Is it time to reframe the EdTech narrative?

The education sector is often called out due to its difficulty to implement change - whether that is because institutions have legacy systems in place, do not have the time it takes to adopt new technologies, or the affordability aspect. To understand how the education industry as a whole can take the necessary steps forward and achieve its long-anticipated digital transformation, we must first look at the key barriers holding it back.

The DfE recently released a report outlining a review on the state and usage of EdTech in schools. It found that although education leaders believe technology either had or would better student outcomes, it was perceived to have less of an impact from a time management perspective, and does not quite meet the standard needed to support SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) students. There is a disconnect here - the sector is being encouraged to change its image from “stuck in the past”, but is not being provided with the tangible steps it needs to take to get there.

So, what exactly can be done to help both education institutions and EdTech organisations achieve their goals?

Addressing 'EdTech' as a buzzword

Primarily, we must understand the position that schools, colleges, and universities currently find themselves in. It is clear that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of tech, but there are still core challenges in place that need to be addressed. 'EdTech' is often pitched as making it easier to automate tasks and create the time that education staff so desperately need. However, from the DfE’s latest findings, we can see that there is a discrepancy between the way EdTech is being talked about, and what it is delivering.

Put simply, the term 'EdTech' has become a buzzword - it represents something that, quite often, education institutions can aspire to but can’t achieve because they are time poor, or don’t see how it will actually help change student outcomes. This is where tech organisations and PR/marketing units can work together to bridge the gap. They have a huge role to play in managing the narrative, but it’s all about taking it back to the foundation and first understanding what education leaders need from technology, before starting to talk about how it can help.

Cutting through educators’ other priorities

When making 'EdTech' relatable for the everyday school, college, or university, PR and marketing companies need to remember that generally, it is not corporate tech professionals sitting at the helm of the ship making decisions about how processes can be streamlined and where to spend budget.

Senior leadership teams are too busy thinking about the day-to-day operations of running their institution, and educating students who have essentially missed out on more than a year of traditional teaching. They do not have time to sift through buzzwords or read between the lines of a tech company’s website, slowly piecing together what it all actually means. They need to be given information that is easily digestible and can understand the positive impact it will have on their students - this is dependent on the narrative and the story that is being told.

What’s the new story?

Storytellers should work directly with schools and colleges in some capacity to understand their pain points - this isn’t just a time or affordability aspect, but also a need to appreciate exactly how education leaders would be able to justify bringing on a new piece of technology to teaching staff. It goes further than selling software to a leader, as they then have to be able to sell it to their peers so everyone is motivated to use it.

EdTech organisations need to help education leaders recognise how technology will help them with their long-term goals. This can only be achieved through de-buzzwording 'EdTech' and being transparent about exactly how it can support everyone in getting what they want.