‘Compelling Case’ studies
Creating a set of studies and news releases that make a compelling case for all school pupils to have their own computer devices and access to the Internet, that they can use in class and at home.

Project Outline
as at 26 Jan 2011

The Project. The e-Learning Foundation is working with Broadie Associates, schools and other partners to document the compelling case for the use of ICT in schools and in homes, to aid young peoples’ learning. The intention is to make it very clear to parents, policy makers and schools that failure of a school to adopt and embed the use of ICT in learning will result in the school’s pupils being seriously disadvantaged in their learning compared to those in other schools and to the UK education system as a whole failing to prepare young people for a successful life in the modern world. The competitiveness of the UK internationally and the position of the UK education system in world rankings will also be harmed.

The original email from Valerie Thompson, Chief Executive of the e-Learning Foundation inviting schools to participate is reproduced at the end of this document.

To date 13 schools have volunteered to be involved in the project. We will be very pleased to hear of other schools that want to adopt the same new approach to making clear the huge positive impact that ICT is having on learning.

The rationale for a new approach to studying impact. Existing studies that have attempted to identfy causal relationships showing that use of ICT increases achievement have to date shown only small impact. In the same period, many schools making effective use of ICT have seen the results of their pupils improve very considerably and teachers anecdotally report very significant improvements to pupil attitudes, engagement with work and improved approaches to learning.

We believe that it is not possible to satisfactorily show the impact of ICT in learning through linking its use directly to improved achievement. Use of ICT is only one of the factors that improve achievement; it never acts alone. What happens is that a number of factors, including use of ICT, cause an improvement in learning activity. The improved learning activity then can be linked causally to improved achievement.

It can also be shown that the improved learning activity would be very difficult or impossible to create in the absence of ICT.

The new approach to studying impact of ICT in practice. Learning and teaching are complex processes and studying them is very time consuming. Teachers do make minute-by-minute observations of how well pupils are learning, do make many formative assessments during the teaching and learning process and do reflect on new approaches in sufficient depth to become convinced of their impact. Teachers do not have time to write down everything that is observed or to collect and collate all the evidence that could be used to support statements about improved learning.

To be workable this new approach to studying impact has to be pragmatic and manageable within the normal working practices of schools and teachers.

The approach being adopted is to ‘reverse-engineer’ the studying of impact, starting from teachers’ professional observations of improved learning activity. The steps in the process are:

i) Through conversation with teachers, identify a significant change in learning activity and teaching approach that is resulting in the pupils learning significantly better and significantly more. This is as judged by observation of pupils’ learning, the work that they are doing and their creative output, and any formative assessment that is happening during the learning process.

ii) Capture the improved learning activity in a provisional headline statement that parents and other non-education professionals will instantly understand as a very significant improvement in pupils’ learning. It is important that this statement contains some quantification of the impact (which will be progressively refined) so that all are clear that this is a very important impact. Eventually it is hoped that these statements will be refined to powerful statements such as ‘Pupils are producing double the creative writing’ or ‘Pupils are now spending 70% more time engaging with work’.

iii) Support the headline statement with a brief scenario of how pupils’ learning activity has changed and the ways it is now better.

iv) Analyse the learning activities that are contributing to the headline improvement, that need to be observed more closely and supported with evidence. For example, if the starting headline is “Pupils are now hugely better at exploring topics and learning about them” this probably implies:
- pupils engage better and work more intensively because they are able to follow lines of enquiry that most interest them about the topic, spending more time on task.
- pupils pose many more questions and find many more answers.
- pupils refine their understanding of what they have discovered by explaining it to classmates.
- pupils write much more about the topic than previously.

Each of these improved learning activities is potentially measurable and quantifiable.

v) Make estimates of how much the learning activities have improved relative to previous approaches not using ICT. Then identify what evidence is already available and what evidence it would be desirable to collect, to turn these estimates into reliable judgements of increased learning activity.

vi) Find ways to collect the evidence needed to support the headline statement. There may be innovative ways to collect this evidence, such as surveys of pupils’ or parents’ views on this, by recording discussions, or by pupils reflecting on their work and creating presenations of it for other pupils. There can also be comparisons with work previously produced.

vii) Progressively refine the headline statement and scenario and link it to the evidence available, to create a compelling and convincing case for the new, ICT-enabled approach.

viii) And finally look at the summative assessments of cohorts of pupils who are engaging in the improved learning activities, relative to similar cohorts whose learning activity did not make use of the ICT-enabled approaches now being used.

viii) It is hoped that this approach will become useful and practical professional development for the teachers involved, at the level they wish to pursue it. The statements, scenarios and details of evidence that exists or could be collected will also act as a challenge to researchers to explore the changed learning activity in more detail, and to policy makers and government agencies to fund the time for this deeper research.

How to engage with the project. The project is initially being pursued in the Spring and Summer terms 2011, to produce initial exemplar ‘Compelling case’ studies. It is hoped it will extend beyond this.

Roger Broadie, Director, Broadie Associates, is contributing time to work with a few schools to develop these exemplars. He will endeavour to meet with some of the schools volunteering and to engage in email and phone conversations to progress development of the studies.

Roger is also circulating regular updates as to how the project is developing to all schools that volunteer to be involved. The aim of these is to share the areas of major impact schools are getting from their use of ICT and to share innovative ways that schools are using to evidence the changed learning activity.

As studies develop they will be initially published on the Broadie Associates website, http://www.BroadieAssociates.co.uk, starting with anonymised studies and moving to accredited studies as schools become sufficiently comfortable with and able to support the statements the studies are making.

The e-Learning Foundation hopes to publish studies and create news releases around them once schools are comfortable for this to happen.

We will also be pleased to publish on the Broadie Associates website any studies schools wish to produce themselves. These will typically be a one or two page scenario, with contact details of the school for anyone wishing to receive such supporting detail and evidence as the school makes available.

If you would like to engage with this project please email Roger@BroadieAssociates.co.uk

Original email inviting schools to participate:
From: Jim Cooper [mailto:jim@e-learningfoundation.com]
Sent: 16 December 2010 17:20
To: schools associated with the e-Learning Foundation
Subject: Help us create a compelling case

Dear colleague,

In the current political climate it is clear that technology is a very low priority for education ministers and policy makers. However, many education professionals are totally convinced about the positive impact that technology can have on pupils, and are able to support that with hard evidence.

We therefore feel it is vital to draw on that evidence to develop and publicise a compelling case for the inclusion of learning technologies in education. This case needs to be hard hitting and headline grabbing at the national media level.

We would like to work with a group of 20-50 schools prepared to share their evidence. This will involve a small amount of time from you and some members of staff, to work with a consultant.

The way we intend to create headlines and supporting evidence is by looking at how processes of learning and teaching are changing and how technology is involved. The website of the consultant who will be helping us do this will give you an idea of the approach - see http://www.broadieassociates.co.uk/page46/page47/page47.html. The stories that we hope to feature are of course your successes and nothing will be published without your agreement.

If you would like to be part of this group, or if you would like any more information, please email Roger@BroadieAssociates.co.uk

Please let Roger know if you would like to be involved as soon as possible so that we know how many schools are prepared to take part before BETT starts. We will start developing the case studies after BETT, and how much involvement you have will be entirely up to you.

I think the absence of any mention of technology in the recent White Paper is a strong sign that unless education professionals speak up, we could see ten years of progressive improvement in pedagogy crumble away, a process that would take many years to recover from. If you have some evidence, then please share it with us?

Kind Regards

Valerie Thompson
Chief Executive
e-Learning Foundation