Grabbing edtech by the horns

Charley Rogers chats to edtech champion Ty Goddard about the next phase of development for the sector, and what EdTechUK is planning for 2018-19

What do you think are the most pressing issues in edtech for the 2018–19 academic year? 

I think it’s vital that we don’t separate education technology from things that are happening in schools in terms of teaching and learning across the system.

Schools in England face profound budget challenges. Recruitment and retention issues are proving a real strain. Patchwork should be our starting point, not an end in itself.

Delivery is hard – it takes time, resources and people. We’re seeing support services and children’s services really under pressure. I fear that in so many instances, we seem unable to actually deliver the things that matter as a country, at scale and equitably.

We should be an education nation and technology can underpin this on many levels.

Many of us believe in a ‘school-led’ system; but it was never about atomising schools. It was never – and ought never – to be about privileging – technology, resources or indeed intake – one school above another. And we also could do ourselves a favour in England, by looking at Wales and Scotland in terms of adoption of technology. Though not perfect, reform is different. The tone and debate are useful.

That’s some context to your good question; but here’s the quick answer:

1. That schools have faster infrastructure broadband than coffee shops

2. That an independent review corrects mistakes on implementation of the worthwhile computing curriculum

3. That we realise that technology in schools is a very human endeavour and we need to discover a lot of the answers – and educators are and should be at the forefront

How do you feel about Education Secretary Damian Hinds’ recent commitment to challenging tech firms to an ‘education revolution’? 

Chuffed. Early on he wrote an insightful forward to our Edtech 50 report. I also met him at a roundtable and he seemed to talk good sense. It’s important that this is a partnership across the sectors and not just the responsibility of the private sector.

But, listen, we have had so many false starts and a good deal of nonsense. A fair bit of ‘politricks’ too. This has been the hardest lobbying job I have ever done. The Department for Education hosted multiple working groups and we had all the usual scare-mongering so that the key issues became totally confused. Finally, now, we may have a level of political leadership and have good civil servants responsible for education technology.

As a sector we take all the issues of safety and security seriously, but we also listen to countless educators who feel supported in their drive for high standards, inclusivity and imagination by technology. And it is they, the educators, defining the journey ahead.

What is EdtechUK’s agenda for the coming academic year? 

I think it would be good to settle into the background. We’ll be hosting numerous away-days to discuss our moral purpose and a set of KPIs.

The Education Foundation has remained dynamic, independent and joyful about edtech for ages; we’ll do our best to carry that on with our programmes of work. We’ll also be developing the Edtech 50 series of reports.

A few of us – educators, edtech businesses and policy people – felt there was also a lack of a clear, independent voice for the ‘ed’ in tech, I suppose. Trade associations are just that and bless them all, we’ve needed something more dynamic and focused on properly building the eco-system.

If you could change one thing in the education system at the moment, in terms of edtech, what would it be? 

What, just one?

1. Fund Jisc on the immediate roll-out of the Janet Network for schools to accelerate steps that are being taken. Jisc is funded by us all to sort out tech infrastructure

2. Build on what is decent and thriving about the computing curriculum, but please, please be honest about what’s failing. Stop the make-believe. But I guess getting a few squillions from government may make you say anything

3. A good deal of time has been wasted, so for starters let’s build a national network of technology-rich schools to help us understand, define and share what works. That all needs funding, but could it be done faster, better and at scale thanks to technology?  

Ty Goddard is Co-founder of the Education Foundation and Chair of EdtechUK






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