If I were in charge of education policy Notes for the Digitally Confident Conference 2014

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Later this month I will be proudly participating in the Digitally Confident Conference 2014 at the Sage Gateshead. The organisers have asked all the speakers to provide a few thoughts about what each of us would do “if we were in charge of education policy” for a publication they’re putting together. Below is what came to my mind:

Asking me what I would do if I were in charge of education policy is probably like asking my 9-year-old son what he’d like to be when he grows up. In the same way he would like to be a Premier League football player, a singer in a rock band or a famous writer, I would like to put teachers in charge of their own profession, acknowledge that leading our profession cannot be a purely top-down technocratic affair and embrace rather than eschew the richness and range of education theory that underpins our practice.

I would also like us to accept that if a trained teacher thinks something works for them, that’s because it probably does. I would like us to start asking “where is the evidence?” not to end a conversation, but to start one. I would like us to understand that teaching is a messy combination of knowledge and skill, and in so doing I would like us to realise that quoting Freire or Hirsch makes us a better teacher in the same way that quoting Muhammad Ali makes us a better boxer.

In the field of technology integration, I would like us to stop viewing technology as an intervention or as an add-on to education. From lesson planning to lesson delivery; from transacting schoolwork to communicating feedback, technology is already woven into the fabric of teaching and learning in the vast majority of our schools. So, instead of trying to measure technology’s impact in isolation from important factors such as quality of feedback or teacher effectiveness, I would like us to start measuring how technology supports them and all the processes involved in teaching and learning.

Counter intuitively perhaps, we are more likely to understand and value the impact of technology when we shine the spotlight away from it and onto the pedagogy. “Woven into the fabric of teaching and learning” may not be a bad analogy after all, for technology is most effective when it is invisible.

Fanciful? Perhaps. Like my son, I may simply lack the necessary knowledge and experience to make reasonable and practical choices when it comes to education policy. However, like him, I’d like to think I may be merely unencumbered by them.

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