Technology has the power to transform education in the UK for the better, but is not being used to full effect because teachers often do not know how best to utilise it.
According to new research from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta), the UK's innovation foundation, schools believe the hype when it comes to digital education and are spending more than £450 million a year, despite having little evidence of the actual benefits this will bring.
However, its Decoding Learning report also indicated that technology is only really beneficial when it is combined with effective teaching methods and practices. In reality, technology is often introduced without any changes to either teaching or school organisation.
With an ever-greater amount of school budgets going towards technology, it is becoming increasingly important for schools to ensure that they have a clear understanding of its potential benefits.
It is also incumbent on them to train existing staff and hire people to teaching jobs with the skills required to utilise these technologies.
Nesta said that schools are purchasing tablets, voting pods, smart whiteboards and interactive games with the expectation of significantly enhanced learning, but have failed in many cases to demonstrate any perceptible improvements in teaching standards.
Geoff Mulgan, chief executive of Nesta, attempted to get to the heart of the problem, noting: "A tablet replacing an exercise book is not innovation - it's just a different way to make notes. There's incredible potential for digital technology in and beyond the classroom: but as in other fields, from healthcare to retail, it is vital to rethink how learning is organised if we're to reap the rewards."
"The danger is that the technology of the 21st century is being applied using teaching methods of the 20th. The emphasis is too often on shiny hardware - rather than how it's to be used."
The Decoding Learning report concluded that education technology must be designed around how students are learning and deployed to support existing teaching practices, rather than looking to fundamentally change classroom teaching.
Posted by Alan Douglas