ETAG: Have Your Say on the Future of Technology in Education (1st round up)

Following on from the well received FELTAG report, ministers Matthew Hancock, Michael Gove and David Willetts chartered the Education Technology Action Group (ETAG) to follow up this work by advising the UK Government on how best to exploit technology to its fullest in education. Jisc and ALT are assisting with a public consultation led by ETAG that will feed into future government plans and initiatives. This post is a quick summary of the first month’s responses and contributions.

You can contribute to ETAG by visiting the website and familiarizing yourself with the key themes that the group has identified – then make your contribution by filling out a web form, sending us email or using ETAG related social media hash tags. The current consultation round is open until 23rd June 2014.

ETAG themes

The ETAG conversation centres around nine themes, as per below. These are described in detail on the Contribute to ETAG page on the site.

1a) Learning will be significantly more global
1b) Servers and services will be cloud based
1c) Online learning for all – as an entitlement
2a) Students with sight and control of their own complex learning “big” data
2b) Technology will be even more personal
3a) We will know a LOT more about how we learn
3b) Better measures of performance
3c) New emerging teaching and learning
4) Wild card ideas

In this post I will take a look at the commentary we have received so far, and relate it back to these themes.

We need a discussion as to why this is- what outcomes do we want for young people in terms of knowledge and skills of the global world. How does 'global learning' affect learning outcomes, or create new outcomes. For employability- remote working skills, languages, knowledge of other cultures and how to work effectively internationally important. Develop initiatives for teaching young people skills of global collaboration such as remote working and managing time zones. These are increasingly important for employability in some sectors.

Make common denominator of global learning open multi-lingual platforms all can access - e.g Wikipedia Zero Open translation tools and services (including crowdsourced) will be paramount. Informal, low bandwidth (e.g video conferencing offers great opportunity for global learning

Will learning be significantly more global in the next few years?

The big concern here is that 'free' services are backed by a huge industrialized corporate machine. Learners and teachers need to know. They need to be empowered to ask whether these applications are right for their purpose, right for their politics and for their morals. Cloud solutions can bring huge benefits, but also huge opacity of deep issues such as identity and privacy. We need to explore and educate in open standards, and discuss the role of open and proprietary systems for learning with learners. The most important aspect of this for me is the political and ethical one.

Five Things Obama’s Big Data Experts Warned Him About Via MIT @TechReview Will #ETAG1b consider these concerns?

The efficacy of online learning should be measured in some other way that time spent or courses completed. As @DonaldClark says 'Bums on seats [or hits or time spent] is measuring the wrong end of the learner'. Big issue here is reframing how we think about 'attendance' from physical presence to attention given to learning.

There are hundreds of thousands around the world grateful for ‘Online Learning’ for some it is their only option.

Learners need to be taught how to engage with eLearning (who is going to teach) before this is mainstream in FE.

Wonder how much eportfolios will feature as anew method of assessment on ETAG. Pebblepad now interactive learning resource + record also Mahara

ETAG can't prescribe eportfolios. no-one yet made them work. 1st need interoperable creative tools

I've shared link to Whitehouse report Big Data. Prof. @DianeRavitch has this to say What happn'd to InBloom?

My Experiment Opting Out of Big Data Made Me Look Like a Criminal | TIME:

@ARKBentworth and @ARKConway pupils already have a personalised elearning pathway through English with #eTargets. However; not yet enough feedback/users to be able to utilise big data. Need a collaborative national data warehouse.

Several contributors felt that there were salutary lessons from the failure of InBloom, which sought to monetize student related “big data”. Further reading from:

As mentioned in the consultation- equity is a big issue here. Politics a big issue too. By going BYOD we endorse the idea all should buy into the corporate machine that is the tech industry. We've already made some tech companies more powerful than governments (in terms of capital). What next? Schools endorse this? Standards for content and communication really important. Using iMessage for learning might empower but also exclude. The same is true of apps. Tension between software that takes full advantage of native affordances and those that take advantage of standards and openness. I suspect privileging open standards above all else is the equitable way to approach learning technologies and if there isn't an open standard good enough to do something important enough to *need* to do it- we need to invent one. If education is to be based on equity that is important. If school mandated learning spills more into family time, what are we teaching children about work/life balance? Perhaps that you should pursue work that is so delightful you want to do it in your free time. Perhaps that balance is not important. The medium could be the message here.

