Maren Deepwell, chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), encourages more individuals and organisations to engage with recent Further Education policy consultations.
Influencing policy developments is not something at the forefront of most people's minds, particularly not when the new year starts with students returning, assessments and plans for the year ahead. More immediate, practical concerns normally take precedence over responding to consultations. Effective use of Learning Technology similarly can take a back seat as new developments and gadgets overtake efforts to plan for innovation.
However over the past month, an online conversation for FELTAG, the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group, convened by Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise, Matthew Hancock at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, has gathered momentum. The mission of FELTAG is to aim to best support the agile evolution of the Further Education sector in anticipation of disruptive technology, for the benefit of learners, employers and the UK economy as a whole.
Thousands of practitioners, providers and leaders from across Further Education have visited the site and many have joined in the conversation by rating recommendations, making comments or sending the group feedback and input. As a member of FELTAG, I think open conversations about policy are key to getting important decisions about funding, accreditation and support for teachers' rights. But while the responses thus far have been constructive, I think there are many more individuals and organisations from across the country who have valuable knowledge that FELTAG could benefit from.
So why, apart from lack of time, is it difficult to engage with such issues? Here are my thoughts:
1 – Let someone else respond: If you think that influencing policy is not for you, but you work in FE, think again. Regardless of your role, your experience and insight count.
2 - I feel we are muddling through – what can I share? Most places have a sense of just coping when it comes to Learning Technology. It rarely works exactly as planned, can be difficult to evaluate or costly, and learners often seem to know more than their teachers – or have no interest at all. Yet policy can be about removing barriers as much as aiming for innovation, so finding out what is difficult and what is crucial.
3 – Caring about our students and supporting them is key: with little time for anything else, and increasing demands to achieve more with less, where does that leave space for thinking about the big questions? FELTAG has a workstream about learners and learners have taken an active part in shaping it. So why not spend half an hour talking to your students about it, listening to what they have to say and send us your thoughts.
4 – What I want to achieve isn't possible! If you or your organisation have big ambitions when it comes to using Learning Technology, then there is a Wildcard section of the conversation with space for the seemingly impossible.
While emptying your inbox, supporting your colleagues or getting a particular student through exams or into a work placement may be more practical objectives for the new year, why not take a few minutes to share your views at http://feltag.org.uk and take an active part in shaping the future of Learning Technology across Further Education. We are keen to hear from you.
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