Adding more evidence to EdTech

As is often the case at the start of the New Year, the EdTech sector has seen a number of predictions on the trends that are likely to emerge over the next year and indeed, over the course of this new decade. One trend that we've seen emerging (are very pleased about) is the increased awareness of the need for more research and evidence in EdTech development.

At the Bett Show last month I spoke to an EdTech developer who said he knew his product was robust and purposeful. How? Because he had the data.

But what data did he have? How was it evaluated and validated? What did it show?

Even if he couldn’t immediately answer these questions with a research paper, he was aware at least of the importance of an evidence base. And speaking to exhibitors at the Bett Show, he wasn’t alone. The discourse around EdTech is changing. The importance of research as the basis of EdTech development is now widely understood and a topic for discussion.

It has become mainstream. Almost. It is no longer about the whizz-bang. If it doesn’t lead to tangible and measurable learning outcomes, no amount of graphic chicanery is going to make an EdTech product viable.

“On the EDUCATE programme we have been stressing this for years and our focus on research-led EdTech development is what has made our programme unique and attracted so much interest globally,” said Dr Alison Clark-Wilson, UCL EDUCATE’s principal research lead.

“It was noticeable at this year’s Bett Show that research is now the issue. The panel discussion UCL EDUCATE hosted at the show, entitled Global education challenges: why research-informed edtech is the way forward” and my talk on “The Billion Dollar EdTech question – Can we Prove it Works?” were standing room only. People wanted to hear what the experts had to say.

The creation of the European EdTech Network last summer, of which UCL EDUCATE is a founding member, is a collaboration of like-minded universities and higher education institutions keen to collaborate and share best practice in this area.

EdTech developers are also taking the initiative. Tassomai founder Murray Morrison, part of cohort four of the EDUCATE programme, has helped to set up the EdTech Evidence Group – a network of companies keen to demonstrate the efficacy of their products with an expectation that others do likewise.

Meanwhile, the sector is also seeing the emergence of Trip Advisor-style EdTech review platforms such as Innovate My School,an education sector platform offering information and news about the latest innovations being developed for the classroom, as well as advice on what to look out for when making EdTech purchasing decisions.

Dr Clark-Wilson added: “Schools, the main users of EdTech, are becoming much more discerning. While this might partly be due to constrained school budgets, there is also a growing realisation among teachers that EdTech needs to be impactful and fit for purpose, and research led. No-one has the time or finances to take a punt on something that isn’t proven to work.

“What these developments and collaborations show us is that the trajectory of discussion in the EdTech sector is moving in the right direction.”

These discussions will become of increasing importance as we seek to draw on the strengths of international collaborations in EdTech. As more research and evidence comes to light, the greater our understanding will become of how to impact positively on the learning experiences of learners – and to produce the EdTech they need.

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