From education to employment

Creating a digitally enabled culture

In recent months I have been approached by a number of people in the education sector about the digital journey we have taken at Reading College, part of Activate Learning.

Questions include ‘what’s in our ILT strategy?’, ‘what are our technology KPIs?’, ‘what is our five year technology plan?’ and ‘what’s next on our digital horizon?’

Many of these questions have left me rather perplexed as we don’t have complicated strategies, rafts of measurable KPIs or lots of long-term plans, yet we have been able to successfully move our staff and student behaviours and ways of working to a thriving digitally enabled culture.

If you want to harness the potential of the digital world, agility is key. The pace of change in digital technologies is what makes it so exciting and a level of experimentation is essential. However it can make the planning and strategy development so often associated with education, problematic. You want to be able to seize new opportunities and respond to emerging trends rather than follow a five-year plan that can become quickly outdated and irrelevant to the customer.

That said, pursuing digital technology in teaching, learning and assessment does need to be rooted in strategic aims and objectives. You must be clear about the why and what you want to achieve.

It’s a theme we will be exploring at our second #ReadTL conference, taking place at Reading College on Saturday 27 June.

As a taster, here are six learning points:

??1) Have a simple ambition. Our starting point was to use technology as an enabler. We wanted to place learning in the hands of our students through anytime, anywhere, any device browser-based technologies.??

2) Never forget that learning technologies underpin teaching, learning and assessment.
Technology is not used for the sake of it, but rather to engage students at a deeper level in their learning and to develop their employability skills.

??3) Consider staff and students. We have a twin track approach of developing staff and student’s confidence and digital skills. We achieve this through a range of approaches to meet individual learning needs, for example short bite size face to face training sessions, videos, Google hangouts, Smore digital flyers and Piktocharts. Training is led by our E-Learning team and our level 2 IT, student ‘Go Team’.??

4) Empower. At all levels of the organisation, including teaching and business support, staff are encouraged to ‘have a go’ and experiment with browser-based technologies. Through various teaching and learning initiatives such as Open Classrooms ‘Green Door Week’ staff are encouraged to visit and learn from colleagues and then return to their own classroom and try out a technology to enhance our students learning experience.

??5) Invest. Our financial investment has included upgrading our college Wifi infrastructure and a move towards purchasing more mobile devices rather than investing in networked PCs.??

6) Take risks. We made the brave, some might say high-risk decision, to switch off our college VLE last summer and in so doing truly unlock our students learning and bring it into their space.

If you want to find out more about our approach, and also hear from other experts in teaching and learning including Matt Bromley, author of Teach and Derbyshire College Group Director of Teaching and Learning, we would love to see you at our #ReadTL15 conference on Saturday 27 June. Book your free place now.

Cheryl Pennington, Assistant Principal Teaching and Learning at Reading College, part of Activate Learning

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