EdTech Futures

EdTech Europe on June 18th 2015 brought the EdTech eco-system like tidal wave into London.  Kings Place was a great place to host this event as there were three main tracks that participants could follow Now & Next of EdTech, International EdTech Perspectives and Global EdTech All Stars.  There was a Playground area for networking with EdTech stars to feed your inspiration including Bibblio,Tutorfair and Samsung Education
Right from the beginning the atmosphere was buzzing with anticipation.  With twice as many participants as last year, EdTech Europe 2015 was set to be the biggest yet.  The movers and shakers mingled and found their way gradually into the main hall at Kings Place.  Liz Sproat of Google Education surprised the audience by exploring how easy AI can be used in the classroom with just simple low-tech and yet Google is one of the few players who can scale up quickly with these applications.
Next up was an impressive panel of leading CEO`s from SanomaPearsonTESand moderated by EDGE EdTechSanoma takes the education system from Finland as their model and see their success that there isn`t heavy testing. Karine Allouche Salanon the CEO of Pearson English talked about how 90% of their content is delivered online.  76% is aligned to online learning. 90-95% is aligned to digital coaching.  It was discussed that MOOCs have not taken off in the way we once thought they might. Perhaps what is needed is a teacher involved in MOOCs.  As John Martin of Sanoma said “The teacher is the killer app in education”.  All the tech in the world can’t replace a good teacher, we need both.
Living and working in Germany, the question on everyone`s lips here in particular, but also a concern across the world in EdTech is about what these big companies are doing with all the teachers and students’ data. Rob Grimshaw ofTES mitigated data concerns by saying that TES does not collect student`s data.  The institutions themselves are responsible for accessibility issues.  The data points to work flow, but it`s not used for further commercial purposes.
For Sanoma, data points to value, insights and personalization, but the data is not used for commercial purposes and this is controlled and checked by the Dutch government.
Karine Allouche Salanon from Pearson talked about how 10% of the data enables insights on what the learners do.  Product development happens when the data reveals where people get stuck.  Students are happy to give their data if they see there is value in it.  When students or teachers receive specific action and content, then they are willing to allow EdTech companies to use their data.
Rob Grimshaw TES talked about a report done at Stanford about Data Analysis, that data sharing specifically for educational (not commercial) purposes actually supports 90% better learning.  
John Martin at Sanoma talked about how technology has great potential to save time for teachers and that digital leads to higher engagement, however this is not clear to measure.  One of the major challenges in EdTech is how can we measure outcomes and engagement.
Changing tracks to EdTech perspectives, there was a panel With Apps for Good,Edutechnoz and Bibliotheque sans frontieres (Libraries without Borders) discussing global scaling and local implementation.  Iris Lapinski who is operating Apps for Good in three major countries: Germany, UK & Brazil talked of challenges such as how mobiles have been banned in schools and how it was important to discuss with the actual schools themselves.   It was important to look locally from region to region how to work and what frameworks to manoeuvre in.  Furthermore, when implementing new EdTech tools, it is important to work with one teacher at a time, so that teachers become allies and ambassadors who speak with other schools so that it becomes a community of schools.
Diana Al-Dajani of Edutechnoz has gamified learning Arabic.  Each game tackles one skill in particular.  Diana talked about the importance of matching to the local curriculum and to have a content framework that enables better localization to be in place.  It is important to not set too many themes as those will come from the teachers and students themselves, she found that issues came from them and that they worked with that.  She raised the points on how EdTech platforms need to be integrated with other platforms so that the eco-system works together to support learners for the best educational experience.  That needs technical know-how for scaling that technology.   Diana has been working with a professional development company to train teachers with the new technology.
Jeremy Lachal the Founder of Bibliothèques Sans Frontières (Libraries without Borders) talked about the importance of access to education in remote areas such as the Bronx and Australia with the aborigines and refugee camps.  Through tools such as Ideas Box, the children can create their own content and parents know where their children are, that they are safe.  The content creation comes from the inside back to their needs. Jeremy talked of advocacy with humanitarian agencies.
Back to the EdTech “Now and Next” track, the University of Brighton explored how adaptive learning is being used in the context of trainee nurses.  Area 9 has been developed in collaboration with  It works on the basis of Ebbinghaus theory that is that education is presented, but then we forget, so it is presented more frequently.  With this technology with the program that was called LearnSmart there was a 35% reduction in drop-outs, and pass rate of 70%. Learners are so diverse so it was necessary to have blended learning environments and use concise books rather than huge volumes.  Furthermore to implement the technology it was important to have learning tutorials with LearnSmart.  For integration to take place it was important to have facilitators, so that the technology can be fully integrated into the modules.  Colleagues were able to actually learn the tool together.
In the same track Mireille Rabate who is setting up a new school in London:Lycee International UK, suggested that when starting something new, it was important to take a curriculum that has already been established, such as the French curriculum, but that is also global and then develop that with a new pedagogy that caters for individual talents and empowers the children to learn. This should be done by not focusing on what they should know but rather how to handle the mass of information that students are bombarded with.  This requires critical thinking.  When thinking about implementing EdTech, teachers love to learn, so it is important to enable this by creating workshops for them with the tools of EdTech and this will bring in new insights.  At the moment there is a mismatch between the outside world and the schools.  Use tech to change the system, don`t use technology to add to the system.  
The panel discussion that also involved Steve Jobs School discussed the need to engage the parents, to bring them for teaching and support.  Get away from an obsession with individuality and teach with EdTech tools collaboration and creativity.  Collaboration is what makes people employable today and how to work effectively in a chaotic environment.  Again it was emphasized how important it is to have ambassadors to go into schools, see what the problem is and to find a solution those will be the leaders of EdTech.
Joanna Bersin of Knewton in a panel discussion on mobile applications, talked about the importance of how to integrate the teachers into the workflow. Jospeh Nobel, Head of Channel & partnerships at Oxford University Press emphasized the importance of engaging the teacher, once you have the engagement of the teacher, then creativity with the actual EdTech tool is activated.  Colum Elliott-Kelly Blippar discussed how the mobile can be used as a tutor in the pocket and we can allow the mobile to gamify the whole learning experience.  The panel touched upon localization by discussing how apps need to diversify depending on the region.
One of the final panels revealed students perspectives, moderated by Gernot Groemer President of Austrian Space Forum in the UN.  It was a shame that the hall was almost empty.  Surely this was one of the most important panels of the conference?
The students were from United World Colleges that discussed how their learning improved when they were exposed to students from many different viewpoints so that no universal truth is believed.  The students talked about how the relationship with the teacher is essential and that cannot be replaced. Thupten Dorji called for hybrid solutions of both teachers and EdTech.  This could mean, teachers going out there and exploring the technology and bringing back in asking the students what they are not sure about and that is where the teacher steps in. Ieva Stakvilevičiūtė talked about the idea of a national curriculum being defunct and that teachers and parents need be free to develop a curriculum based upon the students reaching their full potential, not just to study the same things and EdTech can harness that potential. Zoe Harrington talked about how the collaboration between EdTech and the gaming industry is a powerful one, particularly with the increasing influence of AI. Thupten Dorji talked about using the term mentor instead of teachers and having apps that understand what the student`s needs are as not many EdTech companies know this, as well as tools increasing collaboration that reveal the students’ diversity. 
EdTech Europe 2015 was fast and furious, engaging with the most pressing questions in education and technology today.  By bringing together the eco-system in one place, it was possible to understand EdTech comprehensively and holistically.  Now educators and students need to be included further in core discussions so that we can find the best learning solutions for an unpredictable future that lies ahead.
This post was originally written on Linkedin here in 2015