Happy New Year from everyone here at EdTech Hub. This month, we look back on the achievements we made at the end of 2020, and highlight upcoming events and research:

  • Our first two research articles published in peer-reviewed journals: one on educational TV and another on EdTech’s role in the response to Covid-19 school closures.
  • Takeaways from the launch of ‘Education for the most marginalised post‑Covid-19’.
  • Running a Sandbox and piloting a teacher training programme to test the most suitable ways technology might provide distance learning for deaf children.

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(Photo: Mathematics material on Ubongo Kids)

Joe Watson, Dr Sara Hennessy, and Anna Vignoles recently published ‘The relationship between educational television and mathematics capability in Tanzania’ in the British Journal of Education Technology. The paper looks at the relationship between normal exposure to a popular Tanzania‐produced cartoon (Ubongo Kids) and mathematics capability. Analysis of a sample of 38,682 children suggested educational television exposure to be significantly associated with mathematics capability. Moreover, it indicated that television‐based interventions are highly cost-effective compared to a range of other educational interventions.
(Photo: eKitabu)

To ensure learners with disabilities were not left behind during Covid-19 school closures, eKitabu partnered with EdTech Hub and Leonard Cheshire to increase the quality of education delivered to blind and low-vision learners in Kenya’s Nyanza region. Together, we piloted a teacher training programme to develop braille reading and writing skills using low-cost Orbit Reader 20 refreshable braille devices. A kick-off training session and support package helped motivate teachers to gain new skills and regular contact was important to ensure teachers remained engaged throughout the process. You can read all our key learnings from the pilot here.

Thank you to everyone who attended our report launch at the end of December with UNESCO: Education for the most marginalised post‑Covid-19: Guidance for governments. Over 130 attendees from across the globe interacted with our expert panel during a lively Q&A. If you didn’t manage to make it, you can catch up here.

You can also read the full report here or listen to the audio. The report will also be published in French, Spanish, Arabic, and Portuguese. Watch this space!

Dr Katy Jordan recently published ‘Covid-19 School Closures in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Emergent Perspectives on the Role of Educational Technology’  in the Journal of Learning for Development. This paper presents a thematic analysis of documents published online as immediate responses to Covid-19 school closures in LMICs (February to April 2020). Five key themes were identified: access, responses, support from carers, teachers and communities, educational quality and the future.

Helpdesk Advice 

Our Helpdesk has received 62 requests since April 2020. Our Helpdesk page
has been updated with a summary of our advice on frequently asked questions. Please do check it out!

Deep dive: EdTech for deaf learners
By Asad Rahman

In 2020 we started supporting Sandboxes in six countries. One of these is with Deaf Reach in Pakistan where we are testing the most suitable ways technology might provide distance learning for deaf children - see our first sprint here. Nidhi Singal, Paul Lynch and Gill Francis are also conducting a systematic review on the use of EdTech for primary-age learners with disabilities. Both studies are due to finish in February 2021. Here are three emerging insights that stood out for the team across both pieces of work:

  • Deaf learners can benefit from distance learning in particular scenarios. In the Deaf Reach Sandbox, 225 deaf learners (across seven Deaf Reach special schools) were provided with laptops and pre-loaded content in the form of Pakistan Sign Language video stories. End-line scores in post-tests showed a 68% improvement in scores

  • In the systematic review, nearly all studies were published in combined engineering, science, and technology journals with an emphasis on testing a software programme for acceptability and usability. There is little reference to pedagogy or national curriculums. This points towards a significant evidence gap. In the Sandbox, Deaf Reach are using content they have developed and iterated themselves. It was developed with teachers and tested in the classroom. This content, rather than the technology product through which it is delivered, is a crucial factor in learning gains.  

  • Very few studies talk about the role of parents in EdTech interventions for deaf learners. In the Deaf Reach Sandbox, 87% of parents assisted their deaf children, for example by talking about the lessons, asking how they felt, or encouraging communication through sign language. We believe this parental engagement is a crucial reason for children remaining engaged over the course of the month. However, only 47% of parents self-reported as feeling capable of assisting their children. Over the next month, the Sandbox will focus on connecting deaf children and their parents with teachers to address this ‘capability-enthusiasm’ gap.
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