The global shunning of educational technology


I’m putting together another lecture that I’m going to be delivering to student teachers at University College Birmingham on a topic that holds special significance to me: ADHD and Tourette’s Syndrome in the classroom. My good friend and ex-colleague Gerard Doyle is facilitating the link and he recently asked if I’d mind being filmed so that students who weren’t able to attend could catch up with the lecture afterwards.

When I was a student, I’d have loved this, and quite honestly, I think it would’ve helped me immensely. It would’ve helped me to reengage with lectures that intellectually passed me by or revisiting particularly exciting ideas that might’ve cropped up.

But it begged one question: with the internet as pervasive as it is, why hasn’t it really taken off in school in as big a way as it might have?

As a geek that likes to think I can still kick it with the kids in the know (I can see 11 year old eyes rolling now), I have a healthy respect for technology. Though I can’t help but feeling that it’s not always what it’s cracked up to be in the classroom. It’s not just me that thinks it – David Didau delivers a fantastic rebuttal of classroom technology’s benefits here. Furthermore, the OECD (of PISA test fame) find that:

“Only 42% of students in Korea and 38% of students in Shanghai-China reported that they use computers at school – and Korea and Shanghai-China were among the top performers in the digital reading and computer-based mathematics [PISA] tests […] By contrast, in countries where it is more common for students to use the Internet at school for schoolwork, students’ performance in reading declined between 2000 and 2012, on average.”

While I don’t entirely agree with the way that PISA is skewing global education towards standardization, it’s very interesting to note how the top performers use technology. From my own first hand experience in visiting schools in Finland, I found that teachers keep an eye on technology, but keep it very low key. In most classrooms I visited, there was only 1 PC (dedicated to the teacher) in each room with a projector, and a set of laptops that moved around the school. The equipment was excellent for the purposes intended whilst not being state of the art and while it was readily available for use, it certainly wasn’t in wild abundance. Considering that Finland still stands up very well in PISA rankings, but most importantly, is a model that many hold up as a beacon of equality and simplicity, their ability to call upon technology when needed and not a second before was poignant.

Whilst there is growing evidence that methodologies like flipped learning are gaining traction and more importantly, are demonstrating success, it’s clear that technology isn’t high up on the agenda of the world’s top educational performers.

Teaching and learning are deeply human processes. Therefore, learning environments and methodologies will probably need to keep social interaction at the heart of their design. Technology certainly looks great (take a look at the vision here), but the current trends in education indicate that technology will probably only support teaching and learning rather than completely transform it.


Bishop and Verleger (2013), The Flipped Classroom: A Survey of the Research, American Society for Engineering Education

Didau (2014), Some thoughts on edtech and sunk cost fallacy,

OECD (2015), Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection, PISA, OECD Publishing.

Walker (2016), The simple strength of Finnish education,


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