Digital platforms for the future of School

How can investments in technology improve school and education systems?

Our research project “Making the most of technology in education systems” is seeking the answer analysing 9 case studies – three in Italy and six form all over the world – which show innovative models of enhancing technology investments in schools.

In this blogpost we will share some features of eKool, an online platform accessible by teachers, students and parents. It’s a tool which aims to improve learning conditions and collect data about student’s activities and progress. 

Context

Estonia is the only emerging economy in the EU to consider education policies as a drive for the economic development of the Country. It’s the fifth Country of the European Union for investments in education, after Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and Finland and the only one to have the 6% of GDP invested in education. According to PISA tests, estonian high school students are the best in Europe and the most skilled in mathematics. 

The programme ProgeTiger made the estonian education system one of the most innovative in the world. It was launched in 2012 with the aim of supporting students from kindergarten to high school in learning the foundations of computer programming through “practical activities and age-appropriate programming languages “. 

The eKool platform is part of a larger group of projects for digital innovation in the education system. Inside this group there’s “e-schoolbag”, online portal for the collection of digital learning materials.

Another relevant aspect of the Estonian education system is the substantial freedom and autonomy of local governments and schools in managing and organising the school system in the suitable way for each context, counting on the financial support of the State.  

Screenshot of Ekool’s frontend (mobile version) 

How the programme works

The online platform allows teachers to insert data concerning student’s marks and absence, to share learning materials and to contact directly the parents. The students and their family can too connect with the teachers, as well as uploading assignments. 

The headmaster can access the platform to manage school statistics and reports, timetables as well as store legal data such as certificates and degrees. 

According to the Estonian governments evaluations, one of the main achievements of eKool is improving communications between teacher, students and parents. Among the benefits introduced: efficient time management of teachers’ school activities, the improvement of student’s performances analysis, the resolution of conflicts concerning the quality and clarity of informations shared with the families. 

K.K., Digital Manager at Tallinn municipality, described in our interview the advantages of the platform:

“When we decided to introduce eKool in all the schools of Tallinn years ago (…) the first change was the improvement of teacher’s computer skills. Before that moment, some teachers had never used a computer before for their job (…) In the last 10 years teachers have never used paper sheets to take notes, marks, absences and assign homeworks. All the data are digital”.

Sustainability and Organisation

eKool web-based version is free of charge for students, parents and teachers. This is possible thanks to selected advertisements displayed on the platform. eKool reserves the right not to accept and publish any announcements if their content can be categorized as inappropriate. Schools pay a monthly fee for the eKool services depending on the number of students enrolled in that school – e.g. 50 for schools with less than 250 students enrolled. eKool service is a free of charge for the teachers and school personnel. The monthly fee covers the hosting of the eKool web application, user support and general software development costs.

The initiative started in 2002 as a non-profit project by Look @ World Foundation in Estonia. Once the platform had been tested, the programme was purchased by a private corporate working in partnership with the Estonian government according to a open and collaborative management system.

Projects like eKool show the impact of technologies on school management, improving the performances of teachers as well as policymakers. We will continue seeking projects of this kind for our researches and experimentations in the education system, to inspire our work and that of the organisations we are already and will working with in the future. 

If you want to learn more about this project

And the others 8 innovation case studies, check out our report Making the most of technology in education systems which will be launched on 12th June 2019.