Just two short years ago, the publication of the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group’s report (see bit.ly/FeltagReport) sent ripples through colleges up and down the land. But now has come the time for FE practitioners to seize the digital agenda.
Offering a vision of teaching, learning and assessment fit for the 21st century and beyond, the report provided innovative recommendations about how FE could harness the power of digital. Feltag also highlighted many ways of keeping the sector abreast of technological change, building an effective infrastructure and securing appropriate and agile funding. It further supplied some ideas on how to empower learners, liaise with employers and create a skilled workforce who were able to use technology effectively to improve both teaching and learning.
My gaze was drawn to the growing portfolio, strong online presence and outstanding culture of sharing displayed by the staff at Reading College, which is part of Activate Learning. Cheryl Pennington’s forward-thinking leadership, James Kieft’s strong technological know-how (see box, below) and Hannah Tyreman’s excellent blog all provided me with some perfect examples of exactly how the Feltag recommendations could be taken and translated into action.
Digging deeper, I found a wealth of online articles, interviews and videos that revealed how Reading College were true pioneers of the Feltag spirit. This excited me further about the endless possibilities of digital learning. I also learned that although there are some outstanding examples of leading the way with the innovative use of technology, there’s still some way left to go before everyone in FE is on board.
One barrier may be that many staff assume that embracing technology is solely the responsibility of college leadership, and may not know how to get involved when leaders fail to show initiative. If your college’s senior leadership team insist on dragging their heels over the adoption of technology, ultimately, everyone will lose out.
If you find yourself waiting for managers to embrace digital learning, there are a few things that you can do in the meantime to kick-start your own progress. In the first place, it may be worth getting to know your college’s learning technologist or e-learning team; they may be developing some initiatives to promote digital learning that you may not be aware of. You might also like to speak to your teacher education or quality department to find out if they’ve seen any great examples of using digital learning in trainee teacher assignments or college lesson observations that they could share.
Talk to your learning support staff, who may see a range of digital teaching and learning in a variety of curriculum areas. Most importantly, though, ask learners if they have had any digital learning experiences that they’ve found useful. For maximum student engagement, try to look for ways to incorporate the technologies that your learners enjoy most, building them into your own sessions. Give feedback on any successes you’ve had to your managers at your course review and seek to share good practice with your colleagues.
Paul Warren is a learning support assistant in FE colleges in the South of England @paulw_learn
How to take control of your digital practice
To get you started, here are some FE specific resources that you may find useful to help you on your own virtual journey.
Follow @James_Kieft on Twitter and YouTube, or explore his blog about digital tools to support teaching, learning and assessment (bit.ly/JamesKieft).
Find links about Reading College’s excellent digital practice on their award-winning Pass It On CPD website (bit.ly/PassItOnCPD).
Look out for free online FE oriented courses, such as Blended Learning Essentials or Citizen Maths (bit.ly/BlendedLearning1 and citizenmaths.com ).
Read Colin Gallagher’s Incentiv-8 blog for insight and critique on current issues affecting FE (incentive-8.info).
Watch the videos on Martin King’s Inspire and Share YouTube channel which showcase some amazing digital insight and practice from a variety of colleagues in the FE sector (bit.ly/InspireAndShare).
Examine Jisc’s list of the 50 most influential social media users in FE to see how colleagues share their practice by using a digital platform (bit.ly/TEStop50).
Explore Deb Millar’s Learning Wheel project for a treasure trove of ideas for pairing digital technology with traditional pedagogy (learningwheel.co.uk).
Check Loughborough College’s eLearning team blog for news on free apps, effective digital practice and innovative ideas for CPD (bit.ly/LCeLearning).
Peruse Sarah Knight from Jisc’s excellent collection of best practice examples of FE organisations which are effectively using technology to support teaching and learning (bit.ly/JiscBestPractice).
Join the Association for Learning Technology’s Feltag special interest group and collaborate with like-minded people (bit.ly/ALTfeltag).
Engage with the amazing #ukfechat on Twitter on Thursday evenings from 9pm-10pm for chats on all things FE (bit.ly/JoinUKFEchat).
I’ve also created my own YouTube channel with videos about Feltag (bit.ly/PaulWarrenYouTube).
Maybe, after looking at these resources, you could even set up your own Twitter account, start writing a blog or begin filming for a new YouTube channel to share the things that you’ve learned with others. You never know, your own resource could be just the catalyst that is needed to spur your managers into action.