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The Future of EdTech

The Future of EdTech

Al Kingsley – Introduction

[00:00:00] Vicki Davis: Today, we’re talking with Al Kingsley. we don’t usually have vendors on the show, but I was telling Al in the pre-show that I really feel like he’s so grounded in schools. He works with a tech company called Net Support. He’s also a chair of Hampton Academies Trust in the UK, recently back from BETT as we’re recording this.


[00:00:18] Vicki Davis: And he’s also written a book called My Secret Ed Tech Diary that was released in July 2021, but really takes a look at 30 years of the historical perspective of it and education. And I think now is a good time to look at that history. What do you think? 

[00:00:35] Al Kingsley: I think so it was a catalyst for me. I think we’ve condensed 18 months’ worth of learning.

[00:00:41] Al Kingsley: That’s been accelerated, and we’ve been talking about it for those 20 years proceeding. But there are so many lessons learned. It seemed a good time to encapsulate lessons, learn the questions to ask, and how we move things forward in the right way. 

Teacher Technostress Caused By Being Asked to Use Technology Without Training

[00:00:52] Vicki Davis: A new term, technostress.

[00:00:55] Vicki Davis: I’ve read it recently. And what the research was showing is that a significant [00:01:00] amount of some teachers’ stress? Not all, some teachers’ stress was either the stress of having to use technology, but largely the stress of having to use technology that they were not trained to use. So what’s your experience . . With the term, and how do we move forward with that in mind?

[00:01:16] Al Kingsley: I think the simple answer is I’ve seen it all around the world, and I think it is absolutely a challenge. What we’ve got is we’ve got this accelerated focus of, we need to adopt technology. We need to look at ways to mitigate whether we want to call it learning loss rather than negative term or we want to bridge the gap.

[00:01:32] Al Kingsley: And often in our haste to implement technology, we’re very quick to top-down in a leadership sense to say here’s a new solution. We want this to be used in our classrooms for teaching and learning and rarely. Firstly, pause and effectively have the why conversation; why are we doing it? And what are we hoping to achieve?

[00:01:48] Al Kingsley: But also we often have, when you make fast track decisions, you don’t have an inclusive decision-making process, actually. That’s right. And the biggest lesson of all that’s come out of that is one size doesn’t fit all. So this idea of you should use this [00:02:00] prescriptive set of tools for everybody. Often creates stress and challenge because it isn’t always the right for your student cohort.

Importance of Professional Development Planning

[00:02:06] Al Kingsley: And the second is we’ve always talked about technology as being the hardware and the software. Actually, the most important thing that wraps around your digital vision is professional development. And actually, if we don’t plan professional development, not as something that we have as a short burst at the start of the academic year, but something that’s continuously structured.

[00:02:23] Al Kingsley: To make sure that we can actually leverage the most out of the solutions we use. Then what we do is we get really rapid adoption, and we get really poor impact it doesn’t become embedded, and we see that slide off. So we then walk around schools all around the world, and we see trolleys, whether it’s iPads or Chromebooks or whatever.

[00:02:38] Al Kingsley: Gathering dust because the teacher simply doesn’t have the confidence that they will behave and act in the way they were anticipating. So lots of this comes down just as it does in every sector, really down to the way that we deliver change and deliver new solutions, as opposed to the specific solution.

Significant Numbers of Educational Licenses Purchased Aren’t Redeemed by Teachers.

[00:02:53] Vicki Davis: And then being part of it. Some other research I turned up yesterday was this was before the pandemic that only [00:03:00] about a third of educational licenses were being redeemed that were purchased. It was estimated in this one report in 2018 that $2 billion worth of educational licenses were never redeemed.

[00:03:10] Vicki Davis: And I’m sitting here thinking, yeah, that’s what happens when we buy stuff, and we don’t train and educate and make it part of what we’re doing with teachers. 

Key 1: Get Technology That Can Have a Positive Impact and Give Teacher Training For It

[00:03:21] Al Kingsley: I think there’s two parts for that. And I absolutely agree with you. Key one half is getting technology that has the potential actually to have a positive impact, but not having the skills and understanding actually to leverage it.

Key 2: Select Technology That’s Evidence-Based to Be Pedagogically Aligned

[00:03:31] Al Kingsley: But there’s also a second part, which has changed the narrative certainly in recent years, which is about selecting technology. That is evidence-based that’s pedagogically aligned. So actually, the way that we go—choosing our technology. And again, one solution might work for one school that may not for another.

Questions To Ask About New Technology

[00:03:46] Al Kingsley: And when we’re trying to adopt technology quickly, we’re much more likely to make the wrong choices. So now there are much more structured rubrics about let’s make sure when we consider technology, we separated too hard. There’s the pedagogy side. Is it the right [00:04:00] solution? Does it duplicate something we’ve already got?

[00:04:01] Al Kingsley: Does it align with our curriculum? And then there’s the other half, which is. Does it fit in with our infrastructure? Is it sufficiently agnostic that if we change direction, in terms of the technology in our schools, this solution will still be fit for purpose? 

