6 things the Covid-19 crisis has taught us about edtech

First published by Tes June 30th, 2020

As teachers look ahead to a full school return in September, many will be reflecting on a turbulent few months of learning in lockdown.
With a country in crisis, schools were forced to rethink the way they teach – with some attempting to use edtech on a large scale for the very first time.

While there has been a plethora of resources on offer – from the government-backed Oak National Academy, to free trials from a host of online learning platforms – access to edtech has not been universal, and teachers have been required to innovate where necessary.

Now, looking forward to a post-pandemic world, experts from Edtech UK, The Education Foundation, the Independent Schools Council and Intel have produced a new guide for school leaders, containing lessons "distilled from the ongoing Covid-19 crisis".
It includes a set of key principles for the way forward:
  1. Our vision must be simple, inclusive, clear, referenced and communicated effectively. Most importantly, we must make sure that our learners continue to feel that the school and their teachers are still there for them, guiding and supporting every pupil through these challenging times.
  2. We need to manage change with empathy for everyone. Covid-19 has given us all a reality check on our education system and the use of technology. This is our moment to shape edtech and future proof our teachers with the necessary skills to take on the challenges of today.
  3. Teachers must have continuous professional development. Teachers will need ongoing training to continue to adopt a wide range of pedagogical strategies and adapt to make the most of changes in technology. 
  4. We must continue to develop our infrastructure to be consistent and reliable so that online platforms can be effective tools for learning. The immediate experience of lockdown has school leaders wanting to be more prepared for a 'hybrid learning' environment. There are further opportunities that can be harnessed through a 1:1 technology programme in any school. Operational and learning efficiencies must be considered when embarking on such a journey. A change of mindset and a willingness to ensure equitable access for all students is the foundation of this change.
  5. We must safeguard everyone and our data and look after the wellbeing of the whole learning community. Every pupil should have access to a range of digital tools that can aid learning and a wide network of support from teachers across the country. 
  6. We need partnerships of trust to develop our learning communities. The Covid-19 crisis laid bare the digital divide – well documented before the crisis. Creaky old infrastructure – learning platforms included – for schools was a real obstacle. For many educators education technology was a new professional experience – often training and learning as they went from other colleagues or companies. Make do and mend, good as it is, can only get you so far.