From education to employment

Digital metaphors, practical change

Maren Deepwell is chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology

The recent Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (FELTAG) report set out a broad range of recommendations for the intelligent use of Learning Technology across the Further Education (FE) system. On the 27 March, the Association of Colleges (AoC) Learning Technology Conference, supported by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), will focus on the issues specific to FE colleges and Sixth Forms with regard to the adoption and implementation of technologies for learning and teaching, including a keynote from Matthew Hancock MP.

Contributing to the programme, I’ll be speaking about ‘Implementing innovation? Making it work at scale’. I will focus on some of the key questions around the recommendations of FELTAG and the implementation and consider how Learning Technology is central to learner success in education and the workplace. I will also consider the implications of the current economic climate on providers’ ability to effectively use innovative Learning Technologies and how the ‘next big thing’ failing to deliver lasting changes can help senior leaders build strategies fit for rapid development.

But recent conversations with colleagues working in colleges has made me think that there are also fundamental, practical considerations when it comes to adapting to change: the day-to-day systems and processes we have in place; the way we work together within our organisations and the way in which we can make technology work for us on a daily basis.

The types of questions I am thinking about are mainly related to technology and change in relation to the busy day-to-day reality we all face. For example, in many places, systems such as VLEs or Google Apps are now used by learners. They are also increasingly used by staff and management. Translating your day-to-day running of an organisation, working in collaboration or building relationships into a digital space can be difficult at first – but it enables you to share a common experience, translating not just teaching, but learning together and from each other into a new digital dimension.

Introducing something new takes time. Whether it is a new piece of software or a tablet computer, processes such as purchasing procedures and financial management often need to be adjusted and made more flexible, to enable innovation to take place at the right pace. Sometimes, there is no way of knowing whether expenditure will have a positive impact, so some freedom to experiment is key even when it comes to purchasing. This might seem like a small issue, but when it takes months to complete a requisition form and get it signed off, then innovation in learning and teaching is always a long away behind what learners and employers do.

The final question is: Do you love change? Most people would answer: Not so much! As in any other context, changes in the workplace can leave people behind. Whether it is a new administration system or something else, a focus on people, on understanding each perspective and sharing your own, is essential to building a culture in which changes can we weathered or even embraced on a frequent basis. While you can’t put real biscuits on a digital meeting table, there are ways to improve how we relate to technology and how we use technology to relate to each other and our learners. I already look forward to discussing these ideas further on 27 March.

Maren Deepwell is chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), an independent membership charity whose mission is to ensure that use of learning technology is effective and efficient, informed by research and practice, and grounded in an understanding of the underlying technologies and their capabilities, and the situations into which they are placed

Related Articles

Promises, Possibilities & Political Futures…

Tristan Arnison discusses the main UK parties’ education policies for the upcoming election. While specifics vary, common themes emerge around curriculum reform, skills training, and…