Learning is a 'secret business' and needs to be unpacked - not just diving into #edtech initiatives

Digi Literacies icon-mapping with an FE class. Exploring boundary crossings of #DigiLit

Respondents also noted Larry Cuban's blog post about the project to introduce iPads across the Los Angeles Unified School District

Problematic area - Neuroscience is new and shiny to the ed community, but its insights for on the ground learning far from clear. We have limited resources, there is a case for using them to explore the next small step for understanding learning rather than doing bleeding edge research and hoping for a revolution. The big issue is how we operationalise findings from science. We know a lot more about learning that we are using in classrooms. Lots of work needed on knowledge transformation to turn scientific insights into something useful for teachers and then there is the challenge of giving them space and support to assimilate these insights and significantly change practice. There are new areas of pedagogic research here teachers could own. Neuroeducational research being one. A big question- how do we ensure lessons from research insights into learning are not just 'done to' teachers in unsustainable way? Research into how to scale existing edtech we know works across the sector would be beneficial.

Problem is doing it, which is where ed-tech is needed. My suggestions at

Teaching and learning may be inversely correlated" insights for #etag from Acton Academy

Mistake to assume learning an intrinsic good. I learn to beat my wife and take drugs. So?

The #etag consultation got me thinking, so I just wrote this:

Comparative adaptive judgement can faciliated crowdsourced cross-media assessment according to shared values:

We need to explore what outcomes an educational activity is intended to achieve and set appropriate measures for that outcome. Doing lots of 'good stuff' and hoping we will see improved outcomes in exams is not enough. We need to explore appropriate measures. I'd like clearly defined outcomes as to what a tech should achieve and appropriate measures for whether it has or not. We are going to have to explore different ways of measuring such as comparative judgements, hinge questions... New 'technologies of ideas' for how we evidence learning outcomes being achieved that are appropriate to the outcomes.

Sian Morley-Smith, Technology Provider,
I think it would be good to focus on performance measures for a student’s workplace knowledge; employability; commercial awareness and business acumen. It is a difficult thing to quantify, however, I feel strongly that we need to not only track, but also increase the exposure children get to different careers and job options/ real world business scenarios, interview prep and careers advice from professionals who are working in relevant industries and careers.

The measures of performance could be tracked when the student is at school as the exposure students have received (e.g. number of professionals in industry that they’ve spoken with, mock interviews they’ve had, careers information they’ve read etc.). Once they’ve left school, and have become alumni, they should continue to be engaged with the school and their progress tracked. Which universities did they go to? Which jobs, apprenticeships did they do?

I think these two activities are heavily complimentary - alumni go on to become university students, apprentices or professionals working across different industries – the same people that students are looking for advice from. This is where smart web technology can help.

The growth and popularity of online networking websites has been substantial over the last few years. Networking technology specifically for every school (e.g. a mini linked-in portal for your school) could be used to help provide and track exposure to careers, professionals and the job market and help schools engage and inspire students (and alumni) enhancing their learning and increasing their readiness for the world of work.

I am the founder of a new technology (Pelicanconnect) that is currently building mini networking websites for schools alumni. We have just started working with our first few schools and I should shortly have some data/evidence from these schools e.g. % increased alumni engagement, increased social mobility/ exposure for current students and recent alumni for careers support etc.

Respondents also noted the Common Core test regime being put into place in the United States:

The assertion that events like TeachMeet are leading professional learning for many is highly contestable. Growing but still small. Learning from innovation in developing countries is an interesting area to explore.

@researchED1 is a twitter community of practitioners who seek research based evidence to inform practice e.g.

Respondents also noted:

Prof. Luckin 'Decoding Learning' essential read for #etag4 What was learned from 'harnessing technology' strategy?

Nitin, Teacher,
Allowing more internet content produced or delivered via London grid for learning more accessible to students with SEN. Working with students with visual impairments LGFL which is the main internet provider in London locks down a lot of content which limits access for students with VI. E.g. joinMe a simple peer to peer desktop emulator is restricted by LGFL web filtering, joinMe is fantastic for allowing a student with VI to see the teachers pc and enlarge. Making flash web content more accessible would also be great.

Respondents also noted the publication of the draft NMC Horizon 2014 K-12 report

Respondents also noted the publication of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre report on Mainstreaming ICT enabled Innovation in Education and Training in Europe

Respondents also noted the PewResearch Future of the Internet survey report:


Writing in Merlin John Online, ETAG member Bob Harrison writes about Estonia's experiences reforming its ICT curriculum Also in Merlin John Online, ETAG member Peter Twining writes about the scale of the challenge and the danger that technology is seen as a solution in itself rather than a means to an end:

How Children Engage with the Internet

I'll close with this TEDxExeter talk from Sonia Livingstone of LSE on how children interact with the Internet, available from


Many thanks to Stephen Heppell and the members of the ETAG group for kicking off the discussion; to the consultation respondents I've quoted above for sharing your thoughts about the future of technology in education; and to ALT's Maren Deepwell and Martin Hawksey for their sterling work on the website and Twitter archive/visualization.

Also thanks to the other ETAGs, who are probably wondering what this is all about - European Technical Approval Guidelines, Edinburgh Tourism Action Group, South African National Roads Agency (eTag for eToll roads) and Air France (eTag and eTrack facility).

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