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Technology and innovation 

Schools continue to innovate in order to meet the needs of their learners and communities, often deploying new technologies in support of the innovation. These web pages are intended to help teachers, schools and others ensure that any innovation or use of technology is informed by the existing evidence and is properly evaluated so that successful innovations can become embedded in teacher and school practices.

At the outset it is important to be clear on the aims of any innovation, as these will form the basis for evaluating success, and the ‘logic model’ that sits behind the innovation, as this will form the basis of any changes in practice arising from the innovation.

Two types of innovation can be characterised:

A ‘logic model’ sets out the chain of cause and effect within the intervention.  Where the logic model is not clear (for example, when a school introduces tablet computers without a clear view of the changes in pedagogy needed to achieve impact) it is difficult to develop an effective research project.  The logic model for a ‘flipped learning’ innovation might be:

It becomes immediately apparent that this ‘chain’ could break at a number of places.  This helps identify suitably focussed research questions.

What could I research?

There are many topics within technology and innovation that schools could investigate.
Here are some ideas:

How can the schools' communications technology be used to engage parents in their children's learning?   How can the schools' management system  be used to monitor progress and identify teaching interventions?   What are learners' experiences of technology outside the school and how can these be built upon?
Can the impact of a particular innovation on learners' attainment be tracked?   Research ideas   Are teachers clear how the available technology can be used to support teaching and learning?
What areas of expertise, skills or examples of best practice do staff have that they can share with colleagues?   How confident are teachers in using the technology that is in the school?

What research design should I use?

Here are some things you will need to consider when designing your research project.

Stakeholders
You will need to consider who to include in your research. You may want to involve senior leaders (e.g. to find out how they identify for any innovation); technology coordinators (e.g. to identify the implementation priorities for the next year and the reasons for this); staff who have implemented the innovation and/or learners (to help measure impact). Depending on the scope of your research, you could compare and contrast different stakeholders’ views within (or between) schools. 

 

Methods
When assessing the impact of any innovation, you are likely to use qualitative, quantitative and observational methods. The methods chosen will relate to the aims of the innovation and its logic model. For example you may interview staff to find out what uses of technoloy they find most useful and why; or you may choose to survey staff to explore what their training needs are. Observation before, during the implementation of the innovation, and after it has become established can help you monitor changes in practice, application of learning and any barriers. You could also consider an action research approach so that learning can be applied, monitored, adapted and reviewed more widely.

 

Measuring impact
When evaluating an innovation, you will probably want to assess its impact. You can do this by collecting information on intended learning outcomes and how this knowledge will be transferred to learners (do this before the innovation event). You can then assess whether these outcomes have been realised after the activity, and measure to see if there has been any change in learners’ attainment, attitude or behaviour.

 

Working with other schools
You may want to work with a cluster or network of schools to find out if you share common needs or to identify who has specific skills in priority areas, so that learning can be shared, and to implement and evaluate the innovation jointly. Research findings from your school may be of interest to colleagues in other schools locally and nationally.

Relevant research and guidance

NFER has carried out a great deal of research into technology and innovation. Here are links to some of our publications.

• Literature review in primary science and ICT

Game-based learning: latest evidence and future directions

Computer Games and Learning

Computer games, schools and young people: a report for educators on using games for learning

Games in education: serious games

NFER also offers a facilitator-led session in your school on future planning, which includes how technology will impact your classroom. 

You may also find some of these organisations’ publications useful:

 

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