Susan Easton, NIACE programme manager for digital learning, looks at the role new technologies could play in adult learning.

The concept of learning innovation is not new, as adult learning practitioners and providers continuously review and revise their practice and delivery models. What is new, are the rapid, startling and increasingly frequent changes in technology, and the potential for these to support and initiate learning innovation.

Technology can facilitate learning at any time and almost anywhere; using audio, video and text content from broadcasters, education providers or their other learners; through social media; and through an increasing number of devices, including smartphones, games consoles and tablets.

Without technology, many adults would have limited access to learning opportunities due to geography, finance and lifestyle”

Use of technology in learning is no longer optional – without it, we limit the number and range of adults who can access learning and constrain the quality of their learning experience. By utilising technology, we open a world of possibilities in the way adults learn, progress, record and get support for their learning.

Without technology, adults with physical difficulties would find it difficult to access learning. Without technology, many adults would have limited access to learning opportunities due to geography, finance and lifestyle. With the help of technology, no one is barred from participation in some form of learning – whether formal or informal – only knowledge and confidence stand in the way.

In spite of this, while society embraces the adoption of technology, learning delivery remains two steps behind.  Undeniably, the term ‘innovation’ brings with it some negative connotations.  Funding often requires “innovative approaches” and the term has come to equate reinvention, often at the cost of the tried and tested. However, the word should suggest something different – renewal and change – and the need for renewal in post-16 learning has never been greater.

What is the best way to support adult learning practitioners and providers to become familiar with recent developments in technology, and consider their use in realistic learning contexts?

Who better to work with than the BBC, with their learning remit, wide experience in learning with broadcasting and their vast number of high quality learning resources?  Subsequent discussions helped to develop a shared vision, resulting in a decision to host a joint conference that offers new and exciting ways for practitioners to engage with the cutting edge of learning technology and consider their use in adult learning.

The conference will support practitioners and providers with limited experience in using technology as well as those with more extensive experience, by discussing innovative uses of familiar technologies, introducing new resources and supporting delegates to keep pace with recent technological changes.

The conference on December 4 in Manchester will open with a keynote speech from Saul Nassé, controller of BBC Learning, who will discuss how it is using the unique power of broadcasting and technology to inspire audiences of all ages to learn.

He will provide an overview of BBC content available for adult learners and discuss how the teams within BBC Learning are using television, online, mobile and social networking to deliver innovative educational content.

‘A Slice of Raspberry Pi’, from Eben Upton, executive director of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, will stimulate discussion on the possibilities of programming within the adult curriculum, while Steve Stanley, HMI, principal officer, adult skills and employment, will discuss what inspectors are looking for in the use of technology for learning.

Presentation sessions on the use of mobile apps, the Flipped Classroom, learning outside institutions and E-Reading rooms will lead to a discussion on different contexts for learning, while workshops and knowledge exchanges will range from augmented reality to Community Learning Trusts; learning with community radio to massive open online courses; digital identity to using learners own technologies.

The day will end with the presentation of the digital practitioner of the year awards. We are looking for nominations for these awards which will recognise those tutors who have made adult learning more accessible, engaging and innovative and who have used technology to help adults get the opportunity to learn in new and exciting ways.

Register for the conference at

Nominate for the Digital Practitioner of the Year Awards

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