I have been meaning to blog about this for some months now. I am finally writing as a FELTAG CPD session has requested by staff at College and a blog is always a good way for me to work through my ideas first. In addition, attendance at a Think Out Loud session, the release of reflections from ETAG, as well as recommendations from the House of Lords meant everything seemed a little more urgent. This thing is ACTUALLY going to happen!

As I started sketchnoting this week, I have overdosed a little and the whole of these reflections will be accompanied by my sketches/scribblings (there are a small number within this mix that I’m quite proud of!)

My notes begin with the FELTAG report: a groundbreaking report that is certainly already changing the way we’re working with our curriculum and learners. There are suggestions in it for government, senior leaders, governing bodies and lecturers. What follows is certainly not all of the messages that the report contains but my own reflections and ideas as I’ve read it. Therefore, it is advisable that you still read the report for yourself and you can do so here.

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This definition is useful but having seen all three very important documents side by side, the message and argument becomes stronger and more defined as each one has been released.

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One argument that can certainly not be ignored is that technology has the capacity, if directed in the right way, to ensure every learner across the globe can reach their learning potential. It can make learning more accessible, less time consuming and less expensive. This is not without warning that the exact opposite can also be true of technology and so readily available CPD opportunities, advice and guidance to equip staff effectively is essential.

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Learning organisations have a responsibility to harness technology for learning but with a creative and imaginative mind as this is when technology really has transformational capacity.

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There are numerous reminders throughout the report that globalisation is upon us and technology enables us to make positive use of that, with collaboration and collective problem solving around the world; piecing learning together within a global classroom.  If we don’t embrace technology then all of the opportunities presented by a global community are left unrealised and learners’ lives left a little less rich.

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Okay, so Pass It On doesn’t actually appear in the report but there are multiple references to staff and learners alike being encouraged to share good practice with one another. The ethos of our CPD model is exactly that and with the launch of Pass It On for learners imminent, then our sharing will be far more all-encompassing.

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Employers are a central consideration in the report but there are calls for relationships between learners and employers to be more mutually beneficial. No employer wants to ‘host’ a learner for a week’s work experience and then say goodbye; far more meaningful to have a young person with the company over a more sustained period of time, or for the duration of a project. This way, both the employer and learner gain equally from the partnership. Technology can be an enabler but should not be a replacement: nothing can beat being on-site and the learner developing a whole host of skills and attributes they would be unable to in an artificial College environment.

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The report recommends that organisations ensure they have a vision and strategy surrounding:

  • Learning via MOOCs or similar (we’re beginning this journey)
  • Bring Your Own Device (this happens but is there a real strategy for it?)
  • Moving assessment strategies from paper based to online (most departments are already doing this)
  • Providing live and more rich learning virtually (there are some experiences like this at College but we’re a long way off it becoming fully integrated into all courses)

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This image represents some thoughts that emerged from reading about those within the sector who fear technology and therefore protect themselves from it (on the left). The person on the right is a technology enthusiast; one who fully embraces it but within their institution they are one of few willing to share what they’re doing and there are increasing demands of workload weighing down on them to fulfill: redesigning the curriculum, sharing with colleagues, running CPD sessions, offering 1-1 support…These people are at severe risk of drowning should others not begin to take down their brollies and share the workload alongside them.

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The report cries for collaboration throughout. Education organisations should be working far more closely together. Even those that share well internally are not sharing their experiences with external parties. While organisations continue avoiding collaboration, innovation everywhere remains shut behind the doors of an institution and we all miss out on the possibility of growing innovations further and learning from others’ experiences by choosing not to share.

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Learners should work towards becoming digital citizens: a passport filled with badges to reflect their achievements and progress might be just one way to achieve this.

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Cheryl Pennington (@penncheryl) recently visited a College in the states where she was inspired by how closely they work with employers. The College provides space and services to employers just setting up their businesses and in turn, they are able to offer real world projects for the learners. It’s a model reflected in FELTAG, where the relationships between Colleges and employers should be ongoing and two way.

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The image above represents the call from FELTAG for any attendance to be recorded and rewarded. The system needs to change so that it’s not just physical attendance that’s recognised but virtual too.

