Opportunities in current uncertainty in education will be grist for the mill at 'Exploring Education Futures'
Christina PrestonOrganiser Christina PrestonProfessional issues like the challenges to traditional teaching and learning posed by innovation in digital technologies and attitudes to collaborative learning will be debated at the Exploring Education Futures Conference in Bedford on November 5-7.

It's a partnership between the Institute of Research in Education (IREd), the MirandaNet Fellowship and the Education Futures Collaboration. The state of the educational computing industry since the Coalition Government came to power will be explored by director general of the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) Dominic Savage, while the newly "outsourced" ICT curriculum will be explained by Vanessa Pittard from the Department for Education (DfE).


Dominic SavageSpeaker Dominic Savage

Director of IREd Professor Uvanney Mayor will be setting the tone for learning and teaching with observations on the value of ICT and collaborative learning for schools and universities, and one of the strands will be changes to the roles of teachers. The powerful opportunities created by digital technologies for rethinking teaching and learning will be the subject of a presentation by the ever-thoughtful Dr Chris Yapp. He is writing a book about education futures in which he challenges  basic assumptions that students are in a classroom with a teacher, doing a lesson, in a subject, for a qualification, in an educational institution, in a community. And he will outline models that are already replacing these traditional assumptions.

Conference organiser Christina Preston who is Professor of Educational Innovation at Bedfordshire University, said: "There is continued instability in education as wide-ranging reforms are pressed through, so it's important for educators to get together and focus on approaches they know to be successful from their research evidence. We need to press ahead with changes in practice to modernise our schools and show how technology can further support and extend learning. In the midst of this uncertainty there are many opportunities."

The need to underpin changes in professional practice with real evidence will be outlined by the University of Bedfordshire's Dr Marilyn Leask. She will discuss the challenges these new models for learning present to teachers and the fact that, in many countries, education is still far from being a knowledge industry because its own practices are not yet being transformed by knowledge about the efficacy of those practices.

Worries about possible dominance of Computer Studies in new ICT curriculum

Worries that computer science will overly dominate the new ICT curriculum following the DfE's decision to outsource the writing of the Programme of Study to the British Computer Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering (see "Government hands ICT curriculum over to industry") will be explored in a section that will focus on the impact of changes in schools and universities since 2010. MirandaNet's Professor Christina Preston, Naace's Mark Chambers and ITTE's Dr Sarah Younie will lead this strand which will also consider the concern about the potential lack of trained teachers to implement these changes in 2013/2014.

Improving professional development will also be a strong theme. The commercial sector will contribute here by demonstrating the innovation they can bring to support new approaches to learning and teaching. Steljes' Rachel Jones and Matthew Pearson, and Graham Newell will explain how Iris Connect can exploit video and online collaboration for reflective practice in professional development (see how it is used at Cramlington Learning Village in video below), and LightSpeed's Roger Turner will demonstrate how soundfield technology can bring classroom audio quality that can make an impact on student attainment, behaviour and well-being as well as teacher effectiveness.

"Exploring Education Futures" will also integrate its own unconventional conference programme with the sort of "unconference" sessions developed through MirandaMods. Christina Preston said, “Our conference programme is more relaxed than the conventional conference recipe of a series of 30-minute talks by experts. We call the event an ‘unconference’. A few experts give short introductions to the themes, then all the delegates from research, advisory services, teacher education, companies and schools have an equal opportunity to talk about their perspective on education futures and debate the issues. We expect the discussions to be lively.

“We advise delegates not to use presentational software because this tends to interrupt the flow of collaborative knowledge creation. However, all the delegates can advance more detailed arguments in a resource webspace on the conference website.”

Discussions will include a number of themes. The five "themes that matter to teachers" which emerged from the last MirandaNet unconference in Prague are:

  • Embracing emerging theories about learning;
  • Continuing professional development programme design;
  • Digital approaches to building and sharing professional knowledge;
  • Developing strategies to underpin an independent, evidence-based profession;
  • Introducing new learning opportunities while safeguarding identities, wellness and safety. 

Delegates to the conference in Bedford have requested a sixth theme intended to encourage debate about the unexpected changes to the ICT curriculum: "managing tensions between the demands of computer science, digital literacy and Information technology in a changing ICT landscape".

Conference organisers intend disseminating feedback from the conference by innovative means. Dr Andrea Raiker, head of the Learning Futures Research Centre at Bedfordshire, will explain innovative data collection methods, including digital mind-mapping, designed to ensure that all professionals have a voice in the collaborative report that will be widely disseminated. Evidence for the report will also be collected from the resource webspace and from the free MirandaMod seminar during the conference on November 5 (5-6.30pm) that can be joined online by those who cannot attend the conference.

"Exploring Education Futures" has been made possible by support from LightSpeed, Ko-su, Steljes,Toshiba, Texas Instruments.

More information

For more details or to reserve your place visit: www.beds.ac.uk/howtoapply/departments/es/the-future-of-learning-events/

Conference contact is Dr Christina Preston
Tel: 07801 336 048
Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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