Some edtech maths

Piers YoungThoughts1 Comment

Have been doodling on the back of a napkin this evening about edtech and its cost-benefit.

Let’s say a new technology is being introduced into your school, with the promise of “50% better learning for all”.

Let’s assume the following:

  • your class has 25 students
  • you teach them your lesson 4 hours a week for 30 weeks
  • each hour each student progresses on average “1 unit of progress” which we’ll call 1P.

After 1 year, by the end of the pre-Tech course, your class will have generated 25 x 4 x 30 units of progress, or 3,000 P.

And let’s introduce the tech and let’s assume that when it does work well it really does lead to 150% gains.

In theory, then, it should lead to 4,500 P.

Over the year, let’s say it takes you 4 weeks to become really fluent in the tech. Over that time you’re a little less effective and so your students’ progress is 0.8P per hour. In total that’s a loss of 16 x 25 x 0.2P or 80P – not too bad.

Being generous every other lesson at least 1 student has either forgotten their tech, their password, their charger or similar, which halves their progress. It also means 5 minutes or 1/12 of the lesson is wasted for others. That means every 25P lesson is less effective. The forgetter goes from 1P to 0.5P and the other 24 students go from 24P to 22P. So in total each lesson is not 25P but 21.5P. And over 120 lessons a year that 3.5P drop becomes a 420P loss.

So in this (silly) scenario, the net gain is 1000P not 1500P per year, but still a healthy 33% increase in “progress”.

I started doodling because I was getting a little peeved about hearing “iPads are amazing” and “that App isn’t real learning”, both ends of the spectrum ping-ponging back and forth, very few with any broader “.

The questions that I hear less of, though, are these:

  • what reason is there for having personalised/secure/non-shareable device or app? (paper works well, visualisers work well, chalk works well, BYOD isn’t there yet – it is overly personal and non-shareable, homework apps can be great)
  • what is the proven benefit other than a vague “it’s shiny tech and they’ll need that in the future”?
  • given the limited time-frame teachers operate under, what is the cost of learning new tech? what is an acceptable time to learn it?
  • if a rule of thumb for ROI is that it’s healthier when the I is smaller, ignoring whether or not it’s affordable, what conditions make tech a good investment? What return is expected? What else could the I part of the ROI be spent on – textbooks, biscuits, etc.
  • At KS1,2,3 do conversations with parents and the cost of debating whether or not screentime is damaging/why aren’t we using this app get factored in?

I would love seamless tech. I would love a more PKM approach from students. But given the limited time in the timetable for teachers, I still think there need to be more sensible and open discussions about costing, visible and hidden.

[And do please feel free to correct my maths!]
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