This year I had the privilege of being asked to be a judge in the innovative Global EdTech Awards. These awards celebrate both educators and EdTech companies and uniquely all entries are anonymised for the judges- letting the achievements do the talking.
The awards categories were:
As well as the Lifetime Achievement award which could be for any individual working in an educational setting, sector or edtech industry.
I was asked to judge the Most impactful teacher- Early Years/Primary category. Being a former primary school teacher myself at an infant school, I was really excited to read about the achievements of primary and early years educators and have the chance to celebrate their efforts.
Once all the entries were in, the organisers then went about the tricky task of anonymising entries, redacting names and references that may give away the identity of the person or organisation. Once this was completed, the judges were given each nominee’s portfolio in the specific category they were judging, which included the nominee’s submission and any supporting evidence. We also were given a spreadsheet to record our feedback and indicate the winner and runner-up of the category judged. Once a judge filled this out, this was then passed back to the organisers so they could make their finalist announcements ahead of the exciting virtual ceremony.
I was really impressed with the quality of the entries that came in. This glimpse into what was happening with EdTech in schools and nurseries was extremely positive. There was lots of innovation, utilising tech for accessibility and inclusion, using tech to drive the development of staff and students, providing marginal gains, and lots more. This showed me that tech is still very much alive in education post its lockdown popularity- as it should be! It was great to read about these educators who are making such a positive difference in the lives of staff, pupils, parents, and the wider school community by using tech as a facilitator and driver for good things. I learned that many schools and nurseries are collaborating and sharing now more than ever, which really is of benefit to everyone.
I also learned when reading these how difficult it is to mark these! Everyone brought such brilliant things to the table, so it really was a matter of considering the key judging questions to review carefully to make these decisions. I feel like such a primary school teacher saying this, but I wanted everyone to get a participation sticker or something for their efforts. Honestly, though, every one of the entries is from someone who deserved great recognition for all they are doing.
I think for these awards, the announcement may have been just as exciting for us judges as for the nominees! This was the first time we were seeing the names associated with the entries, as in these awards the achievements do all the talking! The organisers have shared how the feedback about anonymising the entries was so positive and I can see why! I think taking away names really lowered the potential for bias (conscious or unconscious) about specific individuals and organisations.
What the virtual ceremony was like
The virtual ceremony was great fun (and was really well organised to boot). Each judge was given a time slot to announce their runner-up and winner sharing what they liked about the entries and other general thoughts about the entries and awards as a whole. As well as announcements, we also had a brief talk from Al Kingsley , CEO of NetSupport Group (and many more hats!) to set the scene of the awards and EdTech in general; and we had a thought leadership presentation from Maria Rahamägi , Founder & CEO of Edumus School, Estonia (a distance learning school for elective subjects). These talks were so interesting and left us all with lots of insights to takeaway.
I was so excited to do my announcements that I made a fake drum roll noise each time and was disappointed with myself for not having the foresight Nina Jackson did- to bring applause sound effects! It was wonderful to hear the judges’ thoughts about their runner-ups and winners. It was clear we had all spent a lot of time pouring over these entries to really shout out all the great work of the nominees.
If you missed the show, you can watch it back here.
And you can see a full list of runner ups and winners here.
Key things I learnt or was reminded of
There are so many unsung heroes in education: So many amazing educators were nominated for these awards. Many who do their very best day in and day out often with little recognition as they’re ‘just doing their job’ and with the busy lives of those working in education it can be hard to find those moments to really celebrate success.
There are so many things happening with EdTech in schools: Whether its teaching children to code with robots, organising trust/group-wide EdTech events, introducing 3D pens to develop creativity and problem-solving skills, providing 1:1 devices, creating unplugged activities and training, or involving pupils in the tech purchasing process.
Our youngest learners are benefitting from EdTech: There were great examples of tech being used in Early Years settings. Showing as long as the tech is purposeful and is the driver for something rather than ‘just because’ pupils of any age can benefit.
Sharing practice is the way forward: The range of examples given of how tech was being used to benefit staff, students, parents, and other stakeholders indicates there is a lot to learn from each other. Whether it’s sharing ideas, joint training, group procurement, or just a community to connect with- reach out to other schools and learn more together!
Teachers need opportunities to try things and take risks: Where the entries talked about challenges that were overcome there were great examples of teachers trying new things and taking risks to solve problems. This is something they aren’t always given enough room to do in education, but it’s vital for good teaching and learning and for continued professional development. Trying new things could (as seen in my category winner’s entry) be drip-fed to teachers, encouraging them to try something new each term with examples of how to do it and tips for best practice.
EdTech is still very much alive in a Post-COVID landscape: It made me smile to see how so many lessons learned where not lost post-lockdown. Tech had a real uptake during this time, it was a vital tool for communication, for learning outside of school, and more, so it would be a waste to forget all that and go back to ‘how it was’. Instead, we have this kind of hybrid (no pun intended) of the before and after, taking the best parts of everything to provide the best teaching and learning experiences for our pupils.
All in all, I was so grateful to be part of the judging panel for the Global EdTech Awards for 2023. I learned a lot and it was a pleasure to participate in celebrating the achievements of educators and companies using EdTech for good. A huge thank you to Mark Anderson , Liz Bury and Ronan Mc Nicholl for organising this tremendous event!