Involving Multiple Voices in Evaluating Technology

And that involves, not surprisingly, needing more than one voice around the table.

[00:04:18] Al Kingsley: One person can’t be all-knowing and making that decision. So we come back to the idea that the heart of decision-making should be the teachers and the students. And sometimes it’s for the right reasons, parents too. And then things like our it, finance, and online safety all fit around as part of those checks and balances, including essential privacy.

Modeling Software We Want Teachers to Use As We Teach Them

[00:04:35] Vicki Davis: The most exciting thing happened at the beginning of this past school year. We had a new mobile phone policy because we’ve gone BYO D, so you know that devices aren’t as necessary unless they’re in my digital film class, to have them out as much. As we talked about it, I used one of the tools I had been trying to get teachers to use.

[00:04:53] Vicki Davis: I use Nearpod, and we had the conversations, and we went through, do you know, I have more teachers who wanted to use Nearpod after [00:05:00] my modeling the use of Nearpod. And this is no ad for Nearpod. There are lots of tools out there that do the same thing. I more wanted to use it after I modeled it.

[00:05:08] Vicki Davis: Then we taught them after the session. Isn’t it because we sit there and lecture to teachers instead of using the tools we want them to 

[00:05:16] Vicki Davis: use.

[00:05:17] Al Kingsley: I think it’s all things when it comes to how we adopt technology and what people naturally want, which isn’t unique to education.

[00:05:23] Al Kingsley: It’s not only that this tool. We’ll empower you somehow, but it’s to give me ideas about how I can take that knowledge and apply it. And we do it with our learners. Always trying to bridge that gap in terms of using skills to knowledge, in essence, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do in the same way regarding technology adoption.

How TeachMeets Can Encourage Teacher Use of Technology

[00:05:39] Al Kingsley: So one thing that we do across our schools, for example, is we have internal Teach Meets where it’s those five minutes stand-ups where different staff share top tips and ideas of the ways that they’ve used technology in the classroom, that’s proven to be effective. And I often think that confidence, the thing that helps mitigate teachers’ stress is one not feeling you’re alone; everybody else is doing okay.

[00:05:59] Al Kingsley: [00:06:00] And I’m the only one that’s struggling with technology. I don’t really want to put my hand up and share that if you recognize that we’re all working at different levels. Cause we all take time to adopt new solutions. But more importantly, I know where the flag bearers are. I understand that the people within my school or my district can go to who are the experts, the ones willing to take the time to show me how I can apply that technology effectively.

[00:06:20] Al Kingsley: Suddenly, we have much more confidence than if we’re solely relying on the fact that the weekend we’re going to have to jump on YouTube and keep our fingers crossed. So I think that sense of when we think about professional development, it’s not just where are the resources is. Where are the people who, where are the people I think connect to for that support and that support net?

[00:06:36] Al Kingsley: Offered empowers people to be willing to try. I’d call it risks. Try using new tools, have a lot of them, and how that work. Get feedback from your students. Maybe you’ll try a few things. Some will work, some won’t, which ultimately encourages that. Trying is how to accelerate innovation in our schools.

[00:06:51] Al Kingsley: So 

[00:06:51] Vicki Davis: Al, you survey the 30 years of ed tech, but you have now 31, multiple years. How would you fill in this blank? When [00:07:00] will we ever learn ______ in education technology? 

Technology is a Facilitator But Not a Panacea

[00:07:05] Al Kingsley: Oh, that’s a tough one. Isn’t it? My mom, we ever learned blank.

[00:07:07] Al Kingsley: I’m thinking carefully before I say it. I’m going to put the word context. That blank, because I think we often use a blank depending on whether with the EdTech evangelists or we’re the blockers within the role of technology. We often tend to present things as a yes or no when actually.

[00:07:27] Al Kingsley: Technology is a facilitator where appropriate to empower it. It isn’t a case of it’s the panacea to everything. I often think we try to squeeze technology into settings where it’s not required. And that creates a negative experience that reduces people’s willingness to try it and other locations.

[00:07:43] Al Kingsley: So if we think of it in that way, my ambition, the way that I wrote my book, the way I talk about when I go to different events, Ed tech shouldn’t be something special. It should be part of the toolkit, part of the fabric and framework of what we use for our teaching and learning; where appropriate, some of the best classes don’t need any ed tech.

[00:07:59] Al Kingsley: [00:08:00] And in other cases, it can really engage disconnected learners, empower teachers, and be more creative with how they can. Capture feedback closed and speed up the feedback loop in different ways. And what we’re seeing increasingly now as well is the role of technology to help support those personalized learning journeys, where we can embed skills or support going back a couple of steps and building those foundations again, not to replace teaching and learning, but to sit alongside and support the work that’s been done in the classroom.

[00:08:27] Vicki Davis: So 

[00:08:27] Vicki Davis: If you could go back to our Kingsley year one in education, what would you tell him?

