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EdTech Voice Notes: The 5 Pillars of a Digital Strategy

Welcome to the second episode in the second series of EdTech Voice Notes, the podcast of the EdTech Summit.

In this episode we hear from Adam Levy, Head of Digital Solutions at Computacenter, about the importance of digital strategies in the context of the 2020 pandemic and the future of the education system.

To learn more about the EdTech Summit, please visit

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Alessandro Bilotta  00:02

Hello, hello, hello. Here's to a new episode of edtech voice notes


Alessandro Bilotta  00:49

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the second episode of the new series of edtech voice notes. We hope that you managed to attend Edtech Update in April and that you enjoyed the sessions that took place over the two days.


Alessandro Bilotta  01:03

Today, I would like to present you an abridged version of one of the most attended sessions, "Remote, Not Removed: The New Era of Digital Education". This was the opening keynote of the first day of the event, and it was delivered by Adam Levy from our partner, Computacenter. I'll let Adam introduce himself and Computacenter's work.


Adam Levy  01:24

I'm Adam Levy, Head of Digital Solutions Computacenter. Computacenter is a leading independent technology partner. We help educational institutions source transform and manage their technology infrastructure to deliver digital transformation, enabling better teacher and student experiences. We do this by reducing technology costs and complexity whilst improving the quality of digital solutions and services. I've been a proud member of the Computacenter team that was involved in the Department of Education's "Get Help with Technology" programme.


Alessandro Bilotta  01:58

Let's hear Adam analyse the context of the past 18 months and how the challenges of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have represented a drive for tech innovation. How will this affect the future of the educational system?


Adam Levy  02:13

The past year has seen a huge amount of change collaboration of progress. COVID-19 has been an incredible catalyst has driven the uptake in technology in educational settings, for supporting functions and even in our homes.


Adam Levy  02:26

Budgets aren't increasing in line with demand. So we need to do more with the same or ideally more or less. We need to bring people along with us on the journey. And we need to create new types of engagement.


Adam Levy  02:37

How do we do all this and at the same time preempt and navigate some of the challenges that are going to be created along the way? How do we build for the future? Make bets in those critical skills that we're going to need? And how do we do this as the speed of change and innovation continues to increase?


Adam Levy  02:52

Let us briefly start by talking about the past year. It's been a year characterised by the community coming together and making huge strides to bridge the gap between technology and education. There are several themes that have emerged from COVID-19, which will shape the future and they will impact our everyday lives. These include solving the digital divide, digitalization of services, and driving in hearts experience. As well as adapting to that increasing speed of change and innovation.


Adam Levy  03:21

We've seen, a huge shift to homeschooling, empty and hugely reduced numbers in classrooms. We've seen an incredible and herculean efforts around remote learning alongside supporting children of key workers. speaking personally as the son of two teachers, I always understood the challenges and rewards of the role. But I don't think the nation has ever been more appreciative of the teaching community. I'm also the father of a six and an eight year old, and homeschooling was incredibly challenging, but we did our best.


Adam Levy  03:53

We were able to support the Department for Education to get help with technology programme. I won't talk too much about the programme, but it was to deliver devices and internet access to disadvantaged pupils and students during the pandemic. It was a really what we brought to that that programme was leveraging our source and deploy capability to rapidly address the requirements of the departments to work with 11 different vendors to develop a solution that worked and to manage the multiple service and logistical considerations as well.


Adam Levy  04:28

Let's talk about the tech sector more broadly, it's been a year of incredible growth. We've seen 72% growth in the UK edtech sector, we've seen an increase of 56% of roles advertised in the UK tech sector this year. And if you look at the broader, more international picture 41% of all edtech investment in Europe was in the UK. And the growth in the tech sector has taken the market to approximately 3.5 pounds according to a recent study, now we've seen a small increase in public sector expenditure in education. But UK spends 4.6% of GDP on education, and this is one of the lowest shares in Europe. So if edtech is spending is increased, then then it must have a role first and foremost to drive out inefficiency, and cost and find smarter, more efficient and more innovative ways of working.


Adam Levy  05:26

The UK sector has other challenges to overcrowding and classrooms, which we in a primary school setting, we have the highest people to teacher ratio in Europe, and we have the fourth highest pupil teacher ratio when comparing ourselves with our European colleagues in the high school setting. Whilst lamentable, this disruption that we've seen for COVID-19 offers us some valuable lessons and provides us with a unique opportunity to reimagine education, the curriculum, and what's most important.


Alessandro Bilotta  05:59

Here at the Edtech Summit, we believe in the importance of a digital strategy. As this is the essential element of a successful digital transformation. Computacenter has identified five elements that education leaders must take into consideration when they craft a digital strategy for various tuition.


Adam Levy  06:19

I believe that the future is going to be characterised by a few fundamentals. The most important is to build a pragmatic digital strategy. Wherever you are on your journey, whether you're just starting out, whether you're looking to get the most out of some recent tactical investment, or if you're using the past year to review and reinvigorate your strategy, the process itself provides a fantastic opportunity to get the whole institution, the whole school, the whole college, the whole university, the whole department together, to revisit the priorities, to understand the stakeholder and user groups much better, and to bring people along with you on that journey.


Adam Levy  06:56

Here's a five pillar approach that many of the most progressive organisations and institutions in the sector are looking at, hopefully will provide you with some clarity to help you prioritise and a basis to review some some some of your progress along the way.


Adam Levy  07:12

The five pillars are vision, alignment, people, technology, and change management. You'll notice that technology doesn't sit at the very front of this. It's an embedded capability. It must support the institution's needs, but it must, it must follow and support people and process priorities to let's talk about vision. A comprehensive vision must ensure that the the adoption of technology supports the wider aims of the institution. As such, it should strengthen and accelerate school, college and university improvement plans.


