With school technology playing an important part in the agenda of The Academies Show on April 26th 2017, we caught up with Richard Taylor, founder of ed-invent, to find out how his events shaped edtech innovation in the UK:
ed-invent was a pilot edtech program with a simple goal, to put educators at the heart of edtech.
That may sound a simple idea but in 20 years of being an education entrepreneur and edtech investor, it seemed to me be that educators had too little voice in how edtech is imagined, developed, sold and used.
Prior to creating ed-invent I’d had an edu-related startup in Australia and the UK and been around the world looking at edtech incubators with a view to setting one up in London. I’d been a mentor at Springboard 2011, judged Learning Without Frontiers startup competition, been through Wayra with Night Zookeeper and helped organise StartUp Weekend EDU London 2013.
After all this I decided not to start an incubator, but to test my ideas about getting teachers more involved in edtech.
With the support of Cambridge Assessment ed-invent was born – a series of free one-day events where teachers could learn about edtech, come up with their own tech ideas and pitch them for a place at our finals competition. Ten events were held around England in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Brighton, Plymouth, Shropshire and Cambridge.
The core content of ed-invent included videos of edtech entrepreneurs and case studies covering some of the history, people, companies and big ideas in edtech.
We were clear that ed-invent wasn’t an incubator, nor were we trying to convert educators into being entrepreneurs. Luckily, at our first event in Manchester we found exactly the sort of innovative thinking and ideas that we had hoped to find from a young teacher at a newly formed Academy School.
A real life example:
The problem was frequent incidents of serious misbehaviour at the new school, the result of a forced merger of two schools who served different communities.
Teachers didn’t like the edtech they had to use to record misbehaviour. It was complex, time-consuming and they felt driven by OFSTED compliance concerns rather than forming part of a strategy to address misbehaviour.
The school’s most significant behaviour incidents occurred at the same place at the same time each week; in the canteen queue at Friday lunch. Friday lunch was the only time they served chips as the school had adopted the Jamie Oliver’s healthy eating model. The teacher’s ed-invent idea was to modify the behaviour incident reporting system to include a scheme for identifying, recording and rewarding good behaviour with a priority queue at Friday lunch. This wouldn’t fix the bad UI of the product, nor a lack of training, but it was a great example of exactly what we hoped to achieve with ed-invent, specifically:
The successes of ed-invent were the enthusiastic educators who participated and the remarkable ideas they created. Our post- event research showed that participants developed a far deeper understanding of the edtech landscape and that it fundamentally changed how they saw their role in edtech both within schools and within edtech more widely.
I believe the role and voice of educators is even more important in how edtech in developed and used. It’s also become apparent that the ed-invent model is equally relevant to students and to helping bureaucrats tasked with implementing edtech policies to make better decisions.
The term edtech is arguably redundant. Programs like ed-invent are really part of the wider discourse about the role of educators, students and others, in how technology may be able to advance some, but not all aspects of education.
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