Horizon scanning and context

Summary: Horizon scanning and context workstream

This workstream produced an externally-commissioned issue-mapping and risk-scanning report on learning technology in FE. It also produced an FE learner and management opinion survey. Findings included:

  • Understanding the FE/VET sector as a learning system is important as globalisation and technological change are driving turbulent change that requires increased variation and experimentation in our FE system
  • Teaching practitioners are more curious than fearful of technology and are using a wide range of products and digital technologies in their practices
  • Lack of strategic direction among providers results in fragmentation of practice
  • Lack of headroom to support innovation and risk-taking, even where funding may be available in the sector, means providers generally leave innovation to others
  • Staff not encouraged to use or upgrade their use of technology results in many focusing their use of tech simply on mandated administrative processes

Your views:

  • Building on these findings, what specific changes related to horizon-scanning are needed to make the biggest difference to you?
  • Can you suggest any good mechanisms for achieving these recommendations?
  • Are there other issues relating to horizon-scanning that should be considered?

Rate the horizon scanning and context workstream:
In your opinion, how relevant are the findings from the horizon-scanning workstream ( 5 = very, 1 = not at all).

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Rating: 3.9/5 (7 votes cast)
Horizon scanning and context, 3.9 out of 5 based on 7 ratings

9 thoughts on “Horizon scanning and context

  1. Rob Arntsen

    I recall sitting on a good study led by Kevin Donavan in 2007 into technology innovation in FE that was referenced in the Leitch Report. This spent some considerable time anaylsing blockages to FE technology innovation and one key finding was that the Common Inspection Framework at the time created a climate where colleges were nervous and resistant to innovation because of (perceived) risk to their inspection reports in terms of quality. ie there was a balance between risk associated with piloting new technology and quality.
    I would suggest that current inspection frameworks should better recognise innovation in FE and provide a better balance that rewards and encourages innovation. (and even perhaps requires constant innovation to be evidenced?).
    I speak with some experience of education technology and also as a previous Chair of Audit of a large FE college during a time of inspection.

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  2. Crispin Weston

    1. There is a tension between wanting to minimize “fragmentation of practice” (bullet 3) and wanting to increase “headroom to support innovation and risk-taking” (bullet 4). Innovation is about experimentation and diversity.

    The solution to preventing fragmentation is data interoperability. Allow people to come up with diverse, innovative solutions that plug into an integrated ecosystem. Would be happy to discuss how this could be achieved – achieving interoperability is more difficult than most people assume.

    2. “Providers leave innovation to others”. This goes to the heart of the problem, because without innovation by providers, there is no genuine innovation at all. As Diana Laurillard pointed out in a question to the ALT 2001 conference, “what education has done has been to appropriate everybody else’s technologies” (http://tinyurl.com/6t4ybje) and this doesn’t work. We have to have innovative technologies, not try to encourage innovative *uses* of technology designed for other purposes. See my post “It’s the technology, stupid!” at http://edtechnow.net/2013/11/10/wheel/.

    So the question you need to answer is “how can the FE sector encourage innovation among suppliers?”

    Do not imagine that the public service can drive innovation through its own funding programmes – this approach has had a 100% failure rate. Innovation should be driven by rewarding successful outcomes, not funding research.

    3. Beyond that, horizon scanning of any sort is inappropriate. There is hardly any evidence that any current applications of learning technology is effective. And so trying to establish a consensual view of what practice will look like in 10 or 20 years time will do nothing but entrench existing, ineffective orthodoxy and discourage the sort of genuine innovation that is needed.

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  3. William Jenkins

    Something that I think highlights this issue is Edudemic’s recent article “Teachers love EdTech… They just don’t use it” http://www.edudemic.com/teachers-edtech-study/ and Graphite’s infographic “EdTech Isn’t Optional, It’s Essential” http://www.graphite.org/blog/edtech-isnt-optional-its-essential#.Uf6iU5JkPzM highlights some of the reasons.

    The solution here I feel is to understand how technology gets roled out… and the vital role that the tech proficient “early adopters” play in pioneering emerging technology (assessing, testing, de-bugging and identifying best practice) before informing and influencing the “early majority.” Please see P23 of this report for more details on this – http://elearningindustry.com/free-report-technology-in-education-developing-relationships-delivering-value?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ElearningIndustry+%28eLearning+Industry%29

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  4. Nigel Ecclesfield

    Our most recent evidence, emerging from the original FELTAG consultation and its supporting research is that practitioners, whether using specific technologies or not are engaged in innovation and starting to appropriate technologies for teaching and learning in a variety of interesting and fruitful ways – see the Digital Practitioner work here, which has been continued and updated – https://journals.gre.ac.uk/index.php/compass/article/view/71/107

    The issue identifed by managers and practitoners in the sector is not that technology creates problems of implementation, but that funding and other methodologies used in the sector still put a brake on opportunities to support and embed that innovation. The recently completed Phase 1 of the Jisc FE and Skills Programme attracted over 50% of the sector across the UK as bidders for innovation funding and the current phase has attracted over 270 bids, predominantly from partnerships. This seems to indicate that we should move the focus of our horizon scanning from looking at how to adapt to new commercial technologies, to looking at what is working and helping to embed best practice across the sector to meet existing needs rather than creating new needs around the operations of the technology. In 2006, 5% of FE Colleges were using Moodle as their principal learning platform, yet three years later, Moodle was used in 98% of colleges and has now expanded across other parts of the sector as well as remaining the predominant platform for colleges. This development was not supported by any specific public funding, but through the actions of informal groups and forums, supported by Jisc Regional Support Centres and the CURRICULUM CHAMPIONS mail list, demonstrates how powerful collaborative and informal approaches can be. it is these approaches that are rarely considered in much horizon scanning, which is focused on technology rather than the people and processes at organisational and national levels.

