Home » Education Technology » Innovative technology can be a solution to closing the disadvantage gap

Olivia Sumpter

Director of Education, Bedrock Learning

The disadvantage gap, along with the additional Covid-related learning loss, means that innovation is crucial. Something has to change. That’s why edtech will continue to be critical in the educational landscape of the years ahead.

‘Now, more than ever.’ Since those grim early days of March 2020, no phrase has been uttered so often. And of course, we heard it a lot in the world of education and edtech. In 2020, the sector grew by 70%, as teachers moved online. ‘Now, more than ever’ schools relied on technology to deliver learning.

The disadvantage gap

The issue of course is that ‘now, more than ever’ doesn’t account for what came before. The ‘disadvantage gap’ reveals how well the education system is levelling the playing field. Pre-pandemic, by the end of Year 11 a disadvantaged pupil would be, on average, a full 18 months behind their peers (EPI, 2019). Between 2011 and 2018, we saw a slow but steady narrowing of that gap, but in 2018, progress stalled. The full impact of the 2020/21 school closures is perhaps yet to be felt, but against this background of persistent educational inequality, we could ill afford further learning loss.

What does this all mean for edtech?

In 2015, we started Bedrock Learning. As two English teachers, we were faced with clear language gaps in our classrooms. This had demonstrable impacts on attainment in English and across the curriculum. We knew what the solution was: read, expose the learners to as much Tier 2 vocabulary as possible, test them, let them forget, read the words again in new contexts and retest. We could have done that for 10 learners, maybe 20. But for 100-plus students throughout an entire school year and keep track of it all? No chance.

If edtech is to impact outcomes in the long term, we need a collaborative approach and we need an evidence informed sector.

As Daisy Christodolou writes, “Successful disruptive innovation solves a problem better than the existing solution.” The technology offered opportunities for delivering learning that was grounded in research and best practice: spaced learning algorithms, regular assessment, controlled forgetting, reliable data and reteaching. So we developed a platform that did all these things in a way that was sustainable for teachers. At its innovative best, edtech can solve a problem better than the existing solution.

Closing the loop

If edtech is to impact outcomes in the long term, we need a collaborative approach and we need an evidence-informed sector. Local authorities, MATs, government and industry must work together to foster closer links between schools and the sector.

Now more than ever, the question shouldn’t be ‘what is the future of edtech?’ It should always be, ‘what works? What improves learning for the young people in our schools?’ That’s the future of edtech.

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