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An EdTech reading list from the Helpdesk team: November 2020

In this blog post, we summarise six new publications from the Helpdesk and what we have learned about monitoring and evaluation, curriculum reform, blended learning, and teacher education.

As Covid-19 continues to affect learning around the world, our Helpdesk is seeing a shift in the requests we receive. Earlier, the bulk of requests were linked to short-term Covid responses. Now, more and more requests relate to education planning that integrates EdTech in the longer-term. 

Below we take a quick look at some of our newest responses and valuable lessons learned. The full references are available in our new and updated Evidence Library.

1. How can we use EdTech to gather data on what is working?

Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is an extremely important topic for Covid-19 and beyond. This curated list summarises initiatives across sub-Saharan Africa, including mobile-based assessments in Botswana, the Digital School Census in Sierra Leone, and Go Girls Connect! in Eswatini.

Keep going back to our Evidence Library! We have a few monitoring-related pieces that are coming soon.

What we learned: M&E is all the more complicated to do because of the pandemic and school closures, especially for low- and no-tech approaches. It’s smart to make use of existing devices (phones!) for monitoring. 

2. How might curriculum reform efforts and building back better overlap? 

In May 2020, a World Bank blog post neatly summarised the shared objective of education decision-makers to build back better, noting an opportunity to “reopen better, healthier and safer schools… to build education systems that are more inclusive, support all children to learn and are more resilient in future crises.” Based on a request from the FCDO team in South Sudan, we looked at how curriculum reform initiatives, in light of the current challenges of Covid, could serve as an opportunity to build back better.

What we learned: Curriculum reform is not a stand-alone effort. It requires coordination across multiple areas (e.g., assessments, teacher professional development, financial resources, building back better).

3. What does the evidence say about blended learning and girls’ education?   

We care a lot about these two areas. This document covers the nitty gritty of:

  • Definition(s) of blended learning: combining face-to-face and tech-based instruction 
  • How blended learning affects learning outcomes, including the lens of cost-effectiveness
  • Using blended learning to reach learners in low- to middle-income countries (LMICs)
  • Using blended learning to reach girls

What we learned: Blended learning has a small, positive impact on learning outcomes. Low-tech versions of blended learning approaches could be beneficial for marginalised girls in LMICs. 

4. What makes teacher education effective in LMICs? 

This brief outlines 12 characteristics of effective teacher education. In addition to summarising existing evidence, it presents a number of case studies on how EdTech, including virtual communities of practice and mobile devices, can support teacher education.

What we learned: When designing teacher education programmes, it is key to take a learner- and teacher-centered, not tech-first, perspective. 

5. What are some examples of effective teacher education? 

This curated list outlines nine initiatives that support teacher education and can be adapted to the Malagasy (and other!) context. Examples span from a national teacher education initiative developed by the government of Ghana (T-TEL) to virtual coaching through the Early Grade Reading Study II programme in South Africa. 

What we learned: Low-tech and offline initiatives have lots of potential to increase access to teacher education. But don’t forget – EdTech is not the sole solution and should be integrated within a framework of effective practices.

6. What makes an EdTech initiative promising and innovative?

We developed a preliminary framework to analyse EdTech initiatives using six key criteria. This curated list also presents examples of some “top” initiatives that surfaced based on the framework. 

Curious for more? Check out the Education Tools Database developed by the EdTech Hub and UNESCO!

What we learned: When screening EdTech initiatives, ask: does the organisation have potential to strengthen education systems in the long term? How will the intervention reach marginalised learners?
FCDO and World Bank readers, learn more about submitting a Helpdesk request and what to expect from us after you submit a Helpdesk request.

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