Teachers vs Tech? The Case For An Ed Tech Revolution by Daisy Christodoulou

The Blurb On The Back:

Daisy Christodoulou asks why ed tech – with all its potential – hasn’t yet had the transformative impact on education that it has long promised.

Rooted in research and written from an educationalist’s perspective, Teachers vs Tech?  examines a broad range of topics, from the science of learning and assessment to the continued importance of teaching facts, exploring international examples from both big brand digital platforms and smaller start-ups.

Daisy Christodoulou draws on her experience working in classrooms and within the education community to outline a revolutionary vision for the future: one where technology is developed in conjunction with teacher expertise and is ultimately used to improve education outcomes for all. 

You can buy TEACHERS VS TECH? THE CASE FOR AN ED TECH REVOLUTION by Daisy Christodoulou from Amazon UKWaterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Daisy Christodoulou is former Head of Assessment at Ark Schools and Director of Education at No More Marking.  This is a well researched, clearly written, fascinating and informative book that looks at the psychology of learning and teaching and how that ties in with the technology available to teachers (including initiatives from tech companies) to explain why tech hasn’t been as transformative for education as you’d expect it to be. 

I picked this book up because back in the early noughties I had a peripheral role on a project to get laptops and electronic whiteboards into UK schools, which was intended to improve educational performance but ended up not doing so (and in fact there was some criticism of it during later assessments).  More recently, I decided to brush up on my French using a popular App programme that I won’t name (but think green owl) and it made me think about all the resources available out there and how COVID had changed the physical delivery of education so I thought this book would offer an interesting take on the links between tech and education performance.

Christodoulou writes very clearly – there are a lot of ideas and a lot of research in this book, including ideas and explanations for how people learn – but I never felt overwhelmed by it all and I was able to follow her points as someone who does not have a teaching background.  In the chapter on educational assessment, she declares her interest in using technology to assist in marking exams, essays etc, but I thought she was very fair in her assessment of the benefits and disadvantages of using tech and offers an interesting take on how tech can be incorporated into the process.

The book starts by examining the science of learning and the difference between working memory and long term memory as this forms the bedrock of the learning experience.  Christodoulou then deep dives into methods of personalising education (and the advantages/disadvantages of the different methods), why learning facts is important rather than just relying on looking things up and what active learning is and how it can be supported (including advantages and disadvantages of the same).  There’s also a chapter on smart devices and the impact of having them in class – I was particularly surprised at how pupils are distracted more by mobile phones than by laptops and how this is partly because of the way they’re designed and Christodoulou also explains how task shifting fits into this as an issue.

I liked how Christodoulouo makes a convincing argument for the role of the teacher and the importance of teaching expertise while also recognising that teacher quality is more important than teacher numbers.  She also does an interesting job of demonstrating how technology can support teaching in order to give the best experience to both teachers and their pupils.   

Each chapter concludes with a neat summary of what Christodoulou has covered and how it links in with the next chapter and there’s a really good balance of illustrations and text, with the layout of the book really supporting and emphasising her main arguments.  I also thought that she does a great job of relating theory with case studies in a way that illustrates her points and supports her arguments.

If I had one nitpick, then I think that in her chapter where she examines initiatives supported by Microsoft, Apple and Google what goes unsaid is how all of those education programmes are designed to get students to use the products of the respective companies.  I think I would have liked some kind of explicit acknowledgement from Christodoulou that the problem with Big Tech companies getting into education is that they’re not necessarily coming with clean hands – they see it as a marketing opportunity more than they do an educational opportunity and that whatever programme they produce is designed to further their agenda, which is likely to run counter to what students actually need for their long term objectives.

Other than that, I thought this was a really fascinating book that does a really good job of breaking down cognitive psychology, education theory and technological innovation to set out how the two spheres can work better together.  If you’re a teacher, parent or someone who has a general interest in the topic then this is a very readable way of finding out more about it and would highly recommend it. 

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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