Westminster Education Forum

Tuesday marked a very early start, setting off at 4:30am for the 40min drive to the train station before hopping on a 2 ½ hour train journey down to London.    Am sure for many this would just be part of the normal run of the average week however after almost 8 years in the Middle East during which time I never set foot on public transport, I consider it to be something new.     Mind you, some may consider Etihad and Emirates airways which are both UAE air carriers to be “public” transport at least within a Middle East context.


The overall purpose of the trip was an #edTech event being held in central London focusing on initiatives and ideas for the use of technology in education, in schools and in learning.    The event was titled “Digital Technologies and Innovative Teaching practice in the classroom: Latest thinking and policy options”.

It was nice one again to hear Stephen Heppell present and to have a brief chat with him and it was also good to hear Bob Harrison present although sadly I never had the opportunity to say hello in person.

Of particular note from the event was Stephen Heppell’s discussion of policy disconnect in which he suggested teachers being innovative charge ahead trying new ideas and new technologies, taking with them parents who see the impact of these new ideas and technologies.    The centralized policies which are determined at a governmental or similar high level however are unable to keep pace leading to a disconnect between what teachers and parents want and the policies which govern what should be happening in schools.   I can identify with this as I see so many examples of teachers trying new ideas, sharing tips, etc. with new and exciting suggestions appearing on the likes of twitter and other online media on a daily basis.     From this point of view it is important to keep innovating and Stephen even made the point of stating teachers should just “do it” and be the driving force.

Peter Twining however put across a slightly different viewpoint during one of the panel discussions where he suggested that success couldn’t be achieved purely through this bottom up process, and that it was equally important to have some top down leadership of educational technology usage.   He suggested that should the government or OFSTED indicate an expectation then schools would adjust accordingly in order to comply in order to avoid unsatisfactory inspection results.   As such for educational technology use to be truly successful we need to have both the grassroots leadership of educational technology, leading from the bottom up, but also the top down leadership setting out the framework and expectations.

I can see the merit in both approaches, top down and bottom up, however have always been quick to suggest that it is important to have both in place to make the best things happen.     That being said, in more recent months I have found myself prioritizing the grassroots bottom up approach over top down.   Good things can happen in lessons despite poor leadership however I am not as convinced good things can happen where grassroots teaching is poor.

Overall it was a productive day and well worth the early rise.    I hope to have the opportunity to attend further similar events in the future.




Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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