The Edtech Podcast monthly roundup: October 2019

Sophie Bailey returns to give us the low-down on what happened throughout October in the edtech world, including a focus on vocational training, more on the role of AI, and trust in HE

Vocational training on the front line

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Amidst Halloween and the Brexit/not-Brexit day, October also brought the fourth edition of the European Vocational Skills Week, which took place from 14–18 October 2019. Our launch of The Voctech Podcast series on The Edtech Podcast formed part of the official activities, and our series continued with Becky Sage, CEO at Interactive Scientific  in episode 165 talking about using virtual reality to better visualise new drug compounds. The European Vocational Skills Week came just after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson pledged £120m towards the expansion of technology institutes, in a bid to drive England to the top of vocational learning excellence. In the same spirit, October was rounded off with a new VET call for ‘Centres of Vocational Excellence’ from the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency of the European Commission.

European Vocational Skills Week came just after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson pledged £120m towards the expansion of technology institutes, in a bid to drive England to the top of vocational learning excellence.

The proposals funded under this call are to create world-class reference points for vocational training. The call is open to partnerships of VET providers, companies, industry or sector representative organisations, and any other relevant organisations in the field of vocational education and training or in the world of work. More here.

In episode 168, vocational skills were also called upon as we heard from two real-world learning opportunities for students. First, Constance Agyeman, Nesta’s head of thriving communities, introduces the Longitude Explorer Prize focusing on getting a more diverse group of young people into AI, tech and innovation. Next, Sevra Davis, head of learning at the Design Museum, talks about Design Ventura, aimed at encouraging design thinking, creativity and business acumen in young people.

Artificial intelligence in education and training

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In episode 167, we continued with the vocational theme, this time looking at the role of artificial intelligence in curating and creating learning content within the workplace. Henrietta Palmer is a learning solutions manager at TUI Group, a leading and innovative travel brand in the UK. In a sector being defined by consumer choice and the internet, we talked to Henrietta about using artificial intelligence to get training to a global, remote-working team. We also talk about proving return on investment when it comes to learning and why the grass is not always greener when it comes to budget and ‘e-learning’ (corporate) vs. ‘edtech’ (education institutions).


Listen to the latest episode:


In a different conversation with Harley Richardson from the Academy of Ideas Education Forum, we speak about the perceived pros and cons of artificial intelligence in education and to what extent are current visualisations of AI “taking over” are misplaced, given its current levels of sophistication.

Computer science for all

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If anyone is going to sort out those pesky robots (read: lazy link to AI in the paragraph above. I know, I know robots and AI are not the same thing…) then we are going to need a bigger boat, I mean, a bigger selection of diverse, creative, lateral-thinking, computer scientists. In episode 168 we caught up with the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) at the graduation of their first cohort of teachers, to see how things were developing. In this episode, Ian Hurd is first in conversation with Professor Simon Peyton Jones, the NCCE chair and Microsoft Researcher, and Liza Belozerova, Google.org programme manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa, on how to improve access to the computer science field, and how to bring more research into the development of the subject in schools. This episode was recorded before recent headlines that supply of coders now outstrips demand in some European countries (not the UK). But, as Peyton-Jones stresses in episode 168, “This is not just a way to fill the future employment pipeline”; it’s also about creating digitally literate citizens.

Is trust in our (higher education) institutions failing?

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The first episode in our new series The Edge: Innovation and Intelligence Imperative, looked at how we build trust within our educational institutions at a time when external trust in such institutions is eroding. In episode 166, I spoke to Iain Harper, head of digital marketing at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford; Jorge Villabona, CM12, ISDI Education; and Jake Hornsby, chief information officer at California State University, about creating change within higher education. We discussed whether new and old(er) universities could leapfrog legacy issues, why digital marketing and admissions is not always about volume but about curating the right cohort of future leaders, and how the cultures of academia and lean and agile methodologies might be reconciled. This video from Rachel Botsman, also from Oxford University, is a good background view for ideas shared in this episode:

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Keep an eye out at the end of every month for more of Sophie’s round-ups… always EXCLUSIVE right here.