opportunities technology offers and that he would like to see the sector help tackle the five biggest issues facing schools and classroom teachers.

These include developing innovative:

  • Teaching practices to support access, inclusion, and improved learning outcomes for all.
  • Assessment processes, making assessment more effective and efficient.
  • Methods for delivery of teacher training and development by upgrading educator support so they can learn and develop more flexibly.
  • Administration processes to reduce the burden of ‘non-teaching’ tasks.
  • Solutions to lifelong learning to help those who have left the formal education system to get the best from online learning.

Hinds told his audience:

I’ve been fortunate enough to see technology being used in revolutionary ways. Students are able to explore the rainforest, steer virtual ships or programme robots from their classroom, while teachers are able to access training, share best practice with colleagues and update parents on a pupil’s progress without being taken away from their main focus — teaching.

Schools, colleges and universities have the power to choose the tech tools which are best for them and their budgets. But they cannot do this alone. It’s only by forging a strong partnership between government, technology innovators and the education sector that there will be sustainable, focused solutions which will ultimately support and inspire the learners of today and tomorrow.

Over the autumn, the Department for Education will be working closely with the Chartered College of Teaching, the British Educational Suppliers Association and other industry leaders as they develop online training packages, establish an online portal providing free software trials for schools, and bring together industry and school leaders through a series of regional ‘demonstrator’ roadshows.

Commenting on the announcement Caroline Wright, Director General at the British Educational Suppliers Association said:

After eight long years with next-to-no Government guidance on the use of Edtech in education, 2018 looks set to deliver a change of fortune for EdTech in English schools, thanks to today’s [7 August] announcement by the Secretary of State for Education.

All-too-often we have seen an over-simplistic knee-jerk backlash against the use of technology in schools in recent times. These anti-tech adversaries cite mistakes made in the early noughties when shiny new pieces of tech were introduced into classrooms without effective training or support for teachers. And, yes, lessons must be learned from early tech implementation failures, but we must also not fail to recognise the power that technology has to inspire young minds and free-up teacher time to focus on the delivery of high-quality teaching and learning practice.

I am delighted that the DfE’s plans recognise that EdTech, when introduced as part of a whole school strategy, has the power to help improve pupil outcomes, save teacher time and reduce workload burdens.

It is also welcome that the DfE places teacher training and support at the heart and soul of their future approach to EdTech. BESA’s latest annual research of the use of ICT in UK schools found that 68% of secondary schools and 56% of primary schools cited training in EdTech resources as being their key challenge over the next 12 months.

The measures outlined by the Secretary of State for Education to support classroom teacher training and development in the effective use of technology, are whole-heartedly welcomed and supported by the EdTech industry sector which BESA represents.

I’m therefore delighted that BESA members will be working closely with the DfE to provide free software trials for schools and to deliver a series of best-practice regional ‘demonstrator’ roadshows over the coming academic year.

Antony Ruck, Chair of the British Assistive Technology Association said:

BATA are delighted to welcome this initiative and the recognition of the benefits of technology in education. Furthermore we are especially encouraged that the Secretary of State has specifically highlighted the need for “Teaching practices to support access, inclusion, and improved learning outcomes for all”, and we hope that this will include support for and promotion of the life-changing benefits that assistive technology (AT) can make to those with learning differences and disabilities. We also hope the infrastructure will address the issue of lack of knowledge of AT in schools. The importance of assistive technology can be critical in supporting pupils with special needs in improving learning pupil outcomes, especially when embraced as a mainstream solution.

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Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

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