Time for Gove's ICT critics to come in from the cold to have their say on policy
After more than three years with no ICT policy for learning, education secretary Michael Gove MP and skills minister Matthew Hancock MP set up an Educational Technology Action Group (Etag) in February and conceded that government had a convening and leadership role to play.

Now Etag has launched its first consultation for the 'edtech' community, explained on its "How you can contribute" web page. Curiously for a consultation launched on St George's Day (April 23 – it closes on June 23), there was no ministerial or departmental razzmatazz; just a simple request from one group of educators to their peers to join this "bold and ambitious" project.

'Crowd sourcing a pool of ideas to move policy forward'

Professor Stephen HeppellProfessor Stephen Heppell

Chair of Etag Professor Stephen Heppell commented: "This is a new and potentially powerful approach to policy making and we hope to end up with good advice for everyone from teachers and head teachers to ministers and edtech companies. That could be very exciting.

"Crowd sourcing a pool of Ideas to move policy forward towards an agreed future is novel, and I very much hope everyone will chip in with thoughts – not only about what to do, but also about was needs undoing because it was unhelpful. Just short tweets and emails are enough."

While many will cautiously welcome the apparent change of heart on learning with technology by the Coalition Government (see “Etag ICT policy group told 'be bold and ambitious'“), they will also be wary of the proximity of elections and widespread criticisms of Gove's performance. Professor Heppell has a succesful track record on policy and played a key role in the Stevenson Report which was taken up by the incoming Blair Government. His committee includes respected educators; the question will be whether the politicians and their civil servants can keep up.

Survey in sections with social media links for transparency

The structure of the consultation is shared on the Etag website and is broken down into sections. All of these have links to social media – each has its own Twitter hashtag (eg #etag1a) so the sharing can be transparent for contributors who are comfortable with that – others can email their contributions. Email responses (to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) have almost identical tags – just drop the #.

There are four sections to the consultation:
The first (Cluster 1 – the blue group) deals with global and online learning and cloud services and has three elements: 
The second (Cluster 2 – the green group) covers students’ use and control of “big data” and personal technology:
The third (Cluster 3 – the yellow group) looks at what we know about how we learn, better measures of performances, and new and emerging teaching and learning:
The final section, 4, is for “wild card ideas”, those that don't fit the preceding sections and which may not seem immediately ready for education, for example machine translation for modern languages. The advice on the Etag site emphasises: "Our brief was to be bold and we don't want to exclude the braver ideas."

The first consultation on technology for learning from the Coalition Government in more than three years is now live and open on the Etag site. One crucial factor will be whether the edtech community takes it seriously after three years of politicians' "talk to the hand" response to their proposals. There is no doubt that Gove and Hancock are sincere in their policy turn, and that the new action group is focused on its task (all the sections of the survey have volunteers ready to sift though responses). The difference now is that critics can no longer say, "We weren't asked."

Have your say – the Etag consultation