This is a brief reflection, written for the teaching and learning newsletter at my current school, on the Digital Innovation Summit at JESS Dubai.

Digital Innovation

When we hear the word ‘innovation’ we are often met with thoughts of brands which are pushing the envelope and changing the way in which we can operate, companies such as Apple, SpaceX, Alibaba, and Netflix come to mind. However, within an educational context, innovation doesn’t mean that a school becomes a one-to-one iPad school overnight or even that technology needs to be involved at all. While we are in a competitive market place, the sum of the differences is the students, they are our best advocates so if we prepare them for their futures by allowing creativity and problem solving now, are we not innovating already?

Learning, learning, learning

The key to educational technology is that we ensure that we are focusing on learning and teaching and not technology. Looking at Koehler and Mishra’s TPACK model (2009), as educators, we have subject-specific content knowledge along with pedagogical and technological knowledge, therefore we will know when it’s best to use, or not use, technology to support and enhance learning within our own context. Not everything needs to be technology-based and we can make informed decisions as to whether using an #edtech tool is suitable for the learning currently happening in our lessons, its focus is to support the learning rather than distract the learning. This is arguably the most important decision, does the technology add value to the learning? Quite often, it may not, however, in many contexts it will and in order to find the ‘sweet spot’ at the center of the TPACK Venn diagram we have to carefully select the tool to enhance the learning.


Is it necessary?

With this in mind; for a school to be successful in its use of technology, on a large scale, there needs to be a whole school approach and buy-in from all stakeholders. That doesn’t mean to say that we become paperless in Term 3 of this academic year, but it does mean that we all make regular use of the tools which we have access to (MS Teams, department iPads, OneNote etc) in order to upskill our students are provide pathways for innovation. It also doesn’t mean that we need to use #edtech tools every lesson, rather, we make informed decisions as to whether the tool will add to and innovate our current practice while accelerating learning.

Capacity is king!

True innovation comes from doing things differently and having a measurable outcome. Innovation is, therefore, the marginal gains in a classroom, the small tweaks and improvements we can make to improve the learning experience of our students. This might be using Office Lens to promote whole class discussions or provide instant feedback for a piece of student work, using Quizizz or Quizlet Live for low-stakes assessment or even allowing students to be more creative in expressing themselves and their learning using tools such as Sway, Adobe Spark Video, HP Reveal, Book Creator or DoInk Green Screen. What we must do is grow capacity in our staff so that they are confident in using technology, should they wish to.

The Digital Innovation Summit 2018 was excellent and highlighted many different ideas which can enhance the learning experience, however, I did come away thinking that if I implemented too many of the ideas then it would clearly have the reverse effect on learning. It’s best to try one or two, build confidence and succeed using those and then start incorporating small tools that can enhance both the student learning, streamline workload and enhance practice.


Other interesting ideas shared on the day were how Artificial Intelligence (AI) will likely play a major role in education to truly personalize learning for every individual student, I am keeping a keen eye on Century Tech. A platform that makes use of AI, marking automation to reduce teacher workload and adapts to support or challenge a student when needed. As students’ complete diagnostic tests, learn and answer formative assessments, the AI picks up their weaknesses and strengths while reacting to build a scaffold to assist in plugging knowledge gaps. All of this while differentiating to the needs of learners, scary yet powerful stuff!

You can see my presentation from the summit here. The summit was an excellent event, congratulations to Steve and the team at JESS for putting on a truly brilliant day highlighting all the good that tech and innovation can bring to the sector, I hope to return again next year to learn and share with fellow educators from across the MENA region.


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