Minister holds FE technology roundtable

Minister holds FE technology roundtable

Technology that can revolutionise FE learning was on the agenda at the first of a series of roundtable meetings hosted by FE Minister Matthew Hancock.

Sector experts were invited to the inaugural meeting of the FE Learning Technology Action Group last week by Mr Hancock, who chaired alongside education business leader and co-founder of Bleinhem Chalcot, Manoj Badale.

Mr Hancock described the meeting as “very productive. “I am very enthusiastic about the role technology can play — it’s crucial this is sector-driven.”

FE should look at the use of technology such as MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses), gamification (using game-thinking to engage students), big data and flip teaching, he said.

Bob Harrison, Toshiba Information Systems education adviser and vice chair of Beacon status institution Northern College, was at
the meeting and said it was an “exciting and positive development.

“We asked ‘what barriers are stopping innovation in FE teaching and learning with technology?’ We identified barriers around inspection, audit, lack of leadership and governance, but mainly funding methodology.

“It’s about changing mindsets – we’ve got an analogue mindset in a digital world. Another three meetings are planned over the next year before the group reports its conclusions.”

Dick Palmer, Gazelle Colleges Group’s representative at the meeting, said: “It’s a very interesting board, it’s short, sharp and focused and could have real implications for the sector.

“It can’t afford to be a policy statement describing what’s going on – it’s got to be something giving recommendations about embedding technological opportunities in learning paradigms.”

Mr Harrison was also optimistic. “We’ve got a perfect storm in an area that’s been neglected in FE and a minister who understands the potential of technology to transform learning – and the ministerial will to do something,” he said.

For more information about learning technology, see our tech spread in last week’s edition.

Hancock Q&A

Who did you invite to join the group?

As well as getting key players around the table, I wanted to invite people with enthusiasm for the role of technology so the group can trailblaze.

Over the past decade or more, government has tried big top-down interventions to get more technology into FE and hasn’t covered itself in glory.

I want to do things the opposite way around, bring together thought leaders and make sure we’re listening and responding in government rather than trying to do it on our own.

What are the benefits of more technology in the sector?

There’s clear evidence technology can improve teaching and learning, and help colleges and providers deliver better learning in tight financial times or to reach people it’s otherwise hard to reach.

The sector is seen as lagging behind technologically. Why is this?

There are all sorts of reasons why . . . my role is to instil enthusiasm and ensure government supports rather than constrains the use of new technology.

Technology is really a means to an end – what we want is better teaching.

So it’s bigger than IT hardware.  It’s about teaching methods and how teachers interact. We need a response from the whole system, and representatives of almost the whole system were there, so hopefully this can energise and move things forward.

Have you seen this kind of techology in practice?

I have, yes — I took an online course myself over a decade ago although I haven’t taken a MOOC as a route to a qualification yet.