Adam Levy  07:48

The future of learning is going to be very much student centric, social, personalised and supported by technology. And as I mentioned, I see technology very much as embodied in embedded capability. It's going to be key and an intrinsic component of how we bolster student progress and outcomes. But it's also going to ensure that education continues its journey to be limitless anytime, anywhere.


Adam Levy  08:16

Let's talk about alignment, which is something that is such a critical components. The most progressive institutions are striving for that whole school, whole college whole university engagement early that will include every major stakeholder group, and let me share with you a few dimensions to think about. Firstly, kind of most importantly, is funding.


Adam Levy  08:38

A recent Gartner study from October found that technology decision making is now tougher than ever, and many institutions will need to involve 14 to 23 stakeholders in any technology decision. So, engagement and buying is of critical importance.


Adam Levy  08:55

Secondly, we at Computacenter recommend a persona based approach. What we mean by this is, looking at the current and future needs of every single workstyle in your institution of every single stakeholder looking at the necessary skills, their technology systems, accessibility, security and data requirements. And we must also ensure that all KPIs are connected and aligned.


Adam Levy  09:21

Let's talk about the people pillar. We need to improve access to excellent curriculum content and resources to improve professional collaboration and to surface actionable insights to enable more flexible teaching practices. securing a curriculum approach ensures that accessibility and inclusion is a consideration from the start, including a focus on pupils with special educational needs and or disabilities and also those who can't be present or excluded or suspended for example, and rightly there is now a huge focus on wellbeing.


Adam Levy  09:55

From a study in November 2020 75% of teachers say surveyed, felt completely overwhelmed by their workload. And rightly, many institutions are making this an organisational priority. Finally, as we focus on the digital skills and experiences required, and those ever increasing speed of change and innovation, I believe a critical ongoing function will be around adoption, adoption as a central focus for an institution.


Adam Levy  10:26

So, technologies for sure has a role in this. But technology. First and foremost, as I mentioned, is all around driving automation, reducing teacher workloads, and addressing inefficiency in your institution. Technology has a huge role in that. And a recent study from our partner, Microsoft found that there's an up to 30% opportunity to get time back for for teachers to help them gain better insights into edge of individual learning, and help amplify the abilities of students to better adoption of technology. cloud strategy is going to be central to too many of you.


Adam Levy  11:05

And cloud, for example, contribute to what I believe is spend a safe to spend approach, what I call two step to set technology, which is first and foremost, doing things cheaper, doing things easier, consolidating inefficient, or overlapping processes and technologies, and freeing up that funding and freeing up your critical resources and skills to then look at innovation and change.


Adam Levy  11:32

And I do want to touch on innovation, where for for a brief moment, I think there's going to be a huge amount of innovation in and around connectivity, including Internet of Things. I think analytics and data driven insights are going to be critical. And I think immersive education through virtual augmented and mixed reality experiences are becoming more and more prevalent in our discussions with our clients. But let's also be pragmatic, I think 2021 is the year of pragmatism, let's focus on the here.


Adam Levy  12:01

And now, as mentioned, there's a huge opportunity around overlapping or unnecessary technology in your estates and in your infrastructure. So I'll be talking a little bit around optimization and assessment services to unlock the residual value of technology in your state.


Adam Levy  12:19

Security and safeguarding are absolutely non negotiable and continue to be, we seen a step change really from an initial focus on brilliant basics in connectivity, to now more secure by design thinking. But we must also look at the services that we provide the services that are consumed in within institutions. And we're seeing a huge trend around moving to zero touch and lower impact services, to support users in more of a distributed environments, to help around literacy in digital and help around adoption. And make sure that as a service, analytics driven services are evergreen, finally, if the past year has taught us anything, is that things don't always go to plan, the most successful institutions will build flexibility into their approach. And most importantly, the infrastructure is a huge enabler to allow allow you to adapt to change, scale up scale down the use of your services to deliver experiences differently, remotely, or in the new hybrid normal that we find ourselves in.


Adam Levy  13:30

Let's talk about change management, led to an earlier point I mentioned about funding, I think that's a total economic impact or ti approach is going to be really, really valuable for many institutions. And what I mean by this is that we should be regularly revisiting inflight and delivered projects to review their impact to drive accountability around promises made, and also to look to further derive benefit were possible from those inflight and delivered programmes.


Adam Levy  13:59

Hopefully, this gives you a sense of the five pillars that we believe will help bridge the gap between technology and education. So where are we today? You know, when I was asked to be involved in this event, I cast my mind back over previous sessions. And there are a few things that I wanted to ensure that I didn't do, I wanted to, you know, keep in mind, in my mind that nobody is starting from a blank page. And therefore it's really, really critically important that you understand where you are, you also have a very finite finite set of resources. And therefore there should be a greater investment, and a greater focus on the skills and the investments that are going to be required in the short to medium term.


Adam Levy  14:42

Therefore, one of my biggest takeaways around pragmatism is to leverage assessment services, to leverage optimization services, whether they be pre packaged or bespoke, to help define the query, the key capabilities and the critical parts of your technology estate that you're going wants to leverage and build on in future and that and the importance of a centralised and flexible infrastructure.


Alessandro Bilotta  15:07

To recap, its vision, alignment, people technology and change management. We will keep exploring how to create and implement digital strategies, able to bridge the gap between education and technology with future episodes of our podcast and also at the upcoming EdTech Summit show, which will take place on the 17th and 18th of November 2021, at the NEC in Birmingham.


Alessandro Bilotta  15:34

This is it for me today. I'll let Adam conclude this episode with a few words. Bye for now.


Adam Levy  15:41

I think it's fair to say that the digital strategies that are inclusive, pragmatic and flexible are going to be the ones that give you the best possible speed and chances of success on your journey.