EEG members launch initiative at Bett 2020
Sparx

Half of teachers don't trust the claims of EdTechs

New research, published today by learning technology company Sparx, shows that more than three quarters of teachers and school leaders want to see clear proof that EdTech works in the classroom. Furthermore, over half don’t trust the claims made by educational technology companies about their products and services.

The findings coincide with a new initiative called the EdTech Evidence Group (EEG), which is being launched at Bett, the largest education technology show. The Group brings together leading UK EdTech companies who are calling for a step change in the quality of EdTech evidence available to schools. The EEG has been founded by nine of the UK’s leading EdTech companies, all of whom have undertaken research to show the efficacy of their products.

UK schools spend about £900m on education technology with the UK EdTech market set to be worth £3.4bn in 2021[1]. The new group will work to encourage EdTech providers to make the availability and transparency of evidence a priority, whilst also providing support to schools seeking clear evidence for the implementation of EdTech in their classrooms.

Commenting on the launch of the EEG Dan Sandhu CEO of Sparx said:

“Teachers and leaders are right to be concerned about the claims made by EdTech companies and I’m reassured that educators want to see proof EdTech works. Unfortunately, the quality and availability of evidence varies massively across the sector with some providers investing significantly in publishing the methods and results of research. Others are less forthcoming and it can be extremely difficult for schools to discern real evidence from marketing puff. The EEG recognises that putting pressure on the EdTech sector is only one part of the solution, but without buy-in from providers little change is possible.”

The research, which was undertaken by Teacher Tapp, a regular survey of teachers, asked more than 3700 teachers and school leaders their views about EdTech. Results showed that headteachers are more sceptical than others about the use of EdTech in the classroom, with more than four fifths (83%) agreeing they would want clear proof EdTech works. Similarly, those that had been teaching for more than 20 years are also more likely to want such evidence.

Stephen Farmer, Head of Cranbrook Education Campus said: “In many ways today’s tech-enabled world means it’s never been a more exciting time to be an educator. However, it can be a real challenge to unpick technologies that sound fantastic in theory from those that deliver impact in reality. As Headteacher of a school keen to make use of impactful EdTech it can be hard to access and interrogate the claims made about such tools. The EEG’s commitment that its members will be open and transparent in relation to EdTech evidence will help teachers make the right decisions when it comes to integrating truly transformative tech in classrooms.”

The EdTech Evidence Group’s nine founder members are: Edtech Impact, Education App Store, GCSE Pod, HegartyMaths, Learning Ladders, Pobble, Sparx, Tasomi and Whizz Education (see below for more information).

The need for proven EdTech is a key theme in the Department for Education’s own EdTech strategy which talks about the need to “encourage scale-up for proven products and services which are evidence-based”.

Ty Goddard, Chair of Edtech UK said: “The EdTech sector is a jewel in our digital sector. Investment is up, adoption in schools is growing and we know more about how EdTech supports teachers and learners. Edtech UK is proud to be partners with the EdTech Evidence Group. For EdTech to have a real impact in our schools there needs to be a clear and honest conversation about how it can really help. The EEG is an important step along the journey. Our work with government is positive with a new strategy and roll out to schools. We now need real ambition for the EdTech sector – to help business growth across all of our country and teachers to use technology to support learning.”

Caroline Wright, Director General of the British Educational Suppliers Association said: “As the trade association for educational suppliers BESA carries out a range of quality assurance checks on its members and ensures that they abide by our industry code of practice. It is encouraging to see a drive for similar quality standards in specialist areas of the education sector. The new EEG initiative should help schools to evaluate the impact of educational technology products.”

Tim Oates CBE, Group Director of Assessment Research and Development, Cambridge Assessment said:

“In the past decade, the landscape of support to teachers, learners and parents has changed out of all recognition. Proliferation is both an asset and a problem. We must not sleepwalk into educational chaos. It’s all very well saying that ‘quality will always rise to the surface’ but there’s strong international evidence that it doesn’t, and isn’t likely to. With 2.4 million Googleplay apps and 1.8 million Apple apps overall – and 200,000 Android educational apps, who on earth has the time and market information to choose applications grounded in the right educational models, with the right ‘baked in’ assumptions, and possessing the highest potential for beneficial rather than adverse impact? Signalling quality is essential. Consumers will only make good choices if they are informed. And with rampant proliferation, research-informed choice is exactly what we need.”

Member of the EEG, Michael Forshaw, Founder and CEO of EdTech Impact and Innovate My School, said: “Many bold claims are made by EdTech companies when selling to schools; yet when you peel back the layers, there can be little or no evidence to back up such claims. With school budgets so tight, and competition within the marketplace fierce, schools need more transparency than ever around what actually works. The EdTech Evidence Group is here to ensure no one is left behind, and I’m delighted that EdTech Impact and Innovate My School can play their part.”

The EdTech Evidence Group’s first activities include signing a public pledge to commit to bringing evidence to the forefront in their own organisations, and the publication of a new practical checklist giving schools straightforward tips about what to look for when getting the right evidence of an EdTech product or service.

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