The Efficacy of Edtech – Ian Rowe

You may have seen the recent BBC series where 15 pupils and their teachers embarked on a time travelling adventure through more than a century of UK education.

Back in Time for School spanned life in the classroom from the Victorian era up to modern times. The teenagers went from learning by rote from a chalk-filled blackboard to experiencing life in a postwar grammar and a 1960s secondary modern, before finally coming face-to-face with the dawning of the digital age in the 1980s and 1990s.

You remember those days. Mobile phones the size of bricks that could only make and take calls, gigantic and silent desktop computers with their black and white displays, and no World Wide Web.

GCSE online resource

But technology has moved on apace. We now have wafer thin laptops, light and transportable tablet PCs, and pocket-sized smartphones that can do everything a computer can. Such technology is as accepted a part of everyday life for today’s young people as the birth of the telephone, radio and TV was for past generations.

Technology has transformed all our lives – and perhaps nowhere more so than in how we teach and learn. Constant connectivity is the norm for today’s children and has seen schools invest heavily in education technology that both helps teachers deliver the core subjects in a more innovative and entertaining way, and students learn, retain and use that information.

GCSEPod is one such resource supporting cross-curricular teaching, learning and knowledge retention in Key Stage 4. For those that don’t know, we’re an online teaching and learning platform that uses short, easy to access and professionally written revision videos (known as Pods) that can be simply retrieved in both the classroom or on the go on a smartphone or tablet.
Launched a decade ago, we now work with around 1,500 secondary schools in 20 countries, so we can assume we are doing something right!

But that is always the burning question for schools and colleges in these cash-strapped times. While students may appear engaged in edtech, what proof do schools have of its efficacy?

Before you can answer that question, I believe there is a more fundamental one that needs tackling. What are the outcomes that really matter to teachers? Because I believe the true value of technology in the learning sphere can only be achieved when developers work closely and consistently with specialists, seeking their views, gathering their feedback and steering the tech to fit their needs.

Sadly, in today’s climate, the most common responses are the need to achieve a good Ofsted outcome and to manage teachers increasing workload, which in many cases is taking them away from the ideologies that led them into the profession in the first place: to help and educate children; improve students post education outcomes; and to make a long-term difference to their lives.

But used correctly, edtech has the power to bring these priorities to the fore again – as long as schools can justify such investment via proof of impact on outcomes. Which is why we make demonstrating a positive impact our top priority here at GCSEPod.

To do this we use whole school data gathered over the last five years and from over 700 secondary schools, as well as anonymised information from more than 3,000 individual students. Our school level data reveals a positive correlation between the length of time a school has used GCSEPod, and the total number of Pods accessed with overall P8 outcomes. We know from individual student data that the top 25% of users on average achieve three grades higher in their GCSE’s than predicted and have a better overall outcome on Attainment 8.

Comments like the following from a GCSEPod lead at a Midlands-based secondary school which carried out its own research, are not unusual. “The top 25% of GCSEPod users were 0.6 above national estimates for Progress 8, suggesting the more Pods the students watched the higher their chances of exceeding their target grades.”

Impressive as this is, we also know that the best whole school outcomes are achieved when GCSEPod is integrated into teaching and learning by engaged and driven GCSEPod leaders. It is only then that edtech can really have both a positive impact on student attainment, and teacher workload.

A head of geography remarked to me recently after 34% of his students achieved grades 7-9 compared to 11% nationally, “I don’t think you can get good results without excellent teaching, but when you combine that with GCSEPod, it gives students the security and confidence to perform well.”

Here at GCSEPod we have made it our mission to provide effective coaching and to build a strong support team to work with GCSEPod leaders, to guide them through not just using the resource, but squeezing the best out of it for their particular needs.

Sharing success and best practice through case studies, reassures teachers that GCSEPod really does do what it says it will. Even when workload is such an issue, teachers are more than happy to make time to let others know what GCSEPod will do: positively impact on student results.

Judging edtech value is about putting the time and investment into enhancing your resource to meet school needs, and providing the right support to ensure it becomes rooted in teaching practice.

Only then can a company honestly say its end users are able to achieve their desired outcomes – and realise the efficacy of edtech.

If you want to find out more about the role GCSEPod can play in helping students and indeed teachers, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 0191 338 7830 or email info@gcsepod.com

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“A real ‘no brainer’ – GCSEPod is a high quality resource for students which can be evidenced to have an impact on both progress and attainment for all ability levels. It represents extremely good value for money.”

Nick Howe, Assistant Head,
North Huddersfield Trust School

“GCSEPod is an extremely high quality, cost effective and user friendly resource that has had clear and measurable impact in our Academy. The support given by the GCSEPod team is fantastic in all areas. Whether on their own device, or in the classroom, the resource is high quality and ever-developing! I would thoroughly recommend it!”

Dominic Howkins, Vice Principal,
Ormiston Sudbury Academy

“Test Valley School initially subscribed to GCSEPod after securing some external funding. However, the impact has been so significant that we have now subscribed in our own right.”

Andrew Page, Deputy Headteacher,
Test Valley School

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