Edtech future and assessment- is a rethink required?

The recent Westminster Education Forum (WEF) event ‘Using Technology in Education’ was a varied and lively session, but without the benefit of Ministers, the DfE or Ofqual present we were in the dark about how recommendations in the featured Education Technology Action Group (ETAG) report had been received.

tablets stacked

Given this, extracts from the speech given by the Secretary of State at BETT were shared by Altain in the published transcript. The indications are that the relationships between technology, assessment and accountability are deemed important with an emphasis on productivity; however, the speech pointedly provides no direction on ‘learning in the classroom’. Is there a message we should take from this?

Certainly a recurring theme threaded throughout discussions at the recent WEF keynote seminar was of the strong influence of the accountability/assessment regime on technology adoption. All the signs are of this influence growing stronger still in the new policy environment.

Speech extracts by the Secretary of State at BETT 2015

“A year ago, my predecessor was one of 3 ministers responsible for establishing the Education and Technology Action Group to investigate how digital technology might empower teachers and learners in new and exciting ways.

I look forward to studying the group’s report, which will be published today. But as I do so, I will be looking for ideas in a number of areas where I think technology can transform the educational landscape.

The first is accountability.

We need to reform the way schools are held to account. We have an analogue system in a digital age. League tables are important and an Ofsted report will always be an essential part of the service, but there is much more we can do.

As we inject further choice and competition to the school system, parents and students will rightly demand more information from us so that they can exercise that choice effectively. We need to consider how the era of ‘big data’ can help to provide it.

Already we have begun to produce destination data on school leavers to identify where they end up. We aim to include them in league tables by 2017. In future, we could try to link qualifications to tax data too in order to demonstrate the true worth of certain subjects.

The second area I would like to look at is assessment and reporting.

John Hattie’s work in New Zealand demonstrates what is possible. By using technology to administer regular standardised tests, he has transformed the way children learn and the way parents are able to monitor their child’s progress. This is vital. One of the major concerns that busy parents raise with me is the challenge of staying on top of what’s going on in their child’s school.

If we can find a way for all schools to use technology to improve the flow of information – ensuring the information parents need is there when and where they need it – this will help to ease some of this pressure.

Finally, I believe technology can play a critical role in helping to deliver one of my major priorities: reducing teacher workload. My recent ‘workload challenge’ initiative – which received more than 44,000 responses from teachers across the country – identified a number of key drivers of teacher workload.

Two of the most prominent were planning and marking, and there is so much that technology can do to streamline the processes here. There is so much more we might do. I have not had time to explore the role technology might play in changing how children learn in the classroom, though Liz Sproat from Google will do so shortly.

But we are fortunate in this country to have some of the best teachers, best schools and best educational technology companies in the world. And I am keen to ensure we do more in our own schools to harness the power and potential of ed tech”

Your views?

Given difficulties reported by the ETAG team in gaining traction on report recommendations with ministers and the regulator is there a message we should take from this? Does the ed tech community need to rethink the relationship between assessment and technology? What are the solutions that ed tech providers need to offer to secure business in the new policy environment?

Please share your views in the comments section below


COMING UP: Altain attending ‘Using technology in education’ event

Geoff Hurst, Managing Director, of Altain education will be attending the Westminster Education forum event on Using Technology in Education next week. Information on the programme and other speakers are below. We hope to see you there!

Westminster education forum


Bringing out the latest thinking on the use of technology in education, this timely seminar follows the recent publication of the report by the Education Technology Action Group (ETAG), created to promote the use of technology across schools, colleges and universities.

At this early stage it is expected that sessions will focus on examples of current best practice, and latest thinking on the potential for expanding and improving the use of technology in teaching, learning and assessment. Delegates will also discuss how latest learning technologies such as flipped learning, MOOCs for schools and 3D printing can be used to complement and transform teaching methods.

Further planned areas in the agenda include teacher training and professional development; the potential for technology to enhance pupil assessment and progress monitoring; promoting personalised learning; improving access to technology; and provision for pupils with special educational needs.