Advice Al Would Give to Himself in His First Year of Education

[00:08:33] Al Kingsley: Ah, that’s a perfect one. My aunt, my question on my advice to the young Al Kingsley, apart from probably changing some of his clothing choices, definitely would be. And it’s something I’ve shared before with others is you were born with two ears, two eyes, and one mouth. Use them in appropriate proportions.

[00:08:52] Vicki Davis: Oh, isn’t that good advice For all of us? Just a little. 

[00:08:57] Al Kingsley: Don’t always try and be the first to speak in the [00:09:00] meeting. It’s very natural. And that certainly wasn’t my case. Starting off in your career, you want to show people that you’ve got a grip and ideas. You want to be first to the table.

[00:09:08] Al Kingsley: And actually, over the years, with some experience, you learn that the best thing to do is listen and absorb what others are sharing. Processing shape that and then try and shape your ideas on the back of others. And that translates so much into schools because the number one rule for me, I think I’ve seen with school leadership, is actually, you need to empower others.

[00:09:24] Al Kingsley: You need to give others voices. And if people feel they’ve got a voice and you act upon it, they’re going to come on the journey with you. If you start the meeting by telling people before you’ve asked them their opinions, the dies cast rarely has the positive outcome you were hoping for.

[00:09:37] Vicki Davis: That’s very true. I always tell my students that if you meet know it, they’re a liar because nobody knows it all. That’s just how it goes. So as we finish up as we’re helpful, but we don’t know what tomorrow holds. We don’t. If we’ve learned anything over this past season, we don’t know what tomorrow holds, except that We’ll get up and go to work and continue to educate children.

The Range of Emotions People Feel About Edtech


[00:09:58] Vicki Davis: But as folks are [00:10:00] looking at ed tech, going into the future, there’s a range of emotions. Some are so grateful that they’ve had it in students who’ve moved forward. I would put my school in that category. We had a great experience now everything was perfect. No, but we didn’t lose any days.

[00:10:14] Vicki Davis: Zero days we left on Friday. We came in on Monday. More people were there on Monday, then Friday, way back when this started, and we just rolled with it. Yeah, it was bumpy, it wasn’t the end of the world, but then there are some that are like, I never want to see a computer again. It wasn’t done well for children who are at home and just couldn’t connect.

[00:10:33] Vicki Davis: There’s a whole range. What is your advice to administrators as they look at ed-tech going into the future?

[00:10:41] Vicki Davis: 

Advice to Administrators As They Look at Edtech Into the Future

[00:10:41] Al Kingsley: Obviously I would hope that might help facilitate, but the best advice I can give is look, the die has been cast. The modern workplace has suddenly flipped as well to be this digital blended world.

[00:10:51] Al Kingsley: And technology is having an increasing role. We have an obligation for our learners to equip them with the skills for that workplace. So whether we like it or [00:11:00] not, the increaseduse of technology in the way that we. Research discover, communicate, and articulate that set. So the message to everybody is, that it’s better to try stuff and fail than not to try stuff.

[00:11:10] Al Kingsley: I always refer to the failures as the stepping stones to success, but don’t see it as a competition. There’s no metals for the school or the district that applies the most technology It’s much better to do a few things. Embed them, build confidence and build on that. Then.

[00:11:25] Al Kingsley: Accumulate too many shiny shine is to quickly and really never see the benefit. Ironically for somebody who half his life spends within the ed tech vendors space, my feedback is, less is more. Try and do a few things well and choose good solutions. Choose them wisely. Look for the evidence behind them.

[00:11:40] Al Kingsley: Build teacher confidence, spend your money on PD. And then when you’ve got that confidence, it’s had a positive impact move forward. I would just say as one final thing on the impact. We’ve ever used an education to measure impact as being simply student outcomes and that’s okay. But the last couple of years has taught us.

[00:11:58] Al Kingsley: We all knew certainly to [00:12:00] measure impact in terms of the positive effect it can have on teacher workload, mental health, our children’s social, emotional, mental health communication with families. So we need to start thinking of. Different measures of impact. when we adopt technology, it’s not all simply about, can we see a direct correlation to the end of this academic year in results?

[00:12:18] Al Kingsley: Because teacher retention, supporting, and nurturing and growing our education profession. If we don’t do that, then those other things are gonna fall by the side. Whether we like it or not,

[00:12:26] Vicki Davis: the great engineer Deming said, “whatever gets measured gets done and usually not much else.” So definitely we’ve got a pull back and measure, we’ve known for quite some time, school climate is significantly impactful for learning. There’s just so many things here. This has been fantastic. Add, truly appreciate Al taking the time spanning the ocean here, his book My Secret Ed Tech Diary.

[00:12:51] Vicki Davis: Is available out there in everywhere and follow him Twitter. And he has a website we’ll link to that in the show notes. Thank you for coming on the [00:13:00] show, Al.