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Using Digital Technology to Improve Learning

Four recommendations on using digital technology to improve children's learning

This EEF guidance report is designed to support senior leaders and teachers to make better informed decisions based on the best available evidence we currently have. It includes a number of practical examples of technology being used in ways which support improved teaching (e.g., by increasing the accuracy of teacher assessment) or improve pupil learning (e.g., by increasing the quality and quantity of pupil practice).

To develop this report’s four recommendations for using digital technology to improve pupils’ learning we not only reviewed the best available international research, but also consulted with teachers and other experts.

EEF Guidance Report
1

Consider how technology will improve teaching and learning before introducing it

New technology can often appear exciting. However, it can become a solution in search of a problem unless it is introduced in response to an identified need.

It is often useful to link the introduction of new technology to wider planning, for example, a review of assessment policy.

Schools should consider the pedagogical rationale for how technology will improve learning.

The principles of how to use technology successfully are not distinct from questions of how to teach effectively or how children learn.

Without a clear plan for support and implementation, technology is much less likely to have an impact.

This includes considering what initial training will be needed, what time and resources are required, and what ongoing support should be available.

Decisions about whether to introduce technology should also include an analysis of the costs of implementing the technology, alongside the expected benefits.

EEF Guidance Report
2

Technology can be used to improve the quality of explanations and modelling

Technology has the potential to help teachers explain and model new concepts and ideas.

However, how explanations and models are conveyed is less important than their clarity and accessibility to pupils.

Introducing a new form of technology will not automatically change the way teachers teach.

Interactive whiteboards are a good example highlighting the need to consider the pedagogical rationale for adopting a form of technology, and for carefully planning the training required to enable teachers to use it effectively.

Technology can help teachers model in new ways and provide opportunities to highlight how experts think as well as what they do, but may be most effective when used as a supplement rather than a substitute for other forms of modelling.

EEF Guidance Report
3

Technology offers ways to improve the impact of pupil practice

Technology has the potential to increase the quality and quantity of practice that pupils undertake, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Technology can be engaging and motivating for pupils. However, the relationship between technology, motivation, and achievement is complex.

Monitoring how technology is being used, including by checking that all learners have the skills they need to use it effectively, is likely to reduce the risk that technology becomes a tool that widens the gap between successful learners and their peers.

Some forms of technology can also enable teachers to adapt practice effectively, for example by increasing the challenge of questions as pupils succeed or by providing new contexts in which students are required to apply new skills.

Using technology to support retrieval practice and self-quizzing can increase retention of key ideas and knowledge.

EEF Guidance Report
4

Technology can play a role in improving assessment and feedback

Technology has the potential to improve assessment and feedback, which are crucial elements of effective teaching.

However, how teachers use information from assessments, and how pupils act on feedback, matter more than the way in which it is collected and delivered.

Using technology can increase the accuracy of assessment, or the speed with which assessment information is collected, with the potential to inform teachers’ decision-making and reduce workload.

Technology can be used to provide feedback directly to pupils via programmes or interventions, but in all cases careful implementation and monitoring are necessary.

Feedback via technology is likely to be most beneficial if it is provided in addition to, rather than instead of, other forms of feedback.

Four recommendations on using digital technology to improve children's learning