Continuing the conversation – Agenda and speaker connections 

Agenda Connections
Session Chair’s opening remarks:
Lord Sutherland of Houndwood,Formerly Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools in England & Non-Executive Chairman, FrogTrade sutherlands@parliament.ukhttp://www.frogeducation.com/
Promoting the use of technology in the classroom – latest from the Education Technology Action Group http://etag.report
Professor Stephen Heppell, Chair, Educational Technology Action Group (ETAG) @stephenheppellhttp://www.heppell.net/
Technology – enhanced learning – case studies in transforming teaching practice
Kirsty Tonks, Assistant Principal and Specialist Leader in Education, Shireland Collegiate Academy, West Midlands Flipped learning – encouraging independent learning and new ways of teaching@KirstyTonksSCAhttp://www.thelearningbank.co.uk/shireland/
Liam Sammon, Director of Education and Commercial Services, OCR Using MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in schools to increase participation@OCR_Liamhttps://www.linkedin.com/pub/liam-sammon/53/435/580
Dr Natalia Kucirkova, Lecturer, Faculty of Education and Language Studies, The Open University Personalised learning to improve outcomes@NKucirkovahttp://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/ed-futures/?author=7
Junaid Mubeen, Head of Research and Development, Whizz Education “Using artificial intelligence to replicate the behaviour of a human tutor”@fjmubeenhttp://www.whizz.com/author/junaid_whizz/
Questions and comments from the floor
Chairs closing remarks
Chair’s opening remarksLord Bichard, Non-executive Director, The Key contactholmember@parliament.ukhttps://schoolleaders.thekeysupport.com/
Analysing pupil performance and progress – e-assessment, on-screen marking and using big data
Matt Wingfield, Chairman, e-Assessment Association @essessmentguyhttp://www.e-assessment.com
Dr Kaska Porayska-Pomsta, Reader, Adaptive Technologies for Learning, London Knowledge Lab, University of London and Academic Fellow, Research Councils UK k.porayska-pomsta@ioe.ac.ukhttp://www.ioe.ac.uk/staff/LKLB_43.html
John Galloway, Advisory Teacher for ICT/SEN and Inclusion, Tower Hamlets Council @Johngallowayhttp://www.johngalloway.info/consultancy.html
Tim Downie, Business Development Director, RM Results @RMTimDowniehttp://www.rmresults.co.uk/
Questions and comments from the floor
Tackling barriers – resources, skills, access and supporting teachers to use latest technologies
Bob Harrison, Chair, Access, Connectivity and funding group, ETAG and Education Adviser, Toshiba Information Systems @bobharrisonsethttp://www.setuk.co.uk/
Andy Newell, Chief Executive Officer, IRIS Connect – Teacher CPD utilising video @Graham_IRISChttp://www.irisconnect.co.uk/
Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive, Association for Learning Technology @MarenDeepwellhttps://www.alt.ac.uk
Caroline Wright, Director, British Educational Suppliers Association @besatweethttp://www.besa.org.uk/
Paula Jeffries, Acting Assistant Head, Honywood Community Science School, Essex @HonywoodSchoolwww.honywoodschool.com
Questions and comments from the floor
Chairs closing remarks

Towards a blended future, responding to a textbooks quality challenge

In his  controversial and wonderfully counter-intuitive paper ‘Why textbooks count’ linked  here  Tim Oates has challenged the current orthodoxy of education and exam resources making the case for higher quality textbooks as well as throwing into question the relative value of digital resources. Below we have reproduced a summary of Tim’s key message preceded by an introduction to Altain’s perspective on the possibles of a blended approach with potential for delivering the best of all worlds


Sharing Altain’s perspective for a blended approach 

We’ve had quite a bit to say about textbooks exam and board/publisher relations in our evidence to the Education Committee review of exams for 15 to 19 year olds – here and more recently in a short presentation at a Westminster Education forum on possible ways forward for resources and university involvement, here

Tim’s observations on the importance of text books and quality of current publishing provision are no surprise to us (in fairness there are extenuating circumstances for publishers on which more later) – however we do have a very different take on digital.

Our experience of other sectors outside of education suggests a blended future but with print and digital playing complementary rather than competing roles. Key we think is that the debate is not limited to comparisons between print and digital as a medium for education but that it is about strategy too.

For example, both in the UK and globally there is a major rethink on MOOCs taking place that includes an assertive consideration of their possible role in secondary education. It is early days but research published by the DfE in June this year here  indicated that teachers and school heads are able to discriminate between scenarios, for example seeing good potential for a beneficial blending of digital and traditional resources supporting 16 to 19 progression to HE, but less so in others such as early years learning.

Perhaps something like the EEF’s Pupil premium ‘Teaching and learning toolkit’ linked here  could be deployed to help facilitate an objective evaluation of approaches?

Mirroring Tim’s notion of ‘coherence’, we concluded in our evidence to the Education Committee review of examinations for 15 to 19-year-olds by saying that “Examinations and Exam boards have perhaps unwittingly come to occupy too much of the centre stage when in fact a good education and an effective education system require a symbiotic relationship between a numbers of elements of which assessments is just one”. Possibly we might now add – “and high quality textbooks and digital are two others”?

‘Why textbooks count’, a summary of what Tim had to say

England needs to restore the primacy of ‘real’ textbooks in order to reach international standards of education, Cambridge Assessment’s Group Director of Assessment Research and Development has said.
In a paper published to coincide with a conference held by the Publishers Association, and backed by Minister of State for School Reform Nick Gibb MP, Tim Oates warns that England has been overtaken by the highest-performing education systems, partly because they value textbooks so highly.

Tim, who chaired the 2010 National Curriculum review, shows that in England only four per cent of teachers claim to use science textbooks as the basis for their teaching, compared to 68 per cent in Singapore and 94 per cent in Finland. In the latest PISA international league tables, Singapore was ranked third and Finland fifth for science. The UK was in 21st place.

In Why Textbooks Count, which looks at the best systems around the world, Tim explains that classroom teachers are not to blame for the problem. Instead he highlights an opposition to textbooks among many theory-based educationalists, as well as a failure of the market in England. He says textbooks have been largely abandoned in favour of the use of ‘worksheets’ and “myopic” exam-based books, in stark contrast to places such as Singapore, Finland and Shanghai, where high-quality textbooks are a key part of the classroom, supporting learners and teachers alike.

Summing up the situation, he says: “We may not have been conscious of the movement in England away from the wide use of high quality textbooks, but it has happened. We’ve failed to notice the emergence, in other nations, of extremely well-theorised, well-designed, and carefully implemented textbooks.” He concludes by calling for “self-searching criticism of the status-quo in England” and for a “concerted effort by publishers, the state, researchers and educationalists” to align more with emerging international standards of excellence on textbooks.

In a foreword, the Minister says he hopes the paper will “lead to the renaissance of intellectually demanding and knowledge-rich textbooks in England’s schools”

Your view?

Are higher quality text books the answer? Is a blended approach a possible way forward? Where do you see the new opportunities and how can they be realised?

Please share your views in the comments section below