Edtech in emergencies: what the evidence showed us

This post comes from Luke Stannard, a research consultant working in our Education in Emergencies team.

Save the Children works to ensure children displaced by conflict or caught up in humanitarian crises secure an access to quality learning opportunities. Increasingly Educational Technology (EdTech) has been proposed as a potential solution to solve the ‘learning crisis’ in humanitarian contexts. A recent study by Education International estimated that over 50% of Education in Emergencies programmes over the last 5 years have involved the use of EdTech.

Quality education is one of the key focuses of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Education 2030 Agenda. The UN estimates that the average time someone is displaced is now close to 17 years – with many children missing their entire education. With a growing desire to address this learning crisis, researchers at Save the Children UK have reviewed over 130 academic papers in an attempt to evaluate ‘what works’ with EdTech in displacement or ‘emergency’ settings as a potential solution to address the growing demand for learning.

A wealth of evidence confirms how EdTech can potentially positively impact on learning in stable contexts. However, there is a real gap in research on EdTech use in emergency settings, despite the growing number of children in need of quality education in humanitarian and protracted contexts. Save the Children set about to examine which pieces of research from more stable contexts were applicable in emergency situations.

Findings suggest that there are clear ways in which learning from researching ‘EdTech’ in stable contexts can be transferred to emergency settings. These findings can be broken down into three key areas: the child, the community in which they live, and the factors needed to produce enabling conditions for technology use in emergencies.

Download the full report ‘EdTech in Emergencies and Displaced Settings’

Here is a summary of the findings.

The child

  • Hardware is not enough to improve learning outcomes.
  • How the software works, or its pedagogy, is key to improving learning outcomes.
  • EdTech must be tied to a curriculum. Learning that isn’t attached to previous learning gets forgotten.
  • EdTech has to respond to the child’s level. For example, if a learner gets a question wrong, then the next question needs to be easier.
  • Context is crucial. The culture the learner lives in has to be engaged through the software.
  • Learners can teach themselves how to use the technology.

The community

  • EdTech must support teachers, not replace them.
  • Teachers’ and parents’ attitudes to technology are massively important to ensure successful use.
  • Teachers and parents need training on how to get the most out of the technology.
  • The community’s opinion on the importance of technology in education needs to be engaged with. It is not correct to assume that everyone will welcome the change.

The enabling conditions

  • Infrastructure (eg, electricity supply, internet access and safe storage facilities) must be assessed prior to engagement.
  • Gender is not a factor in performance with technology, but access to EdTech can be gendered. This has to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • EdTech can blur the lines between formal, informal and non-formal learning.
  • The wellbeing of every person involved is a crucial consideration. Spending all day by yourself, inside on a tablet, is likely to negatively affect your wellbeing.

EdTech has the potential to change the way we engage with and support learning. Before it does so, it is crucial that that the foundations for learning are in place. We must continue to work so that all children are physically safe, that concerns for their social and emotional wellbeing are supported, and that, ultimately, children have access to quality learning.

Download the full report

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