If you have children at home just now, suddenly their education has become something you have a greater involvement in and with more shared responsibility alongside the school and teachers.
You will quickly recognise that the world has moved on from your days at school. Technology has become a key tool that teachers are increasingly being encouraged to bring into the classroom to the advantage of the pupils.
DfE last year launched for the very first time a policy document on the use of Education Technology (usually abbreviated to EdTech). This promotes the positive benefits to be derived from EdTech. You can see the document here.
Many schools have, however, been working well ahead of this development. The United Kingdom has possibly the most active community of EdTech businesses in the world. Learning Platforms (a local hub from which teaching materials can be managed and accessed and pupils course work uploaded and school meals paid for) have existed for more than a decade.
With the advent of smartphones, your child’s phone has become an EdTech platform in a particularly powerful way. Additionally, the adoption of iPads within many schools has brought education applications to the heart of many subjects. If all of this is bewildering to you, the parent or carer, here are some thoughts to better empower you in working with your children.
Don’t forget that the teacher is still at the core of the learning experience!
Schools have been aware for some little time that the circumstances we are in would most likely happen. Your children will have been well briefed on how their education can continue with as little disruption as possible. Where access to online resources is required Schools will be ensuring that technical staff are always on hand to ensure that systems keep running.
Your children will hopefully have been given programmes of work and even a school day style timetable to stick to. It’s going to be worth walking through with the child what work has been set and help if you can with the necessary technical issues that may well arise. You will want to understand how and when the school is going to provide updates, place new materials online and when teachers are available to communicate with.
You might, however, be tempted to trawl the web searching for additional learning materials to support learning. A little bit about that later in this article.
I am curious about the education apps and programs that are being accessed
It is thought that there could well be anything between 800 and 1200 UK businesses involved in providing EdTech materials of various kinds. Support for the curriculum in the form of downloadable work sheets, virtual and augmented reality experiences, online quizzes to test knowledge gained and other online learning programs are very easy to track down.
Increasingly, EdTech developers are producing services to support home learning. You will want to be careful about this and look to be guided in the first instance by what teachers would be happy to see used – for fear of cutting across teaching strategies adopted with your children. An online service that does include materials accessible by parent isEdTech Impact.
If my child is spending more time than was planned with EdTech resources how can I be sure that educational outcomes are not being compromised?
Teachers will still be overseeing the education of your child and, most likely, there will be very regular interactions over the internet. It will be important to let these happen and if form teachers have planned out a school day for your child, stick with that so far as possible.
You may find some reassurance by taking a look at the website for the education business involved. This is still a developing area for our education system to harness and there is no accreditation system determining what is good for your child’s education and what isn’t.
However, much emphasis is now being placed upon validation of education outcomes. You may see reference to the developer of the resource having been part of the UCL Educate program – linked to the world leading UCL Institute of Education, the University has provided an outstanding support resource for more than 250 developers with innovative ideas for education products – helping to assess the value that a particular resource will bring through adoption in the classroom.
Many other EdTech businesses have involved Universities and their educational research teams in the development of their products and will have similar credentials to support the value of the resources they have created.
I see references to Artificial Intelligence (AI) being used in the programs and apps my child is using. How well is personal data being managed and is AI really good for education?
AI is playing an increasing part in the delivery of education. The EdTech sector is well aware of its responsibilities to manage personal data compliantly with data protection laws. You can check the privacy notices of resources your child is using by visiting the business’s website. Additionally, DfE has an accreditation scheme for education businesses that place personal data in the cloud – this ensuring high standards of data management and security.
AI is still an evolving area – with much more in the way of developments to follow. The Information Commissioners Office is alive to the value that AI can have right across society and our economy and is supportive – but at the same time is monitoring developments closely. ICO is creating a framework to enable it to audit compliance around the use of AI.
The correct implementation of AI in education demands respect not only for law but also for ethics and, above all else, the development of trust with users and, in the context of education, parents and carers. Particular steps that will always be taken include what is called data pseudonymisation with the important data securely delinked from the identity of the child.
Here, at Freeths, we wish you well with the challenges you have as parents or carers at this time. Maintaining the highest possible outcomes for the current generation of School children must be a top priority. We are amazed at the way our EdTech clients have refocussed their resources to play their part in the project we are now all part of!
But like the school day, it is important to establish a routine, says Sarah Dove, a teacher who works online with children who cannot attend school.