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Pearson, the world’s leading education company, has announced the publication of a new report, known as Alive in the Swamp, which gives practical advice on how to make more informed, evidence-based decisions when selecting learning technology.

The report comes as governments in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar continue to spend millions of US dollars on digital learning solutions. The release of the new report and evaluation index will help maximise this investment.

The Alive in the Swamp report contains an Index, which allows for systematic evaluation of new digital innovations. Under the Index, learning technologies are assessed along three criteria: the effectiveness of the learning technology’s pedagogy; its ability to activate real and lasting system change; and the accessibility and usability of the technology itself.

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The Report and Index hold special relevance for the Gulf region, where government expenditure on digital learning is some of the highest in the world. The UAE Government’s ambition of paperless classrooms is being achieved through programmes such as the Federal Higher Education Mobile Learning Initiative, which was launched in September 2012 at a cost estimated to exceed AED50 million.

And while the large number of new learning technologies available in the region has presented both education ministries and schools with unprecedented choice, it has also made it more difficult to determine which of these tools will have the biggest impact on the learning outcomes of students. The Index and Report will allow education agencies, as well as primary and secondary schools, to decide what technology to invest in and when.

The release of Alive in the Swamp is timely, as recent international research indicates that educational technology is often being used to support existing teaching practices regardless of their efficacy, rather than helping to positively transform teaching and learning.

Sir Michael Barber, who acted as an education advisor to the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, noted this trend in his forward to the Alive in the Swamp report, saying:

The future will not belong to those who focus on technology alone but to those who place it in the wider context of what we know about maximising learning and realising system impact. This report helps advance that goal.’

Pearson’s Katelyn Donnelly, who co-authored the report with Michael Fullan agrees, saying:

Technology has huge potential for strengthening and deepening what we can learn. However, given the breadth of digital learning products available in the market, it is often difficult to determine which products will have the greatest tangible benefits for schools and students. In a time of unprecedented digital innovation this Index will add clarity to the digital learning field. The Index is accessible and simple to use, allowing educators to employ it to select those digital learning tools that have proven efficacy.’

By identifying gaps in the digital education market, it is also hoped that the Index will lead to producers of learning technology creating products that are more effective in generating improved outcomes for students. Donnelly says:

We are confident that one of the outcomes Alive in the Swamp will be a drive to improve digital education products and how they are delivered. The Index has highlighted where innovation gaps exist, so we are hoping entrepreneurs will take up the challenge of creating new products that fill these holes in the market, and ultimately improve the quality of the learning technology available in the Gulf region and all around the world.’