From education to employment

Learning technology ideas for the new government

Maren Deepwell is chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology

Learning Technology is not generally in the headlines when it comes to politics. At least not explicitly. However, there are many reasons why learners, providers and employers would benefit from learning technology having a place in the early thinking of Sajid Javid, Nicky Morgan and Nick Boles. Here’s why:

Has the revolution come and gone? Learning, teaching and assessment have changed.

With every new buzzword or trend in learning technology comes a rhetoric of disruption and revolution – of change that will leave schools, colleges and universities unrecognisable (but always better). Each time the way we learn, teach and assess adapts, we move on. It is a process that doesn’t wait for us. Nor should we wait. Research and practice reflect that – so should policy. If words like technology or digital don’t appear in any of the frameworks underpinning our education system then we are missing an opportunity to enable the culture change we need across all sectors.

Learners will need technology to succeed

One of the main questions around learning technology that we come across again and again is whether there is hard and fast evidence that using technology improves learning outcomes. While there is convincing research and evidence of impact, I think this is now the wrong question.

Learners who are in formal education now and will enter the employment market in future years and learners who are already in work all have a growing requirement for – and experience of – technology in their professional and personal lives. Digital and increasingly data literacy are just starting points for the skills we all need to develop.

Publicly funded research is open. Why not resources and tools too?
With the move to make all publicly funded research openly accessible, the UK has taken an important step in the right direction. When it comes to learning technology, sharing lessons learnt, resources and tools is key for providers who want to keep pace with innovation, rather than duplicate what others have already trialled. If we encourage sharing and re-use of resources and tools, we can be more efficient and effective in how we deliver learning, teaching and assessment. Creating all publicly funded education or learning resources and tools under an appropriate open licence is another important step we should take.

Teachers and senior staff are key

Most importantly, engaged senior decision makers, as well as staff involved in learning, teaching and assessment, are key. Getting the most from learning technology requires skills, support and a willingness to empower individuals to take risks, and to be open to new ideas. Professional development for and recognition of the skills that enable us to make use of technology for the benefit of learners are key to our success.

As an independent association we have promoted and supported learning technology across sectors for over 20 years. Never has the potential of technology to help solve the challenges we are facing been greater. Our core values of participation, collaboration and openness will continue to inform the work of our members across sectors, leading innovation in learning technology.

Maren Deepwell is chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), an independent membership charity

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