The Edtech Podcast monthly roundup: June 2019

Sophie Bailey, founder and host of The Edtech Podcast, gives us her round up of the top talking points this month, including value of HE, T-shaped learning, and literacy

June was a busy month for edtech, with multiple events around the globe (Future Edtech, Israeli Education Week, Learning Through Technology, London Edtech Week and EdtechX). We also had a bumper production schedule, with seven episodes of The Edtech Podcast. So what talking points featured during the weeks of June?

Value, quality and higher education

The Augar Review was published on 30 May, drawing together recommendations on post-18 education and funding (including the reduction of university tuition fees), so value, quality and the future of higher and further education were top of mind in June. This was a timely setting to ‘throwback’ to our chat with John Katzman, the founder of 2U, a now $4.7bn edtech company and online programme manager in higher ed. Katzman was in conversation with Stephan Caspar, assistant teaching professor of media creation & multi-cultural studies, Carnegie Mellon University (at Southampton University at the time of recording) and the two bounced ideas back and forth on the costs of university, largely concluding that administration and student services far outweighed teaching and learning as relative cost centres. This month we were also pleased to get a listener voicemail from Chris Skidmore MP, minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation here in England, to update on the edtech strategy.

Let’s develop T-shaped learners (broad and deep)

Joel Hellermark, founder of AI in education company, Sana Labs, talked about the needs for learners to be T-shaped; that is, both broad and deep. There are many valid reasons for why we learn, some financially motivated, others not. But for learners aiming for the workplace, the ability to work with other people by cultivating the breadth of emotional intelligence, including empathy and collaboration is essential –  in addition to academic excellence. (Something that Vic Vuchic, chief innovation officer at Digital Promise, reiterated at the European Edtech Network launch during London Edtech Week: “If I hear that candidates are not team players, they go.”). Cultivating personal learning networks, and the importance of mentorship continues to gain pace with companies filling the gap between universities and industry, providing everything from tailored recruitment, skills verification and/or connection to industry experts. I spoke to Priyanka Agarwal, CEO & founder of Connect2Teach, about contextualising learning with industry experts to help make course content more contemporary.

For learners aiming for the workplace, the ability to work with other people by cultivating the breadth of emotional intelligence, including empathy and collaboration is essential –  in addition to academic excellence.

The (fairly) new Instructure CEO, Dan Goldsmith, also talked about Instructure’s shift towards lifelong learning to support companies and their employees in continued skills acquisition. Francois Taddei of the Centre for Interdisciplinarity in Paris reminded us all to remember the original idea of Mentor, from the Greek mythology, where Mentor was Odysseus’s trusted counselor, in whose guise Athena became the guardian and teacher of Telemachus. The lesson being, teaching and mentoring are intertwined. We also spoke to Aftab Hussein and Dean Baggeley of Bolton College about whether this mentor and guide might increasingly be in the form of a chatbot, and to Dr Dominique Thompson about the need for counsel for students who may feel the pressure of perfectionism cultivated by our current education system.

Co-curation of edtech

Co-curation of edtech is a favourite topic on The Edtech Podcast and this month we were able to chat to teacher-turned-policy advisor Adnan Mahmood, from the UK and now working with the Ministry of Education in the UAE as a cluster academic support. This brought to mind the fine work of Niko Lindholm from Finland, who set up the smart learning environments work for Forum Virium Helsinki. Niko’s role was to bring together educators, edtechs and government to create better knowledge exchange and, ultimately, better impact in the education sector. He’s now doing similar exciting work in Singapore with the Nordic Innovation House, and we look forward to sharing his work on The Edtech Podcast soon! I also caught up with teachers, authors and entrepreneurs Koen Timmers and Armand Doucet, on knowledge sharing and network building.

Literacy & tech

Over 780 million adults over the age of 15 are estimated to be illiterate, with illiteracy having an impact on your life expectancy, career trajectory and likelihood to end up in jail. I spoke to two international companies using a combination of animation and voice technology to try and support reading among young people. Aaron Friedland, the founder and CEO of SiMBi, was a dyslexic learner himself and developed SiMBi to try and spark a love of reading among its users. E-Limu are on a mission to do the same, out of Kenya. Both of these projects got me thinking about a past recording where I investigated a campaign to have subtitles turned on as default for children’s broadcast channels, like Cbeebies. Past guest, Henry Warren, quoted that if you turn on the subtitles for children’s’ TV programmes (particularly between the ages of 6 and 10) it DOUBLES their chance of becoming a proficient reader. Go and turn on your subtitles people!

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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.