It was March 2020 and I was attending the JISC DigiFest conference in Birmingham. Little did I know that this would be the last face to face conference I would attend for over 1 ½ years, and it would November 2021 before I would once again venture to Birmingham this time for the EdTech Summit and Schools and Academies Show. Reflecting back, it was to a year and a half of significant challenges but also massive progress in how technology is used in schools.
My trip to Birmingham this time was to present a session on the role of IT leads and IT teams in schools in supporting the use of technology to enable, enhance and even transform teaching and learning. It was also going to be a chance to catch up with staff from other schools face to face for the first time in quite some time. Notable in the catch ups were a group of ANME members plus Dave Leonard, Abid Patel, Osi Ejiofor and Tony Sheppard among others.
As to the event itself, a couple of messages or themes came out for me in the various talks I attended:
This was mentioned in the ministerial opening speech at the start of the schools and academies show. Additional funding for schools. For me some of this clearly needs to go into investment in technology to ensure we are ready for a future event like the current pandemic, but also to equip our students for the future and to allow schools to make use of technology to enhance and even reimagine the learning experiences students receive. And linked to this point is the need for sustainability such that any technology put into schools has the required investment in the longer term to ensure the training, support and eventual replacement of hardware/software is all planned.
The importance and power of collaboration within schools and also between schools and other educational establishments was mentioned by a number of individuals. I suspect the pandemic has encouraged collaboration as people share their experiences, their successes and challenges, along with their resources online for others to benefit from. This is something we need to actively encourage and support going forward. The best training is just in time training, and the best just in time training results from 1000’s of educators and school staff sharing and collaborating through the medium of technology.
The pandemic proved that schools, which generally are slow to change, can be more agile and change quickly to adapted to changing situations. The pandemic forced such change. Going forward though we need to be better at change, we need to be better at accepting “good enough” and we need to be like industry and seek greater agility.
As always I suffered my usual travel mishap as is customary, this time being rushing between trains following a train delay, and then managing to get on the wrong train. This is the usual pain but on reflection the pain was worth it. I got the chance to catch up with other IT and EdTech professionals, discussing a variety of matters, I got the opportunity to share my thoughts with an audience and to discuss my thoughts with a number of individuals following the session and I got to have a look at a variety of product offerings from various IT vendors. I also benefited from the act of presenting which forced me to carefully think through and structure my thoughts in relation to technology and teaching and learning.
Roll on BETT 2022; See you there!