Joe Mathewson, founder of Firefly Learning, discusses the rise of Edtech and the implications for e-learning after the COVID-19 Pandemic
Education was tipped on its head this year, as the 8.74 million children in England left the classroom to begin learning at home online. It was a transition no one could’ve predicted. The rapid rise of edtech has not only made great strides in enabling children to continue learning at home, but also in the potential of integrating this approach into more traditional teaching in the future.
Three months on, as children are beginning to return to school, the whole education sector is reflecting on the learnings from this upheaval. Teachers and parents are considering what has worked in lockdown, particularly in reference to edtech, and what we need to do to ensure children have not been left behind in their learning.
The Government has come up with a number of big headline plans including ringfencing £350 million for a tutoring fund to ensure pupils are not left behind, and also a plan to rebuild schools around the UK as part of a wider infrastructure plan One aspect which has largely been left out of government briefings however, is digital infrastructure and how we can utilise edtech to more efficiently solve the problems caused by lockdown.
EdTech has been a growing industry globally, even before Covid-19 and subsequent home schooling. In 2019 global edtech investments reach US$18.66 billion. Yet UK investment into edtech remained at £90.9 million in 2018. And in comparison, as a global industry, edtech investment remained at just 15% of what fintech investment was in a similar year.
There are a number of ways that tech can assist the education system to help pupils to bounce back after lockdown, and we strongly urge government to consider how these fit into their plans:
While a personalised approach is an effective way to get pupils up to speed who are lagging behind – hiring thousands of private tutors to do this could end up being a financial and logistical nightmare for government and the fund will only go so far. Edtech provides the tools to enable students to learn at their own pace and enables teachers to give individual levels of help to kids through different resources.
By using a technology solution, schools can provide a far more consistent and long-term solution, instead of plugging short-term holes. This will be similar to the next government announcement regarding infrastructure. Although building back better is important for physical infrastructure we will also need a similar focus on digital infrastructure. Whether through access to hardware, software or better internet connections, we need to ensure everyone can have the access to the same levels of learning.
As a larger number of children return to school in September, it is likely that tech will continue to be used in the classroom going forwards. The best schools will reshape classroom practice based on what worked well with home learning and integrate this into the classroom experience.
While edtech has a huge part to play in the future of learning, we also acknowledge that there is a lot to be done to make sure it is as interactive and interesting as possible. As tech continues to speed our lives up, children’s attention span are dropping and we must do everything to make sure learning material is engaging and appealing as possible.
From Fortnite to TikTok, constant online distractions means the education sector needs to offer content that is engaging enough for kids. We have seen this from the gamifying of education to other techniques in keeping it relevant and enjoyable for children.
Technology will enable children to learn at their own pace, and the one that’s best for them. It will also ensure everyone, no matter how large the class size, can have the right level of attention needed to accomplish their potential.
Technology has the opportunity to be the great enabler of education and can be the great equaliser. If schools can implement the online services, and government ensures it supports digital as well as physical infrastructure, we can ensure everyone has an equal access to education.