An "astonishing" deficit of data about how the global boom in educational technology could help pupils with disabilities in low and middle-income countries has been highlighted in a new report.
Global evidence for how EdTech can support pupils with disabilities is ‘thinly spread’, report finds
Despite widespread optimism that educational technology, or ‘EdTech’, can help to level the playing field for young people with disabilities, the study found a significant shortage of evidence about which innovations are best-positioned to help which children, and why; specifically in low-income contexts.
The review also found that many teachers lack training on how to use new technology, or are reluctant to do so.
The study was carried out for the EdTech Hub partnership, by researchers from the Universities of Cambridge, Glasgow and York. They conducted a detailed search for publications reporting trials or evaluations about how EdTech is being used to help primary school-age children with disabilities in low- and middle-income countries. Despite screening 20,000 documents, they found just 51 relevant papers from the past 14 years – few of which assessed any impact on children’s learning outcomes.
Their report describes the paucity of evidence as ‘astonishing’, given the importance of educational technologies to support the learning of children with disabilities. According to the Inclusive Education Initiative, as many as half the estimated 65 million school-age children with disabilities worldwide were out of school even before the COVID-19 pandemic, and most face ongoing, significant barriers to attending or participating in education.
EdTech is widely seen as having the potential to reverse this trend, and numerous devices have been developed to support the education of young people with disabilities. The study itself identifies a kaleidoscopic range of devices to support low vision, sign language programmes, mobile apps which teach braille, and computer screen readers.
It also suggests, however, that there have been very few systematic attempts to test the effectiveness of these devices. Dr Paul Lynch, from the School of Education, University of Glasgow, said: “The evidence for EdTech’s potential to support learners with disabilities is worryingly thin. Even though we commonly hear of interesting innovations taking place across the globe, these are not being rigorously evaluated or documented.”
Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.