I can do that… What does “embrace technology” mean?

Area Based Review

The FE sector is going through some difficult and challenging times at the moment. One of the key aspects they need to work on are the Area Based Reviews.

One aspect of the area based reviews is that they must “embrace technology”.

Great, let’s embrace technology…

I can do that…

I can embrace technology…

Well, I think I know how to embrace technology…

Well, what does that actually mean, I am sure it means more than just hugging your laptop.

Okay let’s delve a little deeper into this.


The actual line from the government document says:

A willingness to embrace the possibilities provided by technology via blended, independent and online delivery and assessment, which can increase the quality and scope of provision and improve efficiency.

Hopefully embrace means more than just a passing hug…

What would an FE College (or whatever comes out of the Area Based Reviews) look like once it had embraced technology?

How could you describe an FE College that has embraced technology?

What would the learner experience be like from the learner’s perspective? From a member of the teaching staff and their perspective? From the perspective of someone from learner support or business support?

Most use of learning technologies that I have seen, read about in conference papers, news items, listened to at events, and personally experiences when working in FE, is less about embracing technology, much more about holding hands or giving a peck on the cheek to technology. Not much holistic embracing of technology by the whole organisation.

Part of this is because we really don’t know what is meant by “embrace technology” and we have no real idea of what it could look like.

A vision of how the learner experience should be, with references to how this experience would embrace technology is a good place to start.

The entire learner journey from where they are interested in undertaking a programme of study, from enquiry, enrolment to induction. The programme of study, schemes of work, lesson planning, resources, content, activities. How technology would be used to enhance and enrich the formal and informal learning. How will the learner use technology to find information, media and manipulate data? How will the learner use digital creation tools to support their learning? How will technology impact on research and scholarship? What role does innovation play in embracing technology? As part of their learning journey, what digital tools will a learner use for group and peer communication, how will they work together using online collaborative tools? What will be the role of digital social networking tools?

What will be the role of technology in supporting that learner experience? The use of data, analytics, online resources, digital content all need to be considered and integrated into the learner experience. The learner experience does not exist in isolation, the business support processes that lie behind that experience also need to be sure they don’t frustrate or block the use of technology that is being used to enhance and enrich.

How will the use of technology support the learner once the course has been finished?

The next stage will be look a potentially different experiences, ones that would not be possible without technology, or ones that take advantage of the affordances of digital technology. This is where online learning comes into play, flipped learning and providing a more personalised and flexible approach.

Embracing technology is easy to say, easy to write down. Ensuring that you actually holistically embrace technology across the whole organisation, as part of a wider review is challenging and difficult. We haven’t really done this before, so I don’t think we can assume it will just happen now.

One thought on “I can do that… What does “embrace technology” mean?”

  1. Well said, James, for pulling apart what ‘embracing technology’ might, or might not, mean. In your final paragraph you say “Embracing technology is easy to say, easy to write down.” And that surely is the point. The people who wrote the document probably have no idea of the answers to the very pertinent series of questions you ask towards the end of your post, and frankly they are not interested in the answers. Politicians and their lackeys love promoting catch-phrases that consist of two or three words with positive, feel-good, connotations. As you say, ‘embracing’ is a positive word, because we all like a good hug (even at my age:-) and ‘technology’ has been a feel-good word ever since Harold Wilson’s ‘White Heat’ speech 52 years ago this month.

    The danger is that politicians can hide rather unpleasant policies behind the positive feel-good catch-phrases. Who could argue with the promotion of ‘hard-working families’ and ‘British values’? Yet one need look no further than today’s headlines to see where these catch phrases can lead us: “Hunt says Britons must work like the Chinese to make up for cuts”.

    So what might ‘embracing technology’ be a cover for? I suggest it could well be a way of softening us up for accepting more cuts in FE funding/staffing. As I have said before (in at least one blog post), the sons and daughters of the rich will continue to enjoy good staff/student ratios at posh schools and universities, while for the rest it will be ‘let them eat MOOC’. And any teacher or institution who complains will simply be told that they are not ‘embracing technology’.

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