    We need to be much better at capturing and disseminating existing practices and feed this into existing future gazing activity such as “Innovating Pedagogies” at the Open University and restore the sense that “horizon scanning” is about identifying the innovation in application of existing technologies and mapping how new products come to be adopted for use by innovators to make them more widely available.

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  5. Ben Rowland

    Leadership from the top needs to be strong and sustained.

    The Minister should continue to define and communicate a clear vision for ‘the way learning will work’ in the UK in 10 years. This vision should be bold, compelling and increasingly judgemental about teaching and learning that is not enriched by technology. This will serve as an enduring (& motivating) reference picture against which evolving policies and action plans can be assessed.

    There should be a strong and sustained campaign to communicate this vision, which will ensure not only that the future vision is widely adopted but that existing good practice becomes unavoidable for those who say they are too busy to adopt the new technology that they should be adopting.

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  6. Ben Rowland

    I think there needs to be greater clarity and explicit agreement about the objectives and proposals of promoting technology in the delivery of FE.

    I would propose the following objectives:
    • To get more people undertaking vocational learning
    • To make that learning more effective
    • To keep the cost of delivering this increased and enhanced learning at the same levels as now or decrease it
    • To accelerate ongoing improvement and innovation
    • To enable greater control over vocational learning by those who fund and manage it

    And the following principles:

    • Use of technology should be as pervasive in vocational education as it is in other aspects of life (entertainment, travel etc)
    • E-delivery should always be more economically attractive to invest in and deliver compared to non-e-delivery routes
    • Barriers to new entrants and to innovation should be as low as possible, commensurate with ensuring sufficient core standards
    • Best practice should be spread by market dynamics in which individual organisations are responsible for ensuring they are on top of latest developments
    • Regulators should be ahead of the sector as a whole, not behind it, when it comes to e-delivery expertise

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  7. David Phillips

    Pearson believes in the transformative power of technology, used in conjunction with high-quality teaching and learning, to improve learners’ outcomes and therefore supports FELTAG’s aspirational aims for the FE Sector.

    Statistics indicate that a wide range of universities, including most of the Russell Group in the UK, and Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, invested heavily in 2013 in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to harness individual, peer to peer, and collective teaching and learning. This trend to adopt Opensource Learning Management Systems (LMS) has driven greater interest in and use of innovative, online teaching and learning and FELTAG’s comprehensive recommendations mirror these developments taking place in universities across the world.

    Pearson also recognises a sharp increase in 2013 in the number of professional bodies, organisations and businesses adopting new and innovative approaches to their training needs for example a ‘gamified application’ and/or mlearning (mobile learning).

    By 2016 most mobile devices will have HTML 5 browsers and this will further facilitate mlearning as a medium of teaching and learning and allow organisations to enhance employee communication through collaboration. The use of online and mobile learning will also promote knowledge sharing through social media tools, which has been shown to increase productivity in work environments.

    The FELTAG findings, in general, align and are consistent with what Pearson has also discovered. The comment that ‘lack of headroom to support innovation and risk-taking …. means providers generally leave innovation to others’ is particularly pertinent. It recognises that relying on the sector alone to lead innovation will not move things forward as fast as could be the case, and demonstrates that for the most successful introduction of innovative approaches to learning technology there must be a partnership between providers and a wide range of external suppliers. As a world leading learning company, Pearson is committed to developing technology-led provision to support multiple teaching and learning pathways and the increasing deployment of quality online education.

    Furthermore, Pearson values research into the different uses of learning technology and systems and proposes that this collective research should be harnessed to allow providers to explore current thinking and to also consider their impact. A form of hub should be created as a site for sharing ideas and educational research, so that research can be collated and critiqued in an open, public forum.

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  8. Helen Milner

    Online learning is as important if not more important to the informal and community learning sector. I think it would be useful if providers and potential providers not included in the previous horizon scanning exercise could be included in the future.

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  9. Geoff Rebbeck

    What is becoming clearer is a division of learning technologies into two branches, That which is locked down and that which is accommodated through Cloud-Based technologies.
    The former is managed by IT, database driven, it captures the administration of learning. It is based around the learning plan and contains sensitive personal data. It includes home webpages and email. Having great data (targets, Initial Assessment, punctuality, discipline record, support, advice, progress reports etc.) does not improve learning but gives immediate warning if progression is not being made. The rest, relating to teaching and learning is becoming more fragmented, student owned, delivered on personal devices, ubiquitous, and federated. Crucially, colleges are having less direct control of this area. This is not a problem as the teacher still applies principles of good teaching and learning to hold the course, rate and quality of learning together.
    What would be good is to see the development of great choices in software available to manage the ‘Pace and Progression’ side of learning, and time given to teachers to develop their understanding of how to use the cloud, and federated learning. Colleges should not be buying many PCs any more. A space, with top quality WiFi will become the norm.
    Much of this is driven by wider changing attitudes, based on the availability and use of technology. It will be interesting to see how good teachers get at responding to unstoppable new opportunity and how brave managers get at balancing absolute safety with risk management.

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