Innovative teaching, not technology alone, has greatest impact in the classroom, say experts

28 November 2012

Digital technologies in the classroom must go hand in hand with innovative and structured teaching to have a true impact on educational achievements, research from the Institute of Education, London, and The University of Nottingham has shown.

In the last five years, UK schools have spent more than £1 billion on everything from interactive whiteboards to laptops and tablets but the study found that buying in the latest technology was no guarantee to raising pupil attainment.

The academics from the IOE's London Knowledge Lab (LKL), in collaboration with Nottingham's Learning Sciences Research Institute, say that — just like with traditional school resources  — the key to success is the way in which digital technologies are used.

Teachers should, they say, be focusing on the learning activities and using technologies to support them rather than using the latest state-of-the-art kit as the starting point for lesson plans.

In their report, Decoding Learning, they identify a framework for good practice, including recommended approaches to learning that will use classroom technology to its full potential to engage pupils and raise academic standards.

The report also identifies a need for more support and training for teachers to enable them to use technologies effectively in combination with other resources and highlights some significant gaps in innovation leading to missed opportunities for improving children's learning.

In their research, commissioned by Nesta, an independent charity that promotes innovation in the UK, the academics looked at 124 research and 86 teacher-led examples of innovation and identified 210 innovations that showed the potential for digital technology to support one or more of eight learning themes which are proven to be effective — learning from experts; learning with others; learning through making; learning through exploring; learning through industry; learning through practising; learning from assessment; and learning in and across settings.

The academics say that if an innovation doesn't start with at least one of these approaches — and preferably connect several — then it is unlikely to lead to successful learning, a strategy that could be useful for teachers planning lessons or technologists planning new products.

One of the report's authors, Rose Luckin, professor of learner-centred design at LKL, said:  "The report contains many examples of how learning can be supported with technology. For example, learners working with experts to identifying solar storms, using context rich lifelogs to help them to assess their learning, or teachers creating location-based games to meet the needs of their learners. Our list of 150 innovations is drawn from research and practitioner evidence and offers anyone looking for concrete examples a great resource."

A full copy of the report, Decoding Learning, can be accessed at

Read a blog post by Rose Luckin and Richard Noss on IOE London blog

For more information please contact the IOE press office: Diane Hofkins, 020 7911 5423, or James Russell, 020 7911 5556,

The Institute of Education is a college of the University of London that specialises in education and related areas of social science and professional practice. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise two-thirds of the Institute's research activity was judged to be internationally significant and over a third was judged to be "world leading". The Institute was recognised by Ofsted in 2010 for its "high quality" initial teacher training programmes that inspire its students "to want to be outstanding teachers". The IOE is a member of the 1994 Group, which brings together 12 internationally renowned, research-intensive universities.