After the Maelstrom

At this stage in the COVID-19 crisis we don’t know whether school closures will be short, medium or longer term or whether this is the first of a series of closures as infection rates have second or third peaks. Another possibility is, when schools do reopen, it will be for full time attendance or a blended part-time approach to keep class sizes smaller. However, as has been often said, we are all in this together and that includes teachers, schools, academics, researchers and the EdTech industry.

Here I would like to set out how one company involved with educational technology, IRIS Connect, has responded. We would genuinely like constructive feedback and suggestions. It is a request for a genuine knowledge exchange so that we can all drive forward constructively. As someone who held a number of senior roles in education before I joined IRIS Connect, I can honestly say that, whilst all the organisations I was involved with planned for emergencies, there was no contingency planning for something as disruptive to education as COVID-19. It is important that we recognise this lack of planning because, as a consequence, there has been little consideration of a change management process for sustainability. Personally, I hope that through this dreadful event some small good will come and we can reflect and build a more efficient and effective education system.

Our approach has been to recognise that we are going to need to reverse engineer both project management and the change management process. To do this we are looking at this in three phases:
LIST term to consolidate and develop skills;
medium term to refine and articulate more effective responses;
longer term to capture the opportunities for the more effective use of EdTech that evolve from both the lessons we have learned and the wider acceptance of EdTech itself.

So what do we know already? As a company, IRIS Connect has been involved in many research and knowledge exchange projects around ITE across Europe. These projects have included remote observation of students (a blended approach has been shown to be cost efficient, more popular with students and effective), micro-teaching, coaching, peer mentoring and review, collaborative learning and development of resources. Involved in this range of formal programmes have been 30 European Universities (and a few beyond).

On the other hand, sadly, some UK universities and schools have steadfastly continued doing what they have always done. Can we use this crisis to drive more innovation within the UK ITE system? How can we expect teachers to embrace EdTech when so many advantages of it beyond the basics are ignored whilst they are trained. Some teachers have found using EdTech very challenging and we need to understand this and find ways of supporting those that are users.

This crisis has made our personal world smaller, but can we use it to create wider horizons? The new dynamic in education should be around recognising that education is an interdependent ecosystem that depends on collaboration and cooperation between teachers, schools, academics, researchers, countries and industry. EdTech can help make this happen and we don’t need to just rely upon the huge multinationals to do this.

How can we in education and industry collaborate?

Read the full report in the Spring edition of Naace Advancing Education journal

Author - Graham Newell, IRIS Connect’s Director of Education
Date - 12 May 2020