We Needed to Talk about 21st Century Learning..so we did

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A special group of education professionals came together on the 21st January in the House of Lords to talk about learning in the 21st century. As well as UK delegates, they came from the USA, Canada and Brussels. Their backgrounds included academia, education, politics, business, the charity sector and the media.

The objectives of the event were: • To forge an alliance between the One-to-One Institute in the USA and the e-Learning Foundation in the UK and other partners who share our vision • To execute a high profile event focussed on 1:1 access and e-learning • To leverage media attention on how to make 1:1 access and e-learning effective • To engage educational thought-leaders, policy makers, educators and educational journalists in high-level strategy discussions • To kick start a global conversation and collaboration among organizations and individuals with similar missions The discussion, chaired by Lord Jim Knight of Weymouth, was wide ranging but the consensus in the room was overwhelming, and is summarized below. Technology is a game-changer • Educational professionals who choose to resist deploying educational technology will simply be left behind by those who will achieve far superior results. Those who think they can do perfectly well without it will find themselves less and less relevant to their pupils and to the needs of society. There is a lot of research • Around the world there is an ever growing body of research to support the view that when technology is properly implemented, and students engage in meaningful activity, then children develop higher order thinking skills, and achieve at higher levels than in the traditional classroom. • Evidence on the impact of learning technology is across the world. Project Red in the USA and the many EU funded projects are rich in evidence and information • We need to have a better way of sharing that evidence globally. In the UK a national archive of research could make an important contribution to being able to share what we have learnt, providing the opportunity for a number of important research based organizations to collaborate.

Teachers are the key • A revolution is taking place in many classrooms worldwide, led by a small group of early adopters, but the pace of adoption and “normalisation” in the UK has been disappointingly slow. • While children are keen to embrace technology at home, teachers face a number of barriers in embracing it in the classroom. • The development of teacher confidence and competence is the single most important factor in the pace and extent to which the benefits of learning technologies are realised. • If we want to see a strategic shift to modern pedagogy then teachers should not be expected to develop these vital new skills at their own expense and in their own time. Lack of money may not be the problem • There was a strong feeling that investment in learning technology can generate significant savings and payback in terms of pace of academic progress for pupils, replacement of legacy (teacher centred) resources, reduced total cost of ownership, etc., as long as those savings are protected and ploughed back into student centred resources. • Developments in cloud computing offer schools significant savings but there is a high level of nervousness about this new development. Access is unequal • Inequalities of access can affect a child in at least three ways: o Whether their family can provide access to a computer and the Internet at home. o The level of access their school provides. UK Primary Schools are falling behind the larger Secondary Schools in maintaining levels of provision (“size matters”). o Whether the leadership of the school “gets it” in terms of understanding the potential of learning technology, and ensuring it is deployed across the curriculum.

The Role of Parents • Schools can use technology to improve their partnership with parents far beyond one-way communications such as texting snow reports. The Role of Policy • The influence of national and regional policy on the adoption of learning technology varies enormously, even within the United Kingdom. A newly formed group (Education Technology Advisory Group) has recently been created in the to advise Education Ministers. Two of the delegates have already been confirmed as members of that group, which should ensure that the topic remains focused on the children and their learning and not technology or political dogma. • In the US, there are numerous education transformation efforts informing policy and practice. E-Rate and ConnectED are two examples. The Common Core Curriculum will provide uniform national standards for deep learning, inquiry within and across content areas. National online testing is driving schools to engage organization-wide computers for student access.The latter has greatly impacted the leapfrog effect of schools acquiring efficient technologies. The challenge is for districts to make the ‘right’ decisions based on student learning outcomes.

Allow leaders to fail • Leadership is a critical element of the management of change; and leaders must be allowed to take risks, and sometimes fail, in order to achieve successful change.

What We Saw The visit in the afternoon to Hammersmith Academy provided an unforgettable experience: • Teachers had a positive and structured approach to using technology across a wide range of subjects • 1:1 on steroids • Teachers were supported in their use of technology • Pupils were engaged in personalized, active learning • Pupils were able to articulate how technology supported their learning • A 1:1 approach ensured good access in the classroom and at home, but different devices were also provided by the school where a task required a different technology • Students’ device of choice was the laptop • Parents were involved in the 1:1 program, and many make a small voluntary financial contribution

What Happens Next?

Publicity Once the conclusions of the day are agreed upon, a document will be created for the media. The e-Learning Foundation and the One-to-One Institute will help disseminate the key messages using their own communication channels including Twitter, FB, e-newsletters, etc.

Sharing research The UK will investigate a way to establish a national archive of existing evidence and research on the impact of learning technology. Key to success will be to identify a potential funding source to help pull it together and curate it. US constituents will continue to perform and share research and resources. They will amplify and have as their core services best practices based on research and expertise.

Let’s keep talking We need to widen the net and keep sharing what we are learning to help develop a Roadmap for countries and schools to use rather than endless repetitions of the same learning curve through pilots that explore the same issues with the same conclusions. The new Global Project RED Toolkit will be a source for these efforts around the world.

Through starting the conversation we have learnt that many more organizations are also active in this field such as ISTE (The International Society for Technology in Education) in the USA, and of course the EU has been funding a wide range of projects over the past years generating invaluable evidence. The next major opportunity to reconvene could be the 2014 conference run by ISTE, USA in late June.

eLearning Foundation and One-to-One Institute will collaborate regarding creating an ongoing network for continued debate, discussion, sharing and amplifying our mission.

Leslie Wilson CEO One-to-One Institute Co-author Project RED

Valerie Thompson CEO eLearning Foundation

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