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Making learning visible: First 'Technology in Education' evaluation published

As part of our technology in education programme we have been trialing different types of digital technology in schools and exploring its potential for learning. After many months working with teachers and schools across the UK our first independent evaluation report has now been published.

The Visible Classroom project explored the use of real time speech to text transcription for teacher professional development and student learning. This was a collaboration with Ai-Media UK and the University of Melbourne, funded by the Education Endowment Foundation as part of their work on evidence in education. The independent evaluation was carried out by NatCen.

The report has found that this approach has potential to benefit teaching and learning in schools, with teachers reporting they found the feedback a valuable part of professional development. During lessons, teachers’ speech was turned into live captions or subtitles, allowing their students to read as well as hear their explanations and instructions.

After their lessons teachers were provided with a transcript of their teaching and a dashboard of analytics relating to the kinds of questions they asked and the balance of teacher and student talk. Researchers from the University of Melbourne also analysed the transcripts against their rubric of effective teaching practice. They provided teachers with descriptive feedback on how their lessons related to this rubric, giving them specific and actionable areas to work on developing their teaching.

This was a pilot project, with the aim of developing the use of technology in this way in schools and respond to feedback from teachers. Therefore the evaluation looked at how it worked practically in schools and feedback from teachers on the effect it was having. At this early stage we did not formally measure the effect that it had on the learning of the children, although there was some promising feedback relating to this from teachers. The pilot gave us the chance to try different types of professional development in different stages.

The first group of schools had a ‘drip fed’ approach, with one or two lessons a week transcribed using the technology and feedback over several months. The second had a much more intensive approach, with a lesson every day for four weeks and feedback after two weeks and then at the end. Although time is always at a premium for teachers, we found the intensive approach to have the most promise. Teachers identified and focused on specific aspects of their teaching in this time, with a real impetus to show improvements in areas they identified from one set of feedback to the next. One of the things we learned broadly was the value of piloting new and innovate approaches on the ground with teachers.

Intuitively I would have thought that longer term, lighter touch professional development would work better. However, our work with teachers suggests that for this particular intervention a more intensive approach could be more beneficial. Based on this work with teachers and students, Ai-Media UK have been able to develop ‘The Visible Classroom’ further into a refined product for supporting teacher professional development. What was a new technology not tried in schools in this format before has become a product that can be rolled out to schools.

In the coming week I’ll be sharing more of our learning from this and other projects at the Education Innovation conference in Manchester (Friday) and the London Festival of Education (Saturday) as well as here on the Nesta blog. For now, head over to the EEF website for the full evaluation report.

Photo Credit: maskingtaped via Compfight cc


Oliver Quinlan

Oliver Quinlan

Oliver Quinlan

Head of Impact and Research, Raspberry Pi Foundation

Oliver was a programme manager for Nesta’s digital education projects. He is now Head of Impact and Research at the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

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