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From personalisation and AI to GDPR: how is edtech coping with innovation and regulation?

This year’s BETT 2018 event brought together not just the best of UK edtech, but companies from across the Americas, Europe, MENA and Asia. We spoke to a whole host of innovators who highlighted the range of complex challenges that come with disrupting a well-regulated sector.

Peer to peer learning – and Educating Essex

When it first aired back in 2011, Educating Essex shone a light on the real experience of teachers and pupils, resonating with the parents and children up and down the land. The show’s headteacher Vic Goddard was on stand talking about the exam preparation cycle for his students and how online learning tool Tassomai is helping children learn and improve.

And it’s not just about teachers tracking individual performance, but really a way of lasering in on opportunities for peer-to-peer learning – where those students who need assistance can be paired with those who are on track, benefitting the whole class.

Apps for parents – with GDPR compliance

We checked in with the groupcall team to look at their newly launched analytics platform. The company started ten years ago providing parental communications systems and now connects parents, carers and schools on a single platform. From push notifications to update parents about upcoming events, or a dashboard showing where all their data is stored, the company is bringing schools and families closer.

As a result, the company is now at the forefront of data regulation helping schools prepare in the run up to the GDPR deadline. Who can schools trust with their data? Are schools likely to be hit with harsh ICO sanctions? These are just some of the difficult questions the company is helping schools around the country answer.

Global education growth

EDaura is an education start-up from Jordan with a focus on the international baccalaureate curriculum – helping track student progress and making materials available as they work towards examinations. The EDaura team highlighted the exciting growth opportunities in edtech, from its Jordanian roots to North Africa and the US.

Personalisation through AI, VR and adaptive learning

AI is unlocking the big data capabilities in education. The team at Domoscio are using this to personalise education and the benefits of this are manifold: increasing engagement through a better understanding of learning styles, through to identifying where resources can be consolidated. Similarly, Century is allowing schools and teachers to better understand the learning that is taking place and how best to intervene to promote success. It also helps students intuitively improve and adapt their learning, allowing them to take control.

Elsewhere, as VR technology becomes more and more accessible at scale, ClassVR is bringing new types of immersive learning into the classroom. Augmented experiences are set to re-define the way we think about lessons. It’s clear that deep tech is disrupting existing ways of working – and Domoscio, Century and ClassVR are redesigning learning to make sure the classroom isn’t left behind.

Can tech improve language?

Learning to write and speak fluently is one of the fundamentals of education. To make matters more complicated, new generations of learners grow up in new environments, changing their preparedness for learning according to older methods. Wizkids has developed a number of language learning apps, which they believe will free up teachers and students to become better writers.

Unlocking edtech innovation via crowdfunding

While companies large and small are establishing themselves in the edtech landscape, the pipeline for innovation shouldn’t be forgotten. The UK’s innovation foundation Nesta has set up Rocket Fund, a crowdfunding platform for supplying technology to schools. Rocket Fund’s aim is to target the lack of digital skills in the UK, which is to be costing the economy £63 billion a year in lost GDP. Crowdfunding is a fintech innovation which has reaped dividends in that sector – let’s hope it makes similar waves in classrooms up and down the country.

Education is changing. While teachers and parents are doing their best to harness the new and innovative tech to improve outcomes, regulation and safeguards rightly look to protect the best interests of children and students. These twin pressures mean that the edtech sector is undergoing a challenging – but exciting – time.

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