This Friday, an audience of influencers from across the education sector will convene at the Edtech UK Global Summit in London's City Hall to discuss the future of education technology in Britain. It proves to be an incredibly interesting event - as well as some of the most exciting innovators and startups forecasting future trends in the industry, a number of policy-makers and ministers will be present, indicating that the UK edtech sector is indeed one tipped for take-off.
Despite this, there is clearly a difference between the current growth of the UK edtech sector and the boom that our American counterparts have enjoyed over recent decades. The steady upward climb of edtech in America has been quite remarkable - the Education Technology Industry Network valued the total US edtech market at a massive $8.38 billion in the 2012-13 academic year. I should also acknowledge that edtech growth has accelerated considerably in the UK, with more than 1,000 start-ups across the country and over 200 headquartered in London. Nevertheless, the UK is failing to incorporate technology in the classroom as effectively as possible. So, the great question is how can we in the UK learn from our neighbours and give the room for schools to fully incorporate edtech in the classroom?
The key way in which the UK can address this is by building an infrastructure that makes it easier for schools to select the right technology for them. Almost every school in the UK currently makes its own decision on ICT procurement. One of the key reasons this situation has emerged is because of the demise of Becta (the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency), a non-departmental public body formed in 1998 with the primary purpose of promoting and integrating ICT into classrooms in the UK. It provided guidance on ICT equipment and e-learning strategy for schools, meaning that schools could rely on Becta purchasing frameworks which essentially indicated that technology was vetted and tested so schools knew they were getting proven technology for their school.
Unfortunately, these purchasing frameworks came under some criticism for favouring more influential brands at the expense of smaller ICT companies, and the abolition of Becta was announced in the May 2010 post-election spending review, meaning schools became responsible for their own procurement of ICT. This has led to a lack of confidence from schools around whether, and to what extent, they should be using edtech in the classroom and which technology is best suited to meet their students' needs. The demise of Becta has left a gap - but re-establishing a similar overarching organisation would undoubtedly be a logistical and economic challenge. In my eyes, it is now imperative that the UK government takes a central role in putting meaningful guidance in place in order to maintain the UK's education performance and provide parameters for educators when selecting providers. At the least, this week's event certainly shows edtech is starting to take centre-stage in the UK's technological revolution!
As new innovations and technologies are becoming readily available at exponential rates, a framework for buying is more necessary than ever. The challenge to adopting to such technology is that schools need better guidance as to the resources and personalised platforms that best serve their students.
I must say that the future's looking bright in terms of what edtech can bring to students. The integration of technology into the classroom will have a huge impact on learning outcomes and digital literacy. Before this happens, the government must take up the challenge of providing educators with the insight, confidence and guidelines to fully make the most of what's on offer from the edtech sector - and this will certainly help the industry to flourish within the UK.
Texthelp will be present at the Edtech UK Global Summit this Friday at London's City Hall, including on a panel looking into the future trends in UK edtech.