Famous French sociologist Emile Durkheim once said, “Education is the only image and reflection of society”. In other words, the inequalities we see in broader society filter down into our education system. Education technology (or edtech) is a valuable tool our Australian education system can leverage to close that gap.
This article looks at some of the challenges within the current system and the opportunities edtech tools provide educators to overcome the challenges.
The OECD1 states that equity and excellence are interconnected and must be at the core of any approach to improving student outcomes.
While equality and equity are often used interchangeably, Atturra defines equality in an educational setting as everyone having the same access to the same curriculum, tools, equipment and opportunities. Equity is recognising that we do not all start from the same place and must acknowledge and adjust imbalances.
Reasons for inequality and inequity within schools are broad and varied but include:
● Lack of appropriate funding.
● Socio-economic factors leading to disadvantage.
● Historical, cultural and systemic barriers.
● Regional, rural and remote locations.
● Inability to distribute resources in a fair, balanced and equitable manner.
● Lack of key stakeholder engagement in decision-making and problem-solving.
The discussion around achieving greater equality and equity is a priority for government groups, institutional bodies, and educators, with many programs targeted at closing the gaps.
Education technology can positively impact outcomes, learning experiences, and skills when the basics are in place and existing resources are leveraged.
For edtech tools to deliver results, students need access to reliable network connectivity, Wi-Fi, and entry-level hardware, whether a laptop, tablet, or phone. Teachers are very creative and can do exceptional things with even basic equipment, as shown through the pandemic homeschooling. Industry groups, charities, and corporations must continue to drive access through initiatives such as rural laptop donations.
With those basics in place, students can use a whole range of smart technology designed to meet students where they are at.
Personalised learning experiences
One of the biggest challenges for teachers is differentiating lessons to the multiple learning levels within a classroom. Typically, this means bringing up the students who are below standard and extending the top students.
Over the last few years, innovative edtech has been developed to help differentiate learning depending on a student's progression. For example, some tools can take text pieces and deliver them at multiple reading levels. Meaning everyone in a classroom can study the same thing at a level appropriate to them.
This kind of learning means that irrespective of a student's strengths, they can build on their potential.
Adapts to different learning styles
We all learn differently. Some technologies now allow us to adapt a piece of learning to a student's preferred style. Whether visual, auditory, reading and writing or kinaesthetic, the tech capability exists to cater to it. Additionally, it can be adapted to suit collaborative or solo learning.
It is worth noting that while adaptive teaching comes with benefits to the learner, Australia’s current curriculum may not be set up to optimise this style of teaching and can sometimes force educators back into types of teaching styles more focused on assessments and less geared towards student-centred learning.
Leverage integrated tools
A significant benefit to tools becoming mainstream in the classroom is the ability to use them within the current flow of work or learning. For example, rather than students having to use expensive tools or applications to receive the support they need, software like Microsoft Office and some browsers have these types of capabilities built-in, with tools like immersive reader and read-aloud accessible within a document or presentation.
Quality insights for teachers
Edtech software can also deliver greater quality, real-time insights to teachers. Collecting and using data regularly enables teachers to understand a student's potential in a more timely and effective way than standardised test results or yearly reports.
With all the available data in schools, the challenge is assembling and making sense of the data. Often, this results in building dashboards. These require teachers and administrators to go somewhere to access this data.
In a world where work intensification is real in schools, we must start thinking about how we deliver data at the right time in the right place. For example, wouldn't it be great for teachers to have the required data delivered as they transition from class to class in a secondary school or scheduled in a primary school?
Atturra recently contributed to Consultation Paper: Review to Inform a Better and Fairer Education System, which stated that good data is imperative to making informed, holistic decisions within an educational setting. The paper found that data from edtech can shed light on exactly where students are at, from an attainment level and regarding their wellbeing and welfare.
K-12 institutions in Australia can implement EdTech to overcome equality and equity challenges, differentiate and personalise learning, and provide quality insights to teachers. This will positively impact outcomes and enable learners to achieve their full potential.
The Atturra K-12 Education team are specialists in Microsoft and have a wealth of collective experience in the industry. Having worked in education as teachers, deputy principals or learning coordinators, we have a deep understanding of the nature and rhythm of a school. And because we’ve worked in and with thousands of schools, we bring best practices and fresh ideas we’ve seen work to every project.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to set up a discussion with one of our experts.
About the author
Brett Auton is Atturra’s K-12 Practice Lead for Education. He is an experienced senior leader and manager with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. He also has a background in teaching, with strong education and professional skills in IT strategy, business process improvement, digital pedagogies, analytics, infrastructure and Microsoft technologies.