From education to employment

How can technology enhance and improve learning in schools, and why does this matter for FE?

Seb Schmoller, Vice-Chair of the Governing Body of The Sheffield College

The government seems to be coming round to the point of view that we must break out of our educational silos when it comes to technology-supported learning and develop a concerted approach to its application throughout the system, from primary school to adult learning and HE.

For too long practitioners in different parts of the system have ploughed their own furrows, despite the obvious benefits of joined up planning, action, and, most importantly, sharing of ideas and approaches. Benefits accrue, whether it’s for ICT in the curriculum or the use of technology to support more efficient management of institutions.

Recent pronouncements from the Education Secretary Michael Gove at the annual BETT conference, on the need to rethink the role of ICT in the school curriculum, alongside an invitation from the Department for Education to the Association for Learning Technology and Naace (a schools-based organisation with comparable aims to ALT) to facilitated a web-based conversation about technology supported learning in schools are very encouraging.

“I’d also like to welcome the online discussion launched today at and using the twitter hashtag #schoolstech. We need a serious, intelligent conversation about how technology will transform education – and I look forward to finding out what everyone has to say.”

Michael Gove, from speech at BETT, 11 January 2012

Changes will not come overnight but, working jointly with Naace, we will produce a report for DFE that draws on the contributions to the schoolstech conversation, which you can find at

There are at least three clear reasons why an organisation such as ALT – which tends to be more focused on  further and higher education – should get involved in a schools initiative. First, as I’ve indicated, sector-based silos are in no-one’s interests; second, because FHE “gets the output” from the schools sector and therefore has an interest in what goes on in schools; third, because those with school-aged children who understand the technology in learning field professionally have particularly useful insights to contribute.

So, both ALT and Naace want the broadest range of responses between now and the “close” of the conversation at the end of February. We are keen for parents, teachers, technology developers and practitioners, policy people, researchers, students, people from industry and any others with an interest in and experience of this field to contribute.

Gove’s speech to BETT was partly about the place of Computer Science and of ICT in the school curriculum and partly about the place of technology in supporting learning in schools. Since the Coalition Government came in there had been something of a silence from the DFE on technology in schools. Gove’s speech began to address this: in particular he recognised the scale of the changes being wrought in the environment for learning by the Web and ubiquitous connectivity.

Whatever your role in FE, I urge you to visit to contribute to the conversation. Areas addressed on the website (and supported by the DFE’s “stimulus questions”) include:

  • Coping with the pace of technological change,


  • New models of teaching and education supported by technology,


  • The need for new teacher skills – in 2010, 44 per cent of teachers said they required professional development in using technology in lessons,


  • Digital tools and their role in authentic experiences for learning,


  • The impact of the ubiquity of Internet-connected devices.

Seb Schmoller – [email protected] – 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. Seb is also Vice-Chair of the Governing Body of The Sheffield College


Read other FE News articles by Seb Schmoller:

Filling an important gap in next year’s Common Inspection Framework

What can we learn from Stanford University’s free online computer science courses?

What did the ALT conference have to say for FE and Skills?

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