NESTA's Decoding Learning [90 pages, 4.4 MB PDF], published today, was written under contract by Rose Luckin, Brett Bligh, Andrew Manches, Shaaron Ainsworth, Charles Crook and Richard Noss from the Learning Sciences Research Institute at Nottingham University and from IOE/Birkbeck's London Knowledge Lab.
The report has caught the attention of the media, with much of the coverage having a strong "money wasted by stupid people and organisations" flavour. (BBC - Costly hi-tech kit lies unused in schools, says study; Telegraph - Schools 'wasting £450m a year' on useless gadgets.)
But this is an important report, because it gets right to the heart of the challenge of enhancing learning with technology in schools (and elsewhere), whilst retaining an underlying (and evidence-based) optimism.
To encourage you to read the report in full, and to give you its overall flavour, here is its concluding section in full.
We looked for proof, potential and promise in digital education.
We found proof by putting learning first. We have shown how different technologies can improve learning by augmenting and connecting proven learning activities. This approach gives us a new framework for evaluating future innovations in education.
The numerous examples of good practice identified in this report show that there is also a great deal that can be done with existing technology. It is clear that there is no single technology that is ‘best’ for learning. We have identified technology being used effectively to support a variety of learning activities and learners across a wide range of subjects and learning environments. Rather, different technologies can be used to support different forms of learning, either individually or in conjunction with others.
There is a growing body of invaluable evidence that demonstrates how technology can be used effectively to support learning. However, if that evidence is going to be useful in practice it needs to address the contexts within which the technology is used; and it needs to be presented in ways that are accessible to industry, teachers and learners.
We found clear potential to make better use of technologies that are widely available and that many schools have already purchased. But this potential will only be realised through innovative teaching practice. Teachers may require additional training that enables them to use technologies in new ways.
There is enormous potential for further innovation in digital education. Success will come from commercial developers, researchers, teachers and learners working together to develop, test and spread imaginative new technologies.
We also found many areas of promise; that is, areas where technology is currently undervalued and underused. We found relatively little technological innovation in some of the more effective learning themes we considered in Chapter 2. For example, the market is saturated with drill and practice games (particularly for maths) to support Learning through Practising despite being regarded as one of the less powerful learning themes. Meanwhile, there has been relatively little technological innovation aimed at supporting Learning through Assessment – which can be a powerful aid to teaching and learning.
Over recent decades, many efforts to realise the potential of digital technology in education have made two key errors. Collectively, they have put the technology above teaching and excitement above evidence. This means they have spent more time, effort and money looking to find the digital silver bullet that will transform learning than they have into evolving teaching practice to make the most of technology. If we are to make progress we need to clarify the nature of the goal we want to satisfy through future innovation. Much existing teaching practice may well not benefit greatly from new technologies. As we continue to develop our understanding of technology’s proof, potential and promise, we have an unprecedented opportunity to improve learning experiences in the classroom and beyond.