Impact Case Study

Putting technology in schools into national and international policy

15 years of research into the use of educational technology in schools has helped young people achieve more. It’s impacted on UK and international policy.

How it started 

The research was originally begun by Bridget Somekh and continued by Cathy Lewin and Nicola Whitton, supported by £3.1M external funding.  

It has impacted on policy at UK government level, particularly in relation to the last Labour administration. It has also provided valuable evidence relating to how ICT positively affects student achievement. It underpinned national policy on the use of interactive whiteboards in teaching and learning during the last Labour government, and more recently at European level.

What we discovered

The Becta-funded ImpaCT2 project identified a relationship between levels of ICT use and increased student achievement. Another key project, ICT Test Bed, showed embedding technology across the whole school increased pupil’s national test scores.

A further project -the Primary Schools Whiteboard Expansion project evaluation - found that technology helped pupils achieve more. The length of time pupils were taught with an interactive whiteboard contributed to greater achievement in literacy and mathematics.

Another project, on the use of Web 2.0 in secondary schools, found that its use was at an embryonic stage (in 2007) and that young people used Web 2.0 tools as consumers, rather than producers.

Research continued with the Innovative Technologies for an Engaging Classroom (iTEC) EU-funded project. This involved 14 Ministries of Education and over 1000 teachers. The project found that its scenario-based learning design process for teachers impacted positively on student learning and attitudes through a greater emphasis on collaboration and student autonomy.

Why it matters

The research contributed to UK government strategies for ICT in education  -  particularly the Harnessing Technology from 2005-2010.

In Becta’s annual review of technology and education for 2008/2009, Somekh and Lewin were co-authors of four reports cited as key evidence of how ICT improves learning.

The research was cited in a government-authored paper written during the Coalition administration (2010-2015), summarising the impact of technology.

Based on the results of ICT Test Bed, the Government aimed to reduce the numbers of people who couldn’t access the internet at home. A £194 million voucher programme meant 267,244 low-income households got an Internet-enabled computer. PWC estimated the project produced a positive Net Value of +£768 million by improving educational performance.

The results from ICT Test Bed on the effectiveness of learning platforms led to policy changes. By 2009/10 67% of primary schools and 93% of secondary schools had technology.

The ICT Test Bed project actually marked an important shift in sponsored evaluations by the then Labour government. Previous governments had been more interested in quantitative empirical work. This project included 116 action research projects led by 90 teachers and professionals.

The Web 2.0 Technologies for Learning project informed policy makers and practitioners on supporting collaboration through technology.

Research insights have informed policy-making at an international level; in France for example iTEC was linked to the national strategy and promoted online.

Featured Researcher

Professor Cathy Lewin

Cathy Lewin is a Professorial Research Fellow with over 15 years’ experience of the evaluation of technological innovations in education.

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Phone 0161 247 5191