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One point from FELTAG that appears, from all the great stuff it contains, to have stuck with most is that we should be aiming for 10% of learning to be online in 15/16. I can see why people had some objections: there are valid concerns that some institutions might just do it to ‘tick a box.’ But is that really such a grave problem? Whatever their motivation, at least their learners will be exposed to gaining more digital skills than they were in the past…I personally feel it’s the 50% figure that’s far more daunting in terms of the pace of progress that will have to be made to achieve anywhere close to that kind of recommendation.

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After FELTAG, came ETAG and you can read the ETAG Reflections here.

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The summary of this first set of ETAG (Education Technology Action Group) reflections is that embracing technology is not optional. We should be moving towards a learning world where mastery is rewarded, where we delight in making progress, where we engage with a more global audience and we are exhilarated by unexpected challenges. It is a world where learners are encouraged to find, share, critique and create whilst experiencing joy, feeling engaged and being playful too.

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As we move forward into a world of technology filled learning, there were some expectations set. We should recognise that some things that we’re currently familiar with will need to move over, others will need to be dropped altogether and as we progress on this journey, things will continue to change and vary. Perhaps most important, and most scary for some, is that everyone must expect to play their part in this journey.

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There were warnings about the need for the current mindset of organisations to change. Complacency must die: no organisation will have reached where they need to be and making comparisons with other institutions is never helpful. Just because you have faster broadband and Chromebooks available to loan does not mean that learners are any further along the road to becoming digital citizens. Equally, no organisation should state that they’ve done the innovation thing and they need to start consolidating. Innovation isn’t a process with an end to it.

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The best kind of organisational structure to lead to the best innovation and collaboration is not one of hierarchy but a structure that is as horizontal as possible.

Learner voice is no longer the thing. Just listening to learners isn’t enough anymore, we need to be collaborating directly with them; genuinely valuing their views and acting on their ideas.

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Within the premise that embracing technology is not an option, there were warnings to those choosing not to embrace technology: their practice will remain stagnant and such actions are dangerous and reckless. Those that embrace technology, will fly ahead of them on joyous journeys, filled with risk, discovery and fulfilling research.

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There were numerous key recommendations made but the ones that struck me were:

  • Ensure Wifi and broadband is fast, reliable and secure.
  • Provide help and advice for those who need it and this should be readily available.
  • Bring your own device strategies should be worked on.
  • Honest sharing of what works and what doesn’t is crucial.
  • Rewarding and celebrating those who embrace technology is important.
  • Online learning CPD needs to take place.

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And after FELTAG and ETAG, came a report from the House of Lords and you can read the House of Lords report here.

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Wider considerations were made:

There are an unacceptable number of ‘not-spots’ in the country and the need to move more quickly to supplying superfast broadband across the UK. The need to defend against cyber attacks is becoming increasingly important. More females in STEM is crucial to the UK competing with other nations (anyone else think this was them ticking their E&D box?!)

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The education sector should work towards enabling learners to become digital citizens, digital workers and digital makers and all of this needs to be underpinned by research and innovation.

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We’re aiming towards a world where experimentation meets technology, resulting in creative innovation. At present, they recognised that current teacher training programmes are not working towards this vision consistently and these inconsistencies are extremely damaging to the progress that we’re able to make.

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There was a big recommendation for teachers to remain clued up as to the latest developments within industry and the best way they can do this is by visiting industry frequently so that the curriculum can be developed according to the industry the learners will be entering.

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Digital literacy is just as crucial for learners’ future success as English and maths skills are. These three should be at the heart of any programme of study.

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Employment guidance requires an injection of inspiration and being innovative with technology may hold the answer to this. Lifelong learning of digital skills is crucial and universities need to adopt to a shorter and more flexible provision to cater for this.

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Their recommendations centred around the creation of a digital agenda but there was a clear concern that the incoming government, whoever it will be, commits to this agenda also.

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Their future gaze was that the government have the capacity to enable a more coordinated approach across the UK to digital learning.

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The reasons I care about technology (and therefore FELTAG) are:

  • It makes learners more globally aware and connected.
  • It opens up inspiring opportunities that do not exist outside of technology
  • It supports collaborative working well.
  • It encourages learners to critique and receive feedback in more real world situations.
  • It’s engaging, fun and promotes creativity.

I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next and figuring out how I can move forward with all of these recommendations. I can’t think of a single reason why you wouldn’t care.

Hopefully we can all do it together; taking down umbrellas and sharing honestly.

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