The summit brought together policy-makers, start-ups, scale-ups and industry, to learn, share and advance the edtech sphere.Whatever the lense that was being looked through - be it the lense of government policy, classroom practice, primary education, HE or FE, school leadership or classroom delivery - the conversations ebbed and flowed and mostly followed the same themes - there will be and have been failures, there will be and have been massive successes, but overwhelmingly the future is bright and the industry is growing at a spectacular rate; there is more and more investment in edtech both in financial and human form, and across all the seminars the message was clear - for edtech to be succesful, we have to work on creating the right conditions for it to succeed: in this respect, some talked about infrasturcture, some about training, some about investment, but all of these contribute to creating the right conditions for success. Or as Mark Martin aka @Urban_Teacher put it, "Edtech isn't just a helpful tool but a seed that you can nurture and grow! But in order for it to flourish it needs the right conditions,"
Shahneila Saeed, Head of Education, UKIE & Director of Digital Schoolhouse backed that up but in terms of pedagogy, and that no matter what the resource you use, be it edtech or otherwise, it is not so much the resource but the way in which it is used that makes a difference.
Mark Anderson aka @ICTEvangelist talked about teacher training and how increased confidence in using tech helps move teachers into mastery, impact and innovation when using technology and away from simply surviving.
And this was all supercharged from the top down by National Technology Advisor to HM Government's Liam Maxwell explaining how government policy is trying to help create the right conditions for edtech to flourish (as recently reflected in The Budget), both now and in the future.
Throughout all of these sessions, I kept relating back to my own experiences of classroom edtech - the funding I have been offered for buying equipment, the training and time I received to develop myself and others, the confidence I had in using the equipment either myself or with a classroom of children - ie the conditions that I have experienced through my teaching career in terms of using technology. Thankfully they have been mostly positive. It also made me reflect on DRET's vision and delivery of eLearning and edtech, of which I am part of and have helped shape - and what stands out for me is the similarities, in that that where possible, we are striving to create the right conditions for edtech to flourish in much the same way:
Where possible we are replacing old technology with a thoughtful replacement based on what job the equipment needs to do - Star Classroom being a prime example of this. We are also investing heavily in the infrastructure of our schools, upping bandwidths and connectivity for example.
Through the eLearning Team we offer training and workshops such as Basecamp, Challenge for eLearning and our suite of Core Awards - all of which have been curated with staff and students in mind and are aimed at using technology effectively, picking the right tool for the job and building digital skills. We offer bespoke coaching sessions either in person or via video link-up, for individuals or teams based on their needs. (This is the most important one in terms of building confidence and matching technology to pedagogy for maximising classroom impact for me)
We have an eye on the future in terms of evolving technology use but are also aware of the day to day needs of staff and students (how can Google Drive help move us away from memory sticks and external hard drives being a current example).
I could go on...
I came away from the summit full of positivity. Not only was it an inspiring day, but it was also a reassuring one in terms of the direction that eLearning is going within DRET: we reflect industry best practice in terms of striving to create the best conditions for technology to make the most impact - funding, opportunity, equipment, training and confidence building. What is also reassuring for me is that the Trust itself has put value in edtech and eLearning in the very fact that we have an eLearning Team - there are plenty of other establishments out there that don't and suffer the consequences that follow large tech investment without training pathways or skill building.
These views are of course my own - and there is always room for improvement - but as a former classroom teacher who has experienced both sides of the coin in terms of the right conditions for success, it feels like we are well on the right path to making sure that technology is used confidently and is effective, meaningful, and impactful - and isn't just a shiny marketing ploy.