Digital Leader

Technology in Schools: Factors that influence adoption and impact on learning

In response to the commentary in the seminar notice being organised by Guardian Teacher Network: Technology in schools: money saver or money waster? on 15th June in the UK, these are some of my reflections on the factors that can support the effective use of digital technologies in learning and teaching in schools. Examples of such technologies include Power Point presentations, videos from YouTube, or apps on iPads, to smartphone-based virtual reality applications. 

The effectiveness of any technology in teaching and learning depends on a number of factors:

  • how does the technology add to the traditional approach of teaching the same concept or process or lesson;
  • whether and how the technology is aligned with the learning goals of teaching and learning?
  • if there is more than one technology being employed in a lesson or learning activity – say, a set of YouTube videos with a Virtual Reality smartphone-driven App such as Google Expeditions, how does the content and the delivery of each of these technologies complement one other?
  • training the educator has received to use the technology and to integrate it within teaching and learning

An educator has to consider the following to be able to choose and use a technology effectively:

  • a clear understanding of the learning objectives and what students are expected to learn from a lesson/activity in which the use of technology is being planned
  • training to adopt the technology in her teaching
  • an understanding of her students’ skill-set – do students know how to learn with the technology?; which digital practices do her students bring to their learning in school?
  • to link the use of technology in her lessons with what the students are learning in other subjects – so as to give a broader context of her lesson and the use of technology.
  • to explain the role of the technology to her students so that they know what to expect and what is expected from them.
  • New technology does not automatically lead to increased attainment. What expectations does she have from the technology?
  • does she have help from ‘digital leaders’?

Teachers need support and time to learn to use new technology effectively. This involves more than just learning how to use the technology; it should include support to understand how it can be used for learning. Schools rarely budget for training and continuing professional development even though these are often essential in ensuring the technology is properly used, and that the use is improved and sustained over a period of time.

Using technologies to support learning in school curriculum – such as, use of a blog for improving literacy skills and for reflective learning, technologies can help impart digital literacy skills to students and give them transferable skills for their future education and employment. Students learn how to interact safely in online worlds, how to manage their digital identity, and to evaluate and make sense of information in online environments.    


Survey Finds Majority of Teachers Do Not Feel Prepared to Use Technology in Classrooms,

Five questions to ensure effective technology CPD in schools,

Is digital technology changing learning and teaching? The big debate from Digifest 2017,

Student Digital Leaders and their role in Digital Education in schools

Class set up for a lesson using Google Expeditions

Class set up for a lesson using Google Expeditions


The Open University (OU), UK is conducting a research project (funded by Google and the OU) on the potential use of Virtual Reality via Google Expeditions in science and geography school education.

Google Expeditions is a Virtual Reality mobile Application (app) which consists of field trips of places that students experience on a smartphone through a Virtual Reality (VR) viewer called Google cardboard.  The Google Expeditions app (available for Android and iOS platforms) has more than 500 expeditions. An expedition comprises of 360-degree photospheres of a location (e.g. Rio de Janeiro). Google Expeditions enable visualisation of locations which may not be feasible or easy to visit in real life (e.g. Galapagos islands or the Tolbachik volcano). Further, Google Expeditions have simulations to envision concepts and systems such as the human heart, the respiratory system, or the process of pollination.

Student digital leaders

In our evaluations on this project, we interacted with a primary school that has 1:1 iPads for their students from Year 4 onwards. We ran two studies in this school:

  • Google Expeditions on iPads; and viewing Google Expeditions via the VR viewers on smartphones
  • A lesson that used videos and power point presentations, and running the same lesson using Google Expeditions via VR viewers or Google Cardboard.

We noticed that the use of iPads in lessons ran smoothly with the help of a group of students called ‘Digital Leaders’. They handed over the equipment to the students at the start of the lesson and collected it at the end of the lesson. They were responsible for keeping the mobile apps updated, keeping the iPads charged, and installing new apps on the iPads.

One of the key obstacles for adoption of technologies in schools is the time it takes for the educator in maintaining the technologies – particularly, if dedicated IT support is not available in the school. Student digital leaders are an essential element to a school’s digital education strategy and can help support the sustainability of digital education initiatives in schools.

Digital Leaders are students chosen for their high level of interest and digital skills, and their ability to support class teachers in their use of learning technologies. This has become common practice in primary and secondary schools in the UK. [ETAG (Education Technology Action Group] report, January 2015]

Students selected and trained to be Digital Leaders can help to embed the technology in lessons, support other students, train educators, train students about e-safety, and in the process, the digital leaders gain technical competence, transferable digital literacy skills for their future studies and careers, develop confidence to deal with emerging technologies, increase their self-esteem, and attain leadership skills.

With the help of digital leaders on hand, the teacher is able to concentrate more on aligning the use of technology to the learning outcomes, to help students use the technology for their learning, on assessment for learning, and to evaluate the impact on learning by the digital education initiative.

These are some resources on the Digital Leader programme in UK schools.


Professor Shailey Minocha and Dr Ana-Despina Tudor at The Open University, UK 

Dr. Matthew Kam, Google Education Products Team

The project partners in the UK are:

Field Studies Council (Dr Steve Tilling and Mr Dave Morgan);

Association for Science Education (Mr Richard Needham and Ms Marianne Cutler); and

Geographical Association (Ms Becky Kitchen).