February 20, 2022
In this Q&A article, CEO and Founder of T4 Education, Vikas Pota provides his perspectives on EdTech and the upcoming Teacher Tech Summit.
Welcome Vikas, please can you introduce yourself and your role at T4 Education?
I’m the Founder and CEO of T4 Education, a global organisation established during the pandemic that has brought together a community of 300,000 teachers from over 100 countries to help them navigate the ‘new normal’, provide them with tools, events and initiatives to improve education in the wake of the greatest crisis it has ever faced, and give teachers and schools a voice at the top table of decision making.
One of the ways we’re doing this is through our $250,000 World’s Best School Prizes that will celebrate schools everywhere for the good they do in society. Over 1.5 billion learners have been impacted by school and university closures, according to UNESCO, and even before the pandemic, the UN found progress was already too slow to achieve its Sustainable Development Goal 4 of quality education for all by 2030. The five World’s Best School Prizes, including a World’s Best School Prize for Innovation that focuses on using EdTech to accelerate progress, are a grassroots solution to help build the systemic change we need. Through them, inspirational schools from every corner of the globe will be able to share their best practices, help others replicate their innovative ideas, and democratise school-based expertise.
Another way we’re doing this is through polling our community of teachers on challenges and opportunities they face when it comes to implementing effective EdTech solutions in their classrooms. To achieve this, we’ve created the world’s first dedicated multi-country research panel for teachers.
And we’re also doing this through our events and next month, we’ll be putting on the Teacher Tech Summit – co-hosted with the World Bank and Owl Ventures. Working with our partners, who include the Lemann Foundation, HP, EdTech Hub, the Cambridge Partnership for Education, and a number of governments, we’ve created the world’s largest EdTech summit.
EdTech Perspectives: What are the main benefits of EdTech in your opinion and do you think more needs to be done to ensure parity of access?
EdTech, when used effectively, can help improve learning outcomes and close learning gaps around the world. It can open up access to education and help students learn at their own pace with customised experiences. There is an enormous task ahead of us if we’re to succeed in providing every child with a quality education and there’s no doubt in my mind that we are going to need EdTech to help us achieve this.
EdTech, when correctly developed and deployed, can also help level the playing field for those with special educational needs and disabilities.
And, far from replacing teachers, it can alleviate the burden of time-consuming tasks such as marking, admin and lesson planning, helping free up our overstretched teachers to spend more time on actually teaching, engaging their students emotionally and inspiring them creatively.
EdTech at its best should increase equity in education. But unless there is parity of access, then the reverse may be true. We may increasingly see a world of digital haves and have nots where the fault lines exposed by the pandemic become entrenched. Governments and tech companies should work together to ensure every child in the world has access to a reliable internet connection and the tech they need to access it and learn. We need to ensure teachers are trained to use EdTech effectively. And we need to involve teachers at every stage in the development of EdTech to ensure it is accessible for all and actively works to close learning gaps and not widen them.
We are looking forward to your upcoming EdTech summit. What are you hoping this summit will achieve?
The Teacher Tech Summit 2022 is going to bring tens of thousands of teachers from all around the world together with tech entrepreneurs, governments, and academics. We want it to help build a shared understanding on the potential of technology in education, accelerate innovation, share best practices, and ensure the lessons of the pandemic are learned. This is crucial because the pandemic catapulted EdTech into global prominence almost overnight. That was necessary to keep students learning as classrooms closed, but now, as we begin to emerge on the other side, our summit pauses to take a breath and ask the fundamental question – what works?
To answer this question, we are linking teachers up with technologists. It is absolutely vital to have teachers in the room at the heart of discussions around EdTech. In all the conferences I’ve been to around the world, I never once saw a teacher invited to be a part of the EdTech discussion. You always see policymakers, CEOs, tech entrepreneurs and investors. But it’s teachers who are on the front line, delivering education to the next generation. We are seeking to bridge the understanding gap and create a meaningful dialogue between those creating the tech tools and those on the coalface of education who will have to use these tools. If governments and tech companies want to know what works in classrooms, they need to listen to teachers. And if they do, we’ll be able to better harness the right EdTech to improve education.
What are your future goals in terms of the T4 Education community and conversations around EdTech?
We have created a massive, global community of teachers and schools and working with them, alongside governments, businesses, and NGOs, we are committed to helping them improve education.
2020 was meant to mark the start of a Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, but within mere months it was knocked off course by the COVID pandemic. We are determined to do everything we can with our global community to help turn this around. To encourage EdTech that works to improve learning outcomes and reduce learning gaps. To celebrate schools for the tremendous role they play in educating the next generation and the good they do in society. And to put the teacher voice front and centre where it belongs so that when governments look at reforming education policies it is teachers they turn to, and when tech companies ask the question ‘what works’ it is teachers who are providing the answers.
Many Thanks to Vikas Pota for providing these EdTech perspectives and we wish him the very best for his upcoming summit.