From education to employment

A teachable moment: The #Edtech UK Global Summit 2017

Martin Hamilton, Futurist, Jisc

This year’s Edtech UK Global Summit, held last week in London, was a triumph. It was packed with energetic updates from all over the sector – government policy makers, entrepreneurs, and sector professionals, all came together to share examples of how education technology (edtech) can enhance education. More than just an event, the day offered what I like to think of as a teachable moment, showing how edtech can be used to effectively support teaching and learning – and potentially playing a pivotal role in the future of education. If you couldn’t make it, live streams from the event are available via my Periscope channel.

Our CEO, Paul Feldman, opened a great discussion about how edtech can come together as a sector, with practitioners, policymakers and industry collaborating to make it more than the sum of its parts. At Jisc we’ve got a long heritage in edtech and we’ve seen how it can be used to transform education for the better by improving retention and learning outcomes, giving teaching staff valuable time back. We hope that initiatives such our national learning analytics service and our work on supporting digital capabilities will have a massive impact on the UK’s ability to make the most of digital technologies.

Sir Ian Livingstone CBE made some thought-provoking points about games and learning – reflecting on his experiences as the creator of the hugely successful Games Workshop. Exploring how games can be more than just entertainment, he underlined how they can improve learning, social skills and engagement. Think about it; problem solving, computational thinking, and being allowed to try and fail and try again – these are all life lessons and skills that students could benefit from. Ian challenged delegates to consider how we can ensure the curriculum recognises that failure is often how we truly learn.

Mark Martin, aka Urban Teacher, is computing lead at South Bank Engineering UTC. He explained that effective edtech is a journey not a destination, and suggested that nuanced use of technology in teaching and learning could help to solve the UK’s technical skills gap whilst also easing the workload of teachers. And in a world where robots that teach coding are already on many Christmas lists education needs to work hard to keep up with our increasingly technology-based society.

However, it’s also clear that lots of learners find technology somewhat daunting when it’s new and unfamiliar, and taking a wrong step in an app could potentially affect their grades. We conducted a survey this year of 20,000 (22,000) students (results here), who told us that their colleges and universities aren’t setting them up for the digital workplace. We often forget that students are phenomenal with technology, but with the technology that they use as teenagers, not with the sort of tech that they’ll need in the world of work.

Closing the event we heard from Steve Frampton, the principal of Portsmouth College, which recently won the Jisc sponsored Association of Colleges Beacon Award for the effective use of technology in FE. He spoke about how the college is preparing students for the jobs of the future – by providing them all with an iPad and a core common set of apps, creating a standard digital environment for the college. Steve also spoke about his work to create a culture in which it’s OK for teachers to learn from students, and allowing time and support for staff to learn about the new technology. Steve emphasised the importance of experimentation and creativity – an essential message when it comes to edtech.

There’s no escape from the fact that the world is evolving because of technology and edtech has the capacity to help education to keep up. Not only that, but as other summit presenters mentioned, it can increase accessibility, make learning more flexible, ease teacher work-loads and improve digital skills. If we get this right, our students will be the best-educated in the world.

Whilst the summit might be over, in many ways it’s just the beginning of a conversation about what works when using edtech to support teaching practice. We’re working with Edtech UK to celebrate the 50 edtech people, projects and products of 2017, and we’d love to hear from you – why not fill out the form and let us know who or what has inspired you this year?

Martin Hamilton, Futurist, Jisc

About Jisc: The UK’s expert member organisation for digital technology and digital resources in higher education, further education, skills and research. Our vision is to make the UK the most digitally advanced education and research nation in the world.  

We play a pivotal role in the development, adoption and use of technology by UK universities and colleges, supporting them to improve learning, teaching, the student experience and institutional efficiency, as well as enabling more powerful research.   

At the heart of Jisc’s support is Janet – the UK’s world-class National Research and Education Network (NREN). Owned, managed and operated by Jisc, Janet comprises a secure, state-of-the-art network infrastructure spanning all four nations of the UK.  

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