Technology in FE and Skills

Technology in FE and Skills

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Introduction

This year, the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) celebrates its 20th anniversary and its 20th conference.

The technological landscape has shifted dramatically, in two decades, from computer labs with floppy disks to smartphones and tablet computers carried by students in their pockets.

With this shift has come new possibilities, and learning technologists are seizing the opportunity to work out new and innovative ways to reach and engage with learners.

The three-day ALT conference showcased a huge range of ideas and themes around how technology interact with and impact upon teaching and learning.

It also provided “a unique opportunity for members to share and be inspired by each other’s experience and expertise” as the event chair Malcolm Ryan said in his welcome to delegates (p.3).

On pages 4 and 5, we took the chance to get out and about at the conference and find out more about how technology is being used in education, from an app which teaches maths in everyday life, to using social media to engage students and the increasingly popular Moocs (massive open online courses).

We interviewed the new ALT chief executive Maren Deepwell to find out what she thought of the event (p.4).

Back in January, FE Week reported on the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (Feltag), set up by Skills Minister Matthew Hancock to find out how the FE sector could embrace different learning technologies.

We caught up with Feltag at their open consultation at the conference (p.6), as well as speaking to Matthew Hancock to find out what they’ve been getting up to so far (p.7).

It’s not just the technology that’s evolved since computers first started appearing in colleges, but the thinking on how to use it as well, as Geoff Rebbeck explains on page 10.

However, this changed thinking has not yet expanded to include research into the FE sector — in fact, as Nigel Ecclesfield explains (p.10), the amount of research done by the sector has fall in recent years.

Emma Procter-Legg also picks up on this theme on page 11, as she examines the potential benefits of changing that situation around.

Educational institutions can often be caught out by rapidly changing technological innovations, leaving their practices and programs obsolete, and on page 11 Bruce Chaloux and Larry Ragan explore how a more responsive system could stop this happening.

One of the more obvious benefits of technology is the increased opportunities for communication, and this, says Sheila MacNeil (p.12) is how support and innovation can be developed.

Shaun Hughes (p.13) looks that the ways that, by replicating the underlying mechanics and principles, games can be used to engage and teach learners, while on page 12, Chris Pegler checks out the learning materials available online.

On page 14, our roving reporter Shane Mann got chatting to some of the delegates on his mission to find out what the next big thing in learning technology is going to be.

Finally, we go out with a bang at the conference gala dinner where, along with fireworks, delegates saw the winners of the Learning Technologist of the year award (p.15), where teams from FE scooped the team prize and a learner of the year prize.

Don’t forget, as always, there are a couple of tech-savvy ways to getting on touch with us — you can add your own experiences on the FE Week website or you can tweet us @FEWeek.