Educational technology and the impact on teaching and learning

A new Topic Guide on Educational Technology (edtech) has been launched bringing together evidence on the use of edtech and the impact on teaching and learning practices and learning outcomes. Produced by the DFID funded HEART programme at the Institute of Development Studies his Guide contributes to what we know about the relationship between edtech and educational outcomes.  It is also  designed to support policy-makers, educational planners, practitioners and advocates to strengthen the design, implementation and evaluation of programmes using edtech worldwide.

Defined as the use of digital or electronic technologies and materials to support teaching and learning, edtech recognizes that technology alone does not enhance learning.  While exploring wide ranging technology forms, the guide recognises the centrality of programme design and implementation, teacher support and outcome measurement.  Clear and specific curriculum focus, relevant curriculum materials, and focusing on teacher development and on pedagogy are identified as characteristic of effective edtech programmes.

Evidence from programmes that move beyond access to technology (both in programme design and evaluation) is emerging, but as yet relatively few programme evaluations adequately capture improvements in teaching and learning process or learning outcomes. We need to know more about how to support teachers to develop appropriate, relevant practices using edtech, how such practices are enacted in schools, and what factors contribute to or mitigate against successful outcomes.

In the context of enormous global challenges to improve the quality of education, particularly in low to lower-middle income countries, governments, donors, schools and communities often seek to explore  the potential of edtech. The studies reviewed for this guide provide some compelling evidence that this potential can be realised –  significantly impacting on practice and outcomes. In particular, there is some evidence that mobile technologies, used for curriculum-specific purposes and within a context of appropriate support,– can be particularly effective. There is also tentative evidence that such approaches may contribute to addressing issues of equity, in relation to gender and rurality.

The guide makes several recommendations to support effective edtech use including:

  1. Programmes should focus on enabling educational change, not delivering technology, this includes providing support for teachers.
  2. Proposals that further develop successful practices or that address gaps in evidence and understanding should be supported.
  3. Proposals that have an emphasis on technology over education, weak programmatic support or poor evaluation should be discouraged.
  4. In design and evaluation, value-for-money metrics and cost-effectiveness analyses should be carried out.


Blog by Catherine Grant (adapted from topic guide content), contributor to the Topic Guide.

The hashtag #Edtech4dev can be used to join in the conversation with others who have accessed the report. Tweet to us at @HEART_RES to let us know what you think of the Topic Guide.

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