What ‘EdTech’ needs to drive change in the system…

New Technology in old methods - Horse pulling car

This week’s guest blogger is Bob Harrison who provides us with a taster for his Keynote Talk at the #VocTeach20 FE Symposium on 17th December. Bob, who is a Visiting Professor at Wolverhampton University, draws on his broad experience as an educator, researcher and advisor to identify the changes which in his opinion are necessary for the FE sector to realise the potential of technology for learning.

Bob Harrison Photo

Having spent over twenty five years trying to persuade politicians, policy makers, head teachers  and principals of the value of investing in digital technology to extend and enhance learning and engage and empower learners, it is a bitter irony that a pandemic with such a tragic cost has probably achieved more in a few months. However we need to be cautious. There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding at the heart of government thinking that broadcasting lessons with ‘talking head’ teachers or learners standing in front of a laptop screen singing along to “Land of Hope and Glory” is somehow online learning.  It is nothing of the sort. In reality, as the Open University will testify, online learning is a carefully designed, constructed, coherent combination of context, creativity, co-construction, collaboration,community, content, and communication all supported by capable, competent, confident, compassionate teachers.

All of which needs to be underpinned by a reliable and robust digital infrastructure.

We need to be acutely aware of the temptation to try to force new technology into old ways of working, which will bedoomed to fail.

As judge of a number of awards, such as Learning Re-imagined, TESFE, The BETT, E-Assessment, Ed Tech 50, I am repeatedly inspired by the efforts of teachers and learners to innovate using technology to improve teaching, learning and assessment. However these are despite the constraints of the education system, not because of it. As my good friend and former Open University Professor, Diana Laurillard, says:

“The drivers of the education system – assessment, curriculum, inspection/quality requirements, funding flows, promotion criteria – have not changed in recognition of what technology offers, so nothing within it can change.”

Well things have changed but until we invest more in developing the skills of learning design and rethink how programmes of learning are created to take full advantage of the real potential of technology we will continue to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Covid has let the online genie out of the bottle…it will not go back in.


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