We Teach Well was fortunate to receive a Global Victoria and EduGrowth sponsorship to the 2019 EduTECH conference in Sydney back in June. It was certainly an experience. I had been to other EdTech events but nothing came close to this. For Judy it was her first foray into the space and what a foray it was. These are my thought s after some time to settle my brain from the hyper-stimulation.
In the past few years when people have talked about the education technology market they have used really big numbers. In 2017, it was in the multi-millions, in 2018 it was billions and now the figures are in the trillions. It has always seemed sort of abstract to me. As an English teacher and now a business in the K-12 space I could never really get my head around numbers that big.
Then Global Victoria and EduGrowth sponsored our attendance at EduTECH 2019 in Sydney in June. We Teach Well was one of five Victorian businesses sponsored and we were very excited. We knew it would be big and we had seen a floor plan which clearly indicated the number of booths. But nothing that we had imagined came close to preparing us for the enormity of what we faced walking through those doors for the first time. It was overwhelming. It was also illuminating. So many players that I hadn’t thought of as being part of the ‘EdTech’ landscape would certainly contribute to the sort of numbers that have been spoken of. I still don’t understand the numbers but that could be because I am functionally innumerate.
We have been part of EduGrowth since the beginning in 2016. Launched as a NFP to support and encourage education start-ups in Australia and promote the export of global, borderless education, EduGrowth brings together people working in a wide range of education contexts. It has been a valuable association that has given us the opportunity to meet other people building education businesses that use cutting edge technology.
There have been times though, when I felt that the K-12 market was seen as more of a problem than an opportunity. There appeared to be much more interest in the tertiary sector, understandable given that there appears to be much more money in it and fewer regulations. The bulk of K-12 interest was in private tutoring or data collection. Teachers don’t really like either of these. A proliferation of private tutoring can make education all about test scores and no one has worked out yet how to collect the data that teachers find useful.
The best thing about EduTECH 2019 was finding so many other businesses run by people who had been teachers. Click To Tweet
These people are my tribe. I realised that, after my twin sons (who I like better than anyone else), great teachers are my favourite people. When I am with great teachers I feel like I belong, that they get me and I get them.
EduGrowth’s Innovation Alley was home to a fabulous group of people doing interesting things for the two days of the conference. Yes there were businesses that were into data collection and LMS’s and other analytical things I don’t understand, but there were also people offering PD for teacher Aides, immersive filmmaking experiences, science experiments that can be done at home and my favourite Inquibox, a subscription service that designs stem activities that are learnt through play. Hima, from Inquibox, was one the businesses sponsored by Global Vic and, like us, she works out of One Roof in Southbank.
I do need to digress here for a minute. There are two terms that have been used over and over in education during the past couple of years that make me crazy. One of them is ‘innovation’ the other is ‘gamification.’ When I hear people talking about how teachers need to be more ‘innovative’ I want to throw things. What do you think they have been doing for decades? When you are faced every day by a succession of children and young adults, 20-30 at a time, you either innovate or you die.
If any group of people really understand the concept of and need for innovation it is teachers. And every time innovation is seen as something that teachers need to do, there are little explosions in teachers’ brains. A bit like those scenes from the 2014 comedy film Kingsman: The Secret Service. Unfortunately, teachers are so busy running around trying to keep up with the revolving door of curricular bureaucracy and reporting that they barely have time to use the bathroom.If you want to see astonishing innovation in K-12, remove the ridiculousness, listen to teachers, give them time and money and trust them to create learning environments and practices that will blow your mind. Click To Tweet
Gamification is another term that is bandied about without a proper understanding of what it means. About a year ago I was having coffee with Cherie Davidson who was working with Geeiz Games. She explained to me that while game theory can offer great advantages for education, gamification was a different animal. According to Davidson, gamification had within its function an element of addiction. That is to say, its purpose was to get the user addicted to the app or product. As someone who has in the past been addicted to both Zenga games and Candy Crush this makes sense to me.
While I would really like children to be addicted to learning, I don’t like the idea of creating an addictive product. Click To Tweet
In the days since I got back people are asking about the conference. Was it successful? Did you get what you needed? Was it worthwhile? These questions are hard to answer. Teacher friends will understand. Education is not something that has short term results. The real efficacy of education may not be known for many years, maybe even decades. Teachers input seemingly endless hours and effort to guide students, to help them understand that there is more than one way to view life, to show how to think critically and to interrogate situations. Whether that was successful can only be judged by the way those students live the life that they have been given. It is not just about academics.
I do think the conference was valuable. It will take time to unpack all of the benefits, but we met interesting people, spent time with our tribe, learnt much.Teachers input seemingly endless hours and effort to guide students, to help them understand that there is more than one way to view life, to show how to think critically and to interrogate situations. Whether that was successful can… Click To Tweet
It is important to speak of the role of Global Victoria. Like government organisations in the other states, Global Victoria connects Victorian exporters with international buyers and businesses. What they know, that most of the public don’t, is that education is one of the country’s biggest exporters and that the sector is growing. And the reason that it is growing is that we do education really well in Australia.
We are not perfect by any means, there is much we can and need to do, but on a global scale we are very good at education. Educators in Australia are being constantly attacked for their deficiencies, for how they rank on different world tables. I would really like someone to ask whether there may actually be something wrong with the tools. I have worked in two states in Australia and three countries, and I can assure you we do education well. We may not teach our students how to pass tests or fit into boxes, but they tend to outperform others once they are faced with un-scaffolded tertiary expectations.
The government knows this. It also knows that the internet provides an unprecedented opportunity to work with other countries and lead the world in education theory and practice. Global Victoria is committed to assisting Victorian businesses to export their products and sponsoring the 5 Victorian businesses to participate in EduTECH 2019, was just one of their initiatives. Thanks Global Victoria, thanks EduGrowth, thanks all you awesome educators. It really was amazing.
We Teach Well