I was speaking at a Policy Exchange Think Tank Event in London last Friday (9th September). The purpose of the day was to discuss the Future of Technology in our Schools - specifically English Schools.
The day was structured in three parts:
- Where are we now?
- Where are we going?
- How do we get there?
I have embedded the slides that I used in my presentation below:
The main points that I covered were:
There seems to be a lot of concern around the future of technology in schools one of the reasons for this is that the current English Coalition Government gives the perception that technology in schools is not necessarily a high priority.
[note: one thing that I found out from the Policy Exchange is that Michael Gove is currently writing a speech on technology in schools].
But my point here is that perhaps we are still asking the wrong questions. I feel that the technologies for learning debate in school is still far to focused around devices and kit rather than about learning. We need to more our discussion on from ‘Technology IN Learning’ to ‘Technology FOR learning’.
We also need to drop the ‘e’. Although from time to time it is helpful to talk about e-learning, e-assessment, e-portfolio and e-safety. I can’t help thinking that as technology has taken over all aspects of our lives in 2011 we need to ditch the ‘e’ as it suggested that we can still do third millennium learning without technology.
I also suggested that we need to get back to basics. If educators in England want to demonstrate to the coalition government that technology is important then we need to be talking about how technology improve learning and teaching. For me the big four are:
- The use of technology (in particular web based tools, games and mobile) is culturally relevant for young people - this gives us buy in.
- The use of technology allows us access to real time data and information - this give authentic and relevant interest.
- The use of technology allows the development of core skills (eg: literacy and numeracy) by offering a range of outputs - this gives us personalization and choice.
- The use of technology allows use to provide extended audience to students work - this give us motivation and purpose.
If you want to get politicians, governors, parents and other teachers excited about the use of technology then show them technology being used in an exciting way. Show them children using technology to get excited about learning. As a general rule avoid taking them to a computer lab - there may be good learning going on (or maybe not!) but generally speaking lab work is not or does not look exciting.
Who do we need to learn from?
Schools in the UK might be quite well off for technology but we still have a lot to learn. We need to do as much as possible to build professional communities that can learn from each other.
International comparators can be useful but the exchange of international information currently focuses far too much on policy and not enough on practice. That is why I fully support on-line communities such as the Microsoft Partners in Learning Network (teachers talking to teachers).
In the UK we also need to look more in our ‘back yard’. We constantly look across the ‘pond’ or the ‘puddle’ for support and advice from other countries. But they are often struggling more than us or are very culturally different. Although education is devolved we still have a great deal to learn from our home nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).
One of the reasons that we are so bad at sharing good practice with technology in schools is because as a profession we are not very good at sharing at all. This has started to change in recent years but we need to find more imaginative ways to get teachers talking to teachers. Staff bases, isolated offices and professional development with no time built in for discussion does not help this. We also need to make sure we have sharing across learning communities and across sectors (nursery and early years continues to get overlooked in many technology for learning debates).
Finally, we must try to learn more from enterprise. In particular organizations that despite being huge have remained agile and productive in challenging economic and social times. In 2011 the most successful businesses use technology incredibility well and many of their business models are built around digital strategy or engagement.
How do we move forward?
[Disclaimer - this list is not inclusive and I didn’t get a chance to tackle these things during my presentation at Policy Exchange].
First of all we need to start being honest. A lot of ICT in Education Policy is currently based on mistrust. We need to be more honest about systems that work and pedagogy that works. We need to be more honest about what the challenges (and possible solutions) are. We need to be trusting of professionals so they have access to the on-line tools and services that they need.
We also need to make sure that we have technology that works. I’m serious about this. Lots of schools have hardware and software that is not fit for purpose. Indeed, sometimes solutions are not fit for purpose at all and money could be better invested elsewhere.
Learners (all learners, including school staff) need to be able to connect their own devices to school networks. It’s about time we started to use the untapped potential of learner owned devices in our schools and we will only be able to do this if we have a change in culture but we also open up networks.
This all needs to be driven through authentic partnership. Partnership between government, government agencies, local authorities and schools. One of the reasons that the Consolarium has worked so well in Scotland is because it has been driven through authentic partnership models.
We focus on sharing what works. The culture of competition rather than collaboration in English schools is not necessarily a healthy one. This needs to be addressed this balance if we want to develop system wide change.
We also need to make sure that children and young people are being taught appropriate skills for the third millennium. Digital literacy and the creation of content must be at the heart of any new curriculum reform.
Finally, we must go out of our way to ensure that key people and bodies understand the role of technology for learning.
Overall the presenation seemed to go down well - Merlin John has done a good write up over on Merlin John On-line and Lord Lucas has emailed to invite me to House of Lords to discuss some of the points in more detail. NAACE has also produced a press release on further actions required.
About Policy Exchange:
Policy Exchange is an independent think tank whose mission is to develop and promote new policy ideas which will foster a free society based on strong communities, personal freedom, limited government, national self-confidence and an enterprise culture. Policy Exchange is committed to an evidence-based approach to policy development. They work in partnership with academics and other experts and commission major studies involving thorough empirical research of alternative policy outcomes. They believe that the policy experience of other countries offers important lessons for government in the UK. They also believe that government has much to learn from business and the voluntary sector.