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Edtech 'can help close the attainment gap'

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Edtech 'can help close the attainment gap'

Schools could help an extra 300,000 pupils make “significant progress” at school by using video tutoring apps instead of one-to-one tuition, a thinktank has claimed.

A report published today by Reform says that greater use of edtech could help close the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils.

However, it warns that schools are snubbing or neglecting to make the best use of the technology available to them.

It is calling for the government to identify “tech expert schools” to link up with those which are struggling to use technology to help disadvantaged pupils.

Sarah Timmis, researcher at Reform, said: “With a stubborn and persistent opportunity gap in schools between pupils from different backgrounds, innovation is urgently needed.

"Education technology presents a great opportunity to help level the playing field and create more equal opportunities for every child."

The report notes that one-to-one tuition lessons accounted for 7 per cent of pupil premium spending in a sample of 40 schools.

Reform says that schools could save money by using video conversation apps to link pupils to tutors instead. It highlighted apps that charge £20 per hour for pupils to work with online tutors rather than the national average of freelance one-to-one tutors of around £32 per hour.

The thinktank says its analysis shows how using online tutors to support disadvantaged pupils at school could allow for an additional 30 million hours of tutoring, within the same budget.

It also states that edtech can free up teacher time in disadvantaged schools to spend more with pupils in need.

The report says using digital tools could also help reduce teachers’ administrative workloads, which it claims would be “particularly transformative for disadvantaged pupils”.

It found that use of an app to set and share homework had reduced five minutes work from each lesson – 25 minutes across the school day.

The report highlights how edtech also gives disadvantaged pupils equal opportunities to learn digital skills, which it says is critical for future social mobility.

In 20 years, 90 per cent of jobs will entail some element of digital skills, the report says.

Other recommendations in the Beyond Gadgets report include:

  • The Department for Education should allow schools to see the products available to them through “an e-procurement channel” with a dedicated stream for tech products.
  • Ofsted should conduct a survey report on how technology can be implemented in schools to improve digital skills to highlight best practice.
  • Schools should be required to submit breakdowns of pupil premium spending to helping policymakers understand the extent to which innovative measures are being used to overcome the attainment gap. 
  • Schools should provide continuing professional development as they are implementing edtech. This should include sharing successful as well as failed approaches in the classroom.

Earlier this year, a poll revealed that teachers are positive about the benefits of technology in education, but many believe budget pressures and a lack of support from school leaders are holding it back.

posted Feb 14 in EdTech by Rainsey

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My two girls, Aarah (7 years) and Saraah (5 years), hate drinking milk but I know a way to get them to do it, as I know it’s good for them.

The pleasure of winning isn’t just a great motivator for kids, but adults too. Last weekend, I discovered from my colleague that to top the ‘Step Tracking Weekly Leader board’ amongst her friends, she paced up and down her living room just before midnight, when the leader board resets. Don't you agree that a small competition and the pleasure of winning, has even motivated a person in her mid-thirties to walk more?When I say, “Let’s see who finishes the glass first?”, the glass is empty within a flash. This is not just me, I am sure all parents do this. These things make it easy to motivate kids to do things they dislike.

So, here’s the big question - what gets my daughters and my colleague to complete these smaller tasks which they generally don’t like? What is it that gets them to accomplish a broader objective, in this case, a ‘Healthier Diet’ and ‘Physical Fitness’ respectively, with smaller milestones?  

The answer is Gamification!

Gamification refers to use of game design and elements in a non-gaming context to drive the desired behavior. In simpler terms, it is about using the system of points, levels, badges, or leaderboards that are common in games, in real-world scenarios. 

Doesn’t it make a perfect case for gamification to be used in learning to make it fun and effective? 

It does! However, learning methods at school or even at home, face a huge engagement crisis today. The learning of today only involves learning by rote and then producing those in the exams, causing boredom among st young learners. According to a Labster study, about 60 percent of students mentioned that they love Science, however, only 24 percent among them, said that they love Science classes. See the difference? When a parent can get a child to drink milk with gaming principles, why shouldn’t parents and teachers use the same method to impart learning to kids?

Ed-tech startups have identified this need, which is why online learning tools such as Khan Academy, Quizizz and our own app, QuizNext have started using game elements to deliver learning objectives to students. At QuizNext, we are focused at gamifying the revision experience for CBSE and ICSE students by providing detailed chapter-wise quizzes for delivering formative assessments, making practice fun and engaging. 

It offers two type of revision quizzes:

  •        Practice Quizzes, which are chapter-wise solo quizzes 
  •        Challenge Quizzes, where students compete against other online users on different chapters and concepts.  

So, which one do you think has more adoption among kids? Challenge Quizzes? Are you sure?  You are right, but not completely! I will come to that shortly!  

Just going by the numbers, ‘Challenge Quizzes’ completely outnumber the ‘Practice Quizzes’, accounting for about 68% of the 300,000 quizzes taken over on QuizNext over the last five months. However, it is interesting to see the pattern in which students take quizzes. Students first take ‘Practice Quizzes’, ensure that they have understood the concepts before they go on to challenge their friends in ‘Challenge Quizzes’. 

Further, it has been interesting to see students expect stronger opponents in Challenge Quizzes. In the initial versions of the app, we would randomly pick opponents (both real users and Bots) in Challenge Quizzes. When the learners got used to winning every time, mostly against Bots, they would ‘leave feedback’ asking if they could choose opponents on own including friends.  

So why does this work? 

To understand this a little bit better, let us understand how Intrinsic Reinforcement works. Whenever you challenge yourself, however big or small, and complete that challenge, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine, which is a pleasurable chemical that makes the challenge achievement feel good.

Further, the more you do this i.e. the challenge-achievement-pleasure loop occurs more often, the brain secretes more dopamine and testosterone, making you want to do it repeatedly and succeed, which is also called the Winning Effect. So, in a student’s context, winning a Challenge Quiz after a stiff competition creates a good feeling and further motivates them to take more quizzes, to replicate the Winning Effect every time. 

We’re constantly observing our users’ activities on QuizNext to derive insights on what works in Ed-tech and what doesn’t. Here's what we’ve learnt so far about Gamification:  

•    Recognition motivates learners to practice more: Learners who have been among Top 15 positions on the leader board, take nine times the number of quizzes every week, when compared to other users.   

•    Virtual Badges and Points trigger intrinsic motivations: Though badges and points have no financial value, it motivates some learners to earn and accumulate them. We ran an experiment, where 50 percent of a ‘user subset’ were offered additional coins for completing practice quizzes, while the other 50 percent of the user set were offered no additional incentives. At the end of the experiment, the user group which had additional incentives had completed 24 percent more quizzes than the other group.  

•    Extrinsic triggers drive learning: Triggers such as ‘Challenge Invites’ work exceptionally well with some set of users. Grouping users based on learning objectives and placing them against each other for a challenge gets users to complete quizzes and move closer to learning objectives.  

•    Breaking a larger goal into smaller milestones makes learning less overwhelming: Breaking down a chapter or concept into smaller quizzes, keeps students motivated as they can earn rewards for every quiz and work with smaller bites of information.   

•    Time-bound quizzes improve student performances: We have seen that time bound quizzes improve the speed of students by at least 50 percent while maintaining the same accuracy levels for questions of similar difficulty and understanding levels for concepts.  

With these insights, it’s safe to say that Gamification might hold the key to a world of better education that’s been locked behind books for many parents and kids for a long time now. 


Authored by Chaiitanyaa Naik, Product Manager at QuizNext. When he is not working, you will find him reading about behavioral interventions and behavioral economics.