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Al Kingsley

How the EdTech community powers progress

What’s the best way to make a difference when significant change is needed?

For teachers working in education sectors across the world, it’s a perpetual issue. Many strive to innovate in their classrooms, creating forward-thinking provision for their students to equip them with the skills needed for the future. Yet in the face of inadequate budgets, bureaucracy and sometimes questionable decisions from education departments, it’s difficult to see how those small-scale wins can influence the bigger picture.

That’s where communities come in. The education and edtech sectors are an exemplar of teamwork: educators, leaders and vendors pulling together, pooling their resources and sharing knowledge to help their colleagues, whether they know them in person or not!

The benefits of belonging

Being part of a group with a shared interest or objective alongside other like-minded people is powerful. Not just in achieving goals but also where our wellbeing is concerned. We all gain strength from feeling part of something where we feel we belong and can have our voices heard.

Communities are good for us. When we think about mental health and wellbeing, the challenges for the workforce and the sector, the common denominator is the support we get from our peers – both practical and emotional. There is strength in numbers and, as I reflect on my own personal learning network, there is a perception that one of the easiest ways to save time is to work together, learn from each other, seek and give advice, and share our resources. And talking about what has not worked for us is as important as what has, so colleagues can save time learning what we have just learned ourselves.

What makes a great community?

While taking part in individual conversations is beneficial at a low level, the most impactful communities draw people together to share and learn new things en masse. Whether in person or online, larger-scale events such as conferences, forums and exhibitions galvanise support and are the perfect forum for networking and finding new inspiration to take back to our respective schools.

This is where in-person events like GESS Dubai provide a fantastic opportunity for educators and edtech vendors alike. For me and my company, NetSupport, they are certainly among the high points of the year. All the edtech creators come together to showcase their solutions for schools to see all the latest edtech innovations, personalised demonstrations of solutions, and ask questions to see how solutions would fit into their school’s context.

It’s also a great chance for everyone to meet members of their virtual PLN in real life. Moreover, with a varied conference programme running alongside, educators have some great in-person CPD opportunities where they are sure to learn new ideas to try out in their classrooms.

A special place

The EdTech community has a strong collective voice that can sometimes keep even governmental education departments on their toes. Often, legislators forming the policies that schools must adhere to are not as up-to-date with either education or technology as the practitioners and product developers on the ground and therefore lack the necessary insights to push things forward. It is EdTech developers, educators, and schools – together – who show them how things can happen (such as using mobile phones for learning or achieving things like boosting educator EdTech confidence and saving teachers time through clever product design) when it appears that their own ideas fall short.

The education sector is unique in its capacity for sharing and support. For all the challenges each school year may present us with, we can consider ourselves fortunate that, if we are looking for answers to our edtech and teaching practice questions, we can all turn to our PLNs for advice to inform our next steps. There is real strength in the edtech community – and long may it continue.