Implementing edtech effectively across the curriculum

Written by: Osi Ejiofor | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

After a year of disruption and innovation, where are you now with your edtech in the context of teaching and learning? Osi Ejiofor discusses how schools can effectively harness and implement technology across the curriculum


Like a boxer sitting in their corner after the 10th round bell, their team dabbing them with water, removing the gum shield and treating cuts, our curriculum has taken quite a beating over the past year.

We have ducked, dived, bobbed and weaved to ensure that core subject delivery has suffered as little as possible. But has this been at the expense of other areas of learning, such as practical science, art, PE and design technology? It has according to the recent remote education research from Ofsted (2021).

With colleagues now making heroic efforts to identify and close any gaps in learning, is now the time to consider our cross-curricular approaches? And what role can edtech play in this endeavour? Let us begin by reviewing where we are in the use of technology in our schools.


Reviewing our edtech experience

The pandemic has shown us the value of using technology for asynchronous learning, but there are now some key questions we must ask:

  • Has the learning that has taken place online been effective?
  • Have the students transitioned from a tech user focus to a tech learner focus?
  • Have tasks merely been “completed” through the use of technology or has learning been “embedded” through the use of technology?
  • How have we assessed the success of the implementation of technology this past year?
  • How much has learning culture, access to technology and learner independence affected how we have assessed and measured the effectiveness of the use of technology in our schools?

Any cross-curricular approach to teaching and learning using technology should consider and address these questions. We must also be aware of common barriers to technology adoption across the school.


Staff training and buy-in

It is important to consider the learning process that takes place when introducing new technology to someone. You may be familiar with the experience of buying a new car and being presented with all the new gadgets and features. However, your focus to begin with will be on the necessities – how you start it, where the indicators are and so on.

Realistic expectation is that you will initially use the car as you have your previous car, avoiding the distraction of the new features. Learning the new features could improve safety, fuel economy, and assist parking perhaps, but that will come later.

To effectively embed the learning of the new features, the driver would need to see their necessity, be given time to explore them, and practise their use while driving. Once mastery of the new technology has taken place, we can effectively assess the driving experience and any resulting improvements.

The same is true of new technology. But are we measuring the impact of technology effectiveness with this approach in mind? Do we help learners to achieve mastery in usage to enable them to become creative and effective with the technology?


School aims vs curriculum leaders

“Technology coordinators should act more as curriculum managers and change agents and schools should jointly establish a technology policy plan.” (Vanderline et al, 2009)

When working with schools I often see a conflict between subject leader aims and the overall aims of the school vision. School leaders may include on paper their ambition to ensure that technology is used effectively throughout the school, and technology leaders aim to implement this – but often the focus on outcomes does not reflect these aims.

The most effective implementation of edtech across the curriculum is found in schools where the senior leaders and subject leaders (of all subjects) work together and understand the vision for the effective use of technology in all subject areas.

Discussion takes place around learner outcomes, available technology to augment the experience in pursuit of the outcomes, and focused CPD to empower staff to facilitate use of the technology.

When schools take time to unify the vision and aims of subject leaders, outcomes and attainment improve across the board.


Choice of technology

Be honest: are you adding technology to the curriculum or enhancing your curriculum through the use of technology?

Often discussion around cross-curricular edtech is around which technology can be used in each subject rather than which technology can augment the learning experience in a subject and improve outcomes.

We must avoid shoe-horning technology into our curriculum to satisfy targets, as this often results in short-lived, tenuous approaches which are limited by available software.

When considering the subjects that have suffered or lacked coverage during the pandemic, we should think about how those subjects are thought about in general when it comes to the use of technology.

From simulation in science and technology to biomechanical analysis in physical education, we see the use of technology clearly in action in the workplace, but often the learning experience in our schools is far removed from this.

For example, it is perfectly possible to work with primary students in science using camera footage to assess the effect of forces on a parachute. The use of technology in this case is not for the subject but for the learner. They have the ability to see the forces in motion, slow down footage, discuss, analyse and ask questions.

Without the footage we can only rely on focus, memory and attention during the time of the experiment, thus limiting reflection, analysis and questions.


Top-down, middle-up, round the table?

The effectiveness of the implementation of a cross-curricular approach to edtech is hindered or facilitated by the leadership style of your school.

Many businesses see leadership style as a priority when it comes to their effectiveness. Lines of communication, planning, reporting responsibilities, team structure are all considered and structured to suit the intended outcomes.

Schools which adapt this method tend to be more effective in achieving a whole-school approach that is bought into by all practitioners at all levels.

Are you stuck in a structure that is not effective for your setting, could things be changed to improve communication and the sharing of ideas to better meet your goals? Does your school structure facilitate or hinder good ideas for the use of technology? Are the “experts” left to handle it without full buy-in of all stakeholders?

We must aspire to an effective leadership structure that unifies subject leaders, disseminates our vision to all stakeholders, and empowers all staff to become facilitators of technology use.

A learner-centred curriculum that facilitates the use of technology to prepare students for the workplace may be just what is needed.

Using this opportunity is well worth the time – to reflect on how things were prior to the pandemic, the innovations we saw during Covid-19 and how to build back better with our curriculum and using technology. Are you willing to take the necessary steps to achieve this?


Further information & resources

  • Ofsted: Research and analysis: Remote education research, January 2021: https://bit.ly/3nakQgl
  • Vanderlinde et al: Educational technology on a turning point: Curriculum implementation in Flanders and challenges for schools, Education Technology Research and Development (57, 4), August 2009: https://bit.ly/3tJN6J1


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