Report into educational digital technology published, with recommendation to use social media

A major report on the impact of Covid-19 on education globally, written by the Education Observatory at the University of Wolverhampton, has been published.

The report provides guidance to local and national decision-makers on how to sustain education systems through the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath, in regions with both good and poor infrastructure.

By April 2020, nearly 90 per cent of learners were unable to go to school due to the Covid-19 pandemic and were in lockdown. In July of 2020, more than 1.1 billion learners were still affected.

One of the report’s authors, Professor of Digital Learning John Traxler said: “To combat the unprecedented scale of this crisis, governments, schools, colleges and universities are turning increasingly to educational technology.

“On a wider scale, Covid-19, the economic recession that will inevitably follow and the psychological trauma that many children will experience, will likely lead to higher rates of school dropout, leave many learners more anxious, experiencing a decline in the quality of the teaching and at a higher risk of abuse in all its forms.

“There are, however, several issues that need to be addressed if the disadvantaged and marginalised are to benefit alongside other learners.”

In the report, there is a specific focus on the risk that measures to support education systems will increase the disadvantages of people, communities and cultures that are already excluded, failed or ignored by education systems. These may be refugees and displaced persons, indigenous, rural and nomadic peoples, the homeless and the jobless, those with minority mother tongues and poor digital literacy, and, in many societies, girls and women.

These are peoples, communities and cultures outside the global or national mainstreams, in terms of languages, values, resources, livelihoods or locality. They are all different and distinct and need specific and targeted support. Using generalised support and resources intended to sustain education systems during and after the pandemic will only leave them further behind.

Included in the recommendations for these peoples, communities and cultures is the use of social media, such as Facebook, WeChat, Twitter, WordPress and YouTube instead of formal education technology, which requires infrastructure, training and funding.

The social media are already free, familiar, robust platforms that accept a range of media types, such as audio, videos, discussions and blogs, and they are accessible with mobile phones. The content can be produced and shared within communities in local languages, on all subjects and be supported by local organisations.

One of the team’s other suggestions on how to tackle this is to prioritise support and training for both for teachers and learners. Students should be supported to gain digital literacy so they can find, assess, create, share and use content to learn without a teacher being present.

The report also highlighted that technology use is generally biased in favour of men and boys, so decision-makers need to evaluate how to promote open educational resources to impact on women’s education and to value ICT skills in employability and literacy.

The report was produced by Professor John Traxler, Dr Matt Smith, Dr Howard Scott and Professor Sarah Hayes from the Education Observatory. The report was commissioned by the Edtech Hub and funded by the Department for International Development.

Read the full report: Traxler, J., Scott, H., Smith, M., & Hayes, S. (2020) Learning through the crisis Helping decision-makers around the world use digital technology to combat the educational challenges produced by the current Covid-19 pandemic (No. 1). EdTech Hub.