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How can edtech support teachers and leaders?

On 27 March 2019, EPI hosted a half day conference to examine the potential of edtech to reduce teacher workload and increase opportunities for professional development, and to enhance learning.

Firefly’s Head of Product Lars Dyrelund participated in the discussion as a panel member and shared his views on how edtech can support teachers and leaders, which we have included below:

“At the highest level, at Firefly, we believe technology should be made for the environment it is intended for. Throughout time, and perhaps now more than ever, schools are bombarded with technology promising to revolutionise education. 

 The problem is, that the vast majority of this technology was never built with education in mind in the first place. In the best of cases, edtech has been adapted to education, but too often it is entirely generic and simply put to schools as the only viable solution. We expect schools to adopt technology by adapting the way they function and operate. 

 At Firefly, we are passionate believers in making technology that unlock the full potential of schools and help supercharge the modern learning experience. This is not achieved by taking technology out of an entirely different context and forcing it upon schools. 

 Technology needs to be made for schools – not the other way around. 

 Without this, we end up with inefficiencies. Both in terms of schools having to work in different ways to fit around technology, but also due to the lack of interoperability between edtech solutions. Even in cases where technology is made for schools; we often see them made in isolation – without the ability to share data or integrate with other systems. This is a huge problem as schools end up buying technology, that doesn’t talk to other technology and thereby creates more work or prevent schools from benefiting from synergies that could exist. 

 Context learning is one good example of this. Imagine if the food teacher knew what struggles in maths and science the students have. To date, we rely on teachers to coordinate during their busy days, with colleagues in the staff room (on the random off chance they meet the relevant other teachers – and have time to discuss students with them). Technology is an obvious solution here, as data about students in one class room setting should filter through to the next. This won’t happen when solutions aren’t built with schools in mind, and instead delivers single and narrow set of features and benefits to teachers.

 Another good example is the life of a student in this maze of systems. Consider a student’s co-curriculum activities. For example, say, we have a student who plays piano and enjoys rugby. It is entirely possible this student has to go into three different systems to figure out their time-table for the week. Clearly not a great experience.

 Go to any school in this country and map out which systems they use. I encourage you to do it. It is both fascinating and scary. Find out how much they spend on systems. Find out how these systems integrate (or not). Figure out how much time is spent registering the same data in different places. 

 What you are likely to discover is really frightening. Edtech cost is more than the price you pay for a technology, and the time you spend working with it. Edtech is also the hidden cost of time; taken away from teaching. This also impacts teacher satisfaction.

 Teachers are increasingly asked to do things that have nothing to do with teaching. Teachers don’t want to do all these things. They want to teach.

 Government understandably want data to understand progress, but in the absence of good technology to deliver such data we rely on teachers to do more. Register, record, report – all done on top of their core day to day work. 

 What if technology was built for the core workflows and automatically captured the data we need? What if teachers didn’t have to change their day, and do extra work?

 So, how can edtech support teachers and leaders? This is possible by:

  • building solutions that extend and support activities already happening in schools – across the whole school;
  • increasing productivity for teachers; 
  • capturing data without effort;
  • relaying this data back to leaders and authorities as relevant (and asked for) insights – without having to rely on teachers to do extra work.

Edtech should not pretend to have solutions for educators, when these solutions are not rooted in how schools operate. 

 Schools need to challenge the industry and apply pressure on edtech companies to deliver on this. Edtech, like any other business, respond to market pressure and demand. Unless you take control, you will continue to see edtech solutions not fit for purpose.

 Make sure to put us to the test and demand we build technology for you. Demand that we build technology that improves rather than change the lives of your staff, teachers and students. Demand technology that integrates and fits your way of working."

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