How EdTech Efforts Can Scale and Succeed in the U.K.
A conversation with education advisor Carol Allen
Part one in a two-part series
Carol Allen, an education advisor for technology and inclusion who currently holds the role of Senior Education Advisor for the Hartlepool Borough Council in the U.K. will be presenting on education technology's role in dyslexia, autism, and inclusion at the upcoming Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) next month in Miami.
She discusses the similarities and differences between the U.S. and U.K. in how edtech is both perceived and used. "I think we're much closer than we were a couple of years ago. If you had asked me, say four years ago, I would have said that there was a quite distinct difference. In America, there was [often] the will and interest to do things, but in some of the districts, there wasn't necessarily the structure or the support when you get down to the granular level of the classroom," says Allen. "I'm not saying that the U.K. is perfect. We do have the same issue, but I get the sense that it's slightly further along the road than it is in the U.S. But, then, you're a much bigger country."
But when it comes to universal design, she sees the U.S. leading the way in comparison to the U.K. She adds, "You are streaks ahead of us in America in universal design. The whole movement of universal design for learning is something I would love to see adopted here in the U.K. We are very 'hitty-missy' about that. Some companies and some products do incredibly well, and some do it very badly."
Whether it's working inside the U.K or the U.S., similarities exist in how edtech companies grab the ear of the education community. First and foremost, no matter the country, the product needs to be of quality.
"I've worked with a lot of U.K. businesses. I've worked with one or two that have American versions or settings as well. If you're going to work in another country, you've got to have a good product, and it's always interesting the number of things that arrive in my inbox saying, 'You have to look at this. This is game-changing.' But bless them, it's not," she says.
Secondly, edtech companies need to concentrate on providing a realistic picture of what their product is capable of doing. It takes testing by unbiased specialists who will give honest feedback on the features of the product. Allen adds, "You have to have a very realistic view of your own product, and that means product testing with practitioners─not practitioners who will say 'yes' to you because you take them out for a meal or they can keep the product in their classroom. You want people who are honest with you and say, 'These are the good features; these are the not-so-good features.'"
Complimenting a properly well-tested product is the third element of setting up a small-scale effort with key local representatives and then fanning out from there through organizations and government-backed interests.
"If it's the U.S. that's coming across to the U.K., one person from their company and somebody from the U.K. set up a very small-scale office. [Then] you have a genuine collaboration and information on how the system works in the U.K., how the local authorities work, and the key people to contact. [It takes] involvement in committees of the House of Lords, and contacts from that. You can get some of them to look at your product [and that] might be useful. It gives you a move into a political standing. There are also things like the British Assistive Technology Association (BATA) and linking to that and seeing which companies are in [their efforts]."
It's not just about localizing efforts nowadays; it's about individualization and adaptability. It's about personalization. Allen reflects, "Several years ago, people would make a piece of software and all they had to do was localize it [with] different accents and different vocabulary, and then [it] was fine. It doesn't work like that now; people are content creators. They want framework software. They want framework products where they can put their own materials in and personalize. It has to be about that individual content."
About Carol Allen
Carol Allen is Senior Education Advisor for the Hartlepool Borough Council. Carol was named one of the top ten educators for 2018 in the field of educational technology for her inclusion work, see #EdTech2018. She is also recognized as one of the UK’s 2018 EdTech 50, a prestigious recognition given by the UK’s Secretary of Education to the 50 people, products, and programs shaping education technology. Carol is also list owner for sld-forum, an international mailing list for practitioners and educators interested in the effective teaching and learning for those with complex barriers to learning.
Carol Allen on LinkedIn
Carol Allen's Sessions at FETC
- W207$ | Autism and Technology: Different for Girls?
- W166$ | Effective Inclusion in Early Learning: Technology and Sensory Communication
- C245 | The Magical World of Tech Tools & Dyslexia!
The 40th anniversary Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) will take place January 14-17, 2020 in Miami, Fla. Registration is now open at Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC)