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EdTech Voice Notes with Steven Hope

Welcome to the second episode of EdTech VoiceNotes, the podcast of the EdTech Summit.

In this week's episode of the EdTech VoiceNotes, we had the pleasure to catch up with Steven Hope, Head of Independent Learning at Leeds City College.

In our discussion, we had the opportunity to talk about future-ready learning, the effects of the lockdown on grading and assessment, and blended learning strategies for schools, colleges and universities.

Listen to the full episode here:

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To hear more from Steven Hope, alongside others leading in delivering effective digital and technology-focused solutions for education, secure your free pass here to the EdTech Summit, taking place online on the 18-19th November 2020.


Alessandro Bilotta 0:51
Welcome to the second episode of EdTech voice notes, the podcasts of the EdTech Summit. Each week, we interview leaders and experts on education, technology and digital strategies across the education sector. There is one question we'll try to answer every week. How can we bridge the gap between education and technology? Let's start with this week's episode. Steve, would you like to introduce yourself?

Steven Hope 1:15
Hi, I'm Steve Hope. I'm from Leeds and Yorkshire in the north of England right at the beginning, trained as a PE teacher and in FE setting. So post compulsory been doing that I did that for about 12 years taught a variety of different things in FE from level one and alternative provisions, so pre 16 all the way to level three, and then into HE and FE setting as well then moved into be an advanced practitioner. So supporting, mentoring and coaching other teachers. We were focused on technology and then, because I use technology heavily my delivery apps and things like that for analyzing sports performance and coaching, was a great set in and I had an opportunity to become the technology enhanced learning manager in the college then stemmed into independent learning. So I obviously, what used to be a library structure which has a focus on developing students skills, so what we call the four C's community, communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity, and also the advanced practitioners around technology enhanced learning and support that. As well as this I'm a director of Edgy Futurists. We run podcast training and mentor and coach people in the UK around the use of technology, but also have conversations on the podcast once a week about the future of education, not just technology. My other hat is that I am a chair of governors Primary School in Leeds, which is part of Wellspring trusts, called Elements. So a wonderful school and I'm sure I'll have an opportunity to, to share and talk about that going forward.

Alessandro Bilotta 2:40
We'll do our best to cover every aspect of your work during this episode. You have been with Leeds City College now for the past 15 years. How did you see the organization change in its approach to education technology?

Steven Hope 2:54
Technically, I have been related to college for the past 15 years in terms of my continued service, but I began my journey at Joseph Priestley college, Leeds City college became an entity in 2009. And then, through a merger, Joseph Priestley joined and became part of the family at the same time of Leeds College of Music that's now Leeds Conservatoire in 2011, so I joined and start teaching across both of them. Since that time, and through my teaching career, technology has been pivitol really and has seen many enhancements, there is still some people that I see and support across colleges and schools and even HE where they haven't still, they have a little bit because of COVID, but haven't moved across fully to engaging and try and supporting their teachers with using the digital or technology to enhance learning. But I thought both of those in my journey I've been, I was a learning innovation mentor and an advanced practitioner, with a focus on supporting teachers with technology, we were early adopters, I suppose if you can use that term around, and we saw the fact that technology could really help and enhance and engage learners, especially with some of the disadvantaged learners that we use. We move to the cloud, I would say fully for teacher learning, probably when I went when I came to post in as manager, and maybe a little bit before that, so we went Google, but I suppose it's not necessarily important in terms of which platform you use. We went cloud for teaching and learning, and that shift was so important because we haven't looked back. It allowed us to be device agnostic and give students device agnostic learning opportunities. So students could engage on any device, they didn't have to buy some new technology, they had a smartphone, if they had an old laptop, a PC or a Mac, whatever they had at home or in within then in the college they could use and that's pivotal. A lot of our students do learning on the bus because we have WiFi in Leeds and it's about extending learning we've focused on extended learning beyond the classroom and the four walls, and I think adopting what we call the martini model of any place, anytime, anywhere. That actually learning comes to life when you use technology, and I think that's been the biggest focus since 2016, around how can we look at the barriers potential that our students have? And how can we ensure that learners have the opportunity and the equity and the equality to learn, regardless of their barriers and their background? Technology can be divided, we've seen that during COVID. But we need to make sure that we use it and see the benefits of it. What I've seen is and especially has been heightened over the last six months or more, but we were well prepared for that. I think technology has shifted massively and has become to the forefront. So I am part of the central teaching learning team, and when I go and do observations and peer walks and support technologies ingrained, even in small instances, pretty much across the board in every curriculum that we see and every department that we see across Leeds, we are a part of the family here kiefel in Harrogate, as well as part of our FP colleges, part of the Lumina education group. And it's listed within there, whether that's quiz, whether that's an assessment, whether that's extending learning, engaging, accessibility feedback, you see essence of technology to enhance and engage learning, wherever we've had some really positive feedback, and we're on the news, I think it was last year or you before about how can we extend learning beyond the four walls. So not only for those students that potentially have a barrier of why they can't come in, such as childcare and those kinds of issues. But also for those students that might be Olympians or future Olympians or play a competitive sport, that actually are away for a period of time where because we use a cloud platform, students can engage from anywhere and get support from anywhere and that's really massive for us, and I think that has been the biggest change. Cloud has allowed us to extend learning, enhance it, and encourage learning to be extended beyond the four walls of a classroom and the four walls of a college building.

Alessandro Bilotta 6:49
What you describe is a proper journey into technology, and I think these are the insights that would be useful for our listeners to hear about. So if you could tell us a little bit more about the college's digital strategy, and what are its key elements that you would identify as such?

Steven Hope 7:11
Yeah, of course, I wrote, I wouldn't say digital digital strategy, we do technically have a digital strategy, but I am so focused on learning that we have a blended learning strategy for the colleges. The focus of that is about learning beyond buildings and different approach to traditional methods, it looks at a glossary of terms. So you talk about asynchronous and synchronous, you need people to understand what the terminology is really, and not to expect not to tell them how to kegs but also not to expect that they know everything, and that supports key, I think, to really reflect on what we've done well so far, and also what we could improve, so the current state of play of where we're at. I think we need to think about the assessment of our learners access to devices and connectivity and look at that equity and equality of access to learn in college is doing some amazing work, and we were in a grip position where we could hand out devices to our students, but we need to go further than that, that if there is a hybrid model where some students are in we need some of those devices back, so making a massive investment in access to learning, including Wi Fi and connectivity. Then looking at what does the teacher need in terms of planning for learning and assessment? Online Teaching is very different to online teaching and learning. And I think he said heavily focused on a learning strategy of what we want our students to learn, how we want them to learn, how we're going to assess that, how we're going to look at progress, and how we're going to provide feedback and meaningful, insightful feedback, that's not overburdening for staff that helps them to be more efficient, but also actually works and makes it more effective, so students can respond and improve based on that. Need to look at curriculum planning and delivery at the top level. So each department, what are they actually planning? What their timetables like? How how much have they planned in for blended? Have they considered learners? Not regardless of level, but actually what type of learners have got on the course, then looks at schemes of learning? What does that look like? example, structures, feedback? How are they going to do that delivery of synchronous and asynchronous? So whether students are gonna all do it at the same time, or whether they're going to have an opportunity to be a bit more flexible in that? The importance of actually when you're doing a live session, should it be live delivery? Or actually should it be working with us to build a community, a collaborative approach when she was not in the building? So there's a feeling of family and community, a cop across the group and a class, but also tackling misconceptions. So they don't feel that the only person who might have have not done it right that time because when they're in the class will have a conversation with their peers. Looking at blended learning, safeguarding for that, how will quality assure this process to make sure that we're not telling people how to do things, but also we're looking at coaching and supporting those people. So when a teacher is and we look at quality assurance that we get it right for students, but also we're getting it right for staff and we've been supportive and not dictating to them. So as well as that looking at planning for learning and progress, we're also looking at the strands in terms of CPD. So what we can offer and learning for staff, so strands for teacher learning, person that created, but also the use of technology, so we have three strands for each, and also then signposting for additional support, and where they can get that quickly if they need it. We've built a Google site to support that with help guides, videos, there's lots to go out, all wrapped around a focus on not just digital, but a focus on learning, and how blended learning is different to potentially the traditional methods that we might have used a few years ago, or what if they're coming to the college for the first time? What might be different from where they've delivered previously.

Alessandro Bilotta 10:46
If a fellow education leader were to start working on an organic, blended learning digital strategy from scratch, or were to review the current strategy, what one piece of advice would you give them?

Steven Hope 10:59
Wow, one piece of advice, Okay. I'm gonna, rather than one, I'm gonna go, I'm gonna be a couple if that's okay, I'm gonna focus on learning, not just technology, and the digital strategy, focus on how technology can enhance learning how it can engage people into learning, and also how it can extend it, as I've talked about, beyond the four walls of a classroom and a building for those people that need it. Technology is not a magic wand. And it's about empowering staff to see the wonder, and they are the best app that we can have in a college. So they bring it to life, they put apply to the context of their learners, they have an understanding of what they need, and they can then use that technology to tick all of those boxes and really bring it to life. I think you need to empower staff, so they have a, they're encouraged, but also they see the benefit, and then they engage in wanting to innovate, wanting to learn, wanting to think about different ways of delivering for the benefit of their learners. And it's about professional learning and development and I think that's key as well. One other piece of advice would be, don't try and do on your own. There's not a lot of opportunities, open up your personal learning network, and I'm a strong believer that innovation is not one person's ideas, that actually it's a collaborative approach, like the Pixar moment, where they use so many different people to create a really outstanding piece of work, which is a movie and I think we need to do that in terms of every piece of work in education, that we need to bring people together to work on different elements of it, to use their advice, and to idea and and really bring something together that is beyond one person's views. Because if you listen to one person's views, actually, it's a very narrow focus. So yeah, collaborate with people in your organization and beyond, open up and ask for help. there will be already people out there that have written something that can then be tailored and applied to the context of your organization, that you don't have to start and reinvent the wheel.

Alessandro Bilotta 12:47
All right, I'll allow more than one piece of advice. But I need to be careful here. Because last week, Vicki already commented on the fact that these might be hard questions. But anyway, next question. National lockdown has been eased. Here in the UK, even though now measures of local lockdown have already been put in place for some parts of the country. It might still be time, though, to start our first review of what happened in the past six months. But you have already briefly mentioned it. But what has been lead City College's reaction to COVID-19 and the lockdown, how ready was the college for these forced transition to basically full online learning?

Steven Hope 13:30
Yeah, it's an interesting one that I think we were probably more ready, than some others, I think, we were lucky that we focused on technology both in and outside of the classroom, as I mentioned, for quite a few years, and our staff were supported, and had CPD around that on a regular basis. And we're focused on that as part of their learning process with us. They have ownership and autonomy to to do that. It was more of a switch of using those methods to be fully online. It weren't perfect by any means, but I think we had a great show. And actually the feedback from our learners, it was very, very positive. A lot of learners are high in the high 90s with the talking about the benefit and actually they saw that they were making progress. I think we also give out many devices. We handed out thousands of Chromebooks to to our learners so they could engage when they didn't have that, an access to learning and connectivity as well. We've also then pushed through and fast tracks, the new blended learning strategies that actually if a lockdown was to happen, it will only geared up for a big percentage of our learning to be happening, not face to face, but a mixture of blended so face to face and online learning, asynchronous activities, high quality assessment and feedback and learning experiences. So if we do do a two week out, two week in process, that actually it's just a shift of not blended but fully online for that. I think we might have ask practitioners so did an amazing job, and they're a small team, there's only two of them, or there were two of them. One of those moves on to the ETF now in supporting now hundreds and hundreds of staff across the colleges to support them in regards to what essentials are needed for blended learning, top tips, tools, online coaching and mentoring training. And that was rolled out really, really quickly and as a part of mechanism for those staff who maybe hadn't engaged as much as some had before lockdown as well. But I can say not not perfect, but I think our students on the whole, got a really good experience. My frustration, as an individual, rather than without the college hat on was that learning was talked about being stopped. But actually a lot of learning and assessment, and because of the central assessment and grading, would only be taken pre COVID, when actually some of our learners came to life during lockdown, and actually would have been great if we could have used some of that evidence in terms of their central assessment grading for GCSEs and beyond that, so my frustration that we felt that learning and being told to stop when actual learning could have continued.

Alessandro Bilotta 16:01
What I would say is that probably for no organization, it was possible to achieve a perfect result. But based on what you describe, and the results leads to college as achieved up, definitely, you had a plan and you managed to pull through with great results. Definitely what happened here in the UK with the assessment, and grading probably shows that you were ahead of the curve. And if was just about your college, you would manage the situation in a different way. Leeds City College is part of luminator Education Group, a network that brings together a number of secondary further and higher education institution in Yorkshire. At the EdTech summit, we precisely aim at bringing together stakeholders from all education levels to discuss common opportunities and challenges. How do these institutions cooperate in your group? And what is the level of crossover among them in terms of implementation of technology and approach to digital strategies?

Steven Hope 17:06
Yeah, that's correct. Luminate Education Group was was formed. We'd always work together as a family but I think just calling it leads to college group, what was an ideal I think it needed to be felt like it was a shared ownership. And like I say it is a family. So yeah, includes three schools and a primary school, as well as that as part of the White Rose Academy Trust includes what is usually called music, which is now leads Conservatoire, and then Harrogate leads and key flip apologies. Helicopter going over. So hopefully, you can still hear me. And but I think we share and collaborate and where possible. Every one of those institutions has learning and students at their heart. So there is a shared vision, and a shared focus on that. My line manager has now moved up. So one above that is Jeannie Rogers. She's the vice principal of teacher learning across the group. And I think we have support mechanisms that transcend the boundary of silos of organizations and transcends sector, so primaries, secondaries, FE, and HE. It's all about learning and yes, that might look slightly different. But actually, if you focus on learning, there is a commonality in terms of what the goals that we're trying to achieve. Last year, so 2019, we had our first Luminate Education Group, teacher conference, where every teacher from the whole of the group was invited to access learning, and that brought thousands of teachers together, which was absolutely fantastic. Due to COVID, we switched that and I oversaw that with the support from the end of teaching, learning and assessment, and we did a virtual staff development during the conference, and again, that transcend across all of the groups anybody could access that it had people pitching in, not just teaching learning, but focused on SEND, well-being and so much more. where we delivered live streams, but we also had asynchronous and synchronous activities where people could pitch in for a while. And also if they were teaching or they didn't work on a particular day, they could watch, which was hosted on a Google site as well, that went really, really well. Because of that, it's likely that we will be doing the conference virtually again next year. But that's to be confirmed. I think so. Yeah. I think that shared commonality in terms of learning, doing our best for students should transcend across any education, organization and sector, I think.

Alessandro Bilotta 19:27
Going online, so I guess I'll have to provide an update on going online for our show as well. But more on this later. When you wear your hat of our Chair of governors at the primary school, you mentioned how much if at all, does your approach change towards technology and blended learning?

Steven Hope 19:49
If I'm honest, it's more of a supportive mechanism in terms of my approach, for because a chair of governors I don't make decisions and everything else, I support the head in terms of their leadership decisions, but Elements is a fantastic school and one which I've supported before it actually opened in terms of its journey. The executive principal Sarah Halls-Bruce is absolutely fantastic in her approach to technology. So I supported them in terms of their use of Google and the plans for that for the center, bring part of Wellspring Academy trust. So that's where the journey started, I was then asked to be part of the governing body and then the chair, I don't think it does change, they are completely cloud, in terms of their learning processes. The school is new, it's in a brand new building, so the schools only been going for for three years? It's in the heart of a community that I know well, I don't think it changes, I think my passion, my beliefs, and everything else is around maybe futurists approach or looking at non traditional teaching methods, but with an understanding that actually teaching learning should be a blended approach. So if I'm honest, it doesn't. Sometimes I have to curve it, because I'm not making the decisions and i'm more informative like, say, consultant, but it's a fantastic school and so proud to be part of it. I think the work that they are doing with their community and what they did in COVID, in terms of handing out devices, bringing the students together from reception, and year one, and now are into year two from September was to be commended. The teachers are absolutely fantastic, digital and blended is part of their delivery. The use of technology is fantastic, and yeah, so proud to be part of it, if I'm honest.

Alessandro Bilotta 21:30
Well, I think that it's heartwarming for anyone listening today, listening to the passion that you have for the sector for technology for learning. Going back to the current times, with now many learners going back to schools, colleges, universities, after months of disrupted learning, of course, disrupted to a different extent. What is the approach that you would adopt on a scale that goes from recovering the lost time, which is maybe a more conservative position to rethinking the system? Our revolutionary stance?

Steven Hope 22:05
Yeah, well, interesting to start to think about what where we take it, I think my first approach would be, let's move away from the sheep dip approach to catch up for students. And let's really look at the starting points of their learners. Because for some, actually, they haven't been engaged, we've had some students who arrived to haven't had any delivery, and have lost a lot of learning and a lot of that environment and the skill development for the last six months. But actually, we've got some students that have come and absolutely blossomed and done so well, and learn so much have been actively learning themselves through this time. So actually, I think by just saying, well, everybody needs this, I think is an incorrect approach. I think everybody needs to have a an assessment, when they come in to look at what their starting point is, like you will do a lot of the times anyway, I think we need to look at and really do the research around why those students succeeded? Is it the fact that we need to build more resilience and, critical thinking in learners those kinds of skills? which we do anyway, I think, subject knowledge is so important. So if a student comes to do some learning for a particular reason, that's fine. And they will get that concept. But actually, what we've set up and I think what we need to focus on is that holistic approach to learning I mentioned it before the critical thinking, the the ability to be creative, to communicate and collaborate, whether that's online, or whether that's face to face, the skills, not just the knowledge that students will need to be successful in their learning journey, whether their primary, secondary, further or into higher education, what industry they're going to go into what work they're going to do, what skills they will actually need. Because when you speak to industry, beyond education, the exam system is allowing them to regurgitate information, and that that is important in some bits. But a lot of it's not real life, we need to develop beyond that so that the students can actually be rounded individuals, and really focus, I think we need to start to look at that this we branded as independent learning skills. But I think beyond just a subject knowledge is important. I also think that we need to look at lobbying for z change in the system, I think we were doing so much ground level, we need to push it stronger. And I think some of the views at the top level, and I'm not going to go too political, but it's an outdated view, in my belief, and some of the other people do believe that as well. And I think we need to be moving beyond that. That actually, in this day and age and assessment is important, and examine some situations is important, but it shouldn't be the be all and end all for all of our learners at the age of 16, or whenever they sit it, that is the end point of their learning and that's when they're told, well done. Thank you very much. You're either a pass or are you if you succeed, you've been successful or you're a failure. That's not gonna breed learners wanting to be lifelong learners and passionate about it. I think we need to change that flip it and breed learners who are ready to learn history beyond the fact that they've just been switched off because they only have to pass an exam and that is it. It has to, we have to do things differently. We need to look at, not completely take the models of reverse, but look at what's happening in Finland, and look at examples of that and really start to think about their approaches to removing subjects. Project based learning, I think is should be a focus. We need to start to build that into our sectors in education across the board of how students can apply knowledge of different contexts of maths, English, science, and all those different things to a subject that really excites them. If you haven't before, go look at the Agora School in Holland, some absolutely outstanding work and fantastic approaches they've taken, with still the same shackles of a system in terms of exams and passing at the end. So yeah, go go look at that. Go check them out, Agora.

Alessandro Bilotta 25:50
I do agree with you. I think it's a matter of freedom and independence to the ground level to actually allow for personalized learning. And technology empowers learners and educators to personalized learning. You have a post on the education sector. Also, because of your role as host of the weekly podcasts, you futurists, there's been a lot of discussions in recent years about Fourth Industrial Revolution, preparing the class of 2030 for the future of work, do you think these discussions are actually putting emotional change in education system? A change that could provide learners with the skills they need out of the classroom? Or are we still missing the mark? And on this point, what do you think of the initiative that Google has launched, Google career certificates? Basically, certificates that in just six months will provide learners with the adequate skills to perform jobs that are in high demand?

Steven Hope 26:49
Yeah, I think that's a really big topic. Really, I think. Are we preparing students for 2030? Maybe not? Should we be preparing them for actually, are we preparing them for for the world of work today? Actually, maybe not? I think a lot of employers that you speak to are saying, Yeah, these people have these qualifications, but actually, can they do this? If they're a web designer, can they can they work to a project and the design? Can engage with the people who are actually asking them to do the project? You know, the customers, can do that? And sometimes we're lacking in that I think we need to move beyond that. I think if you look at some of these big EdTech companies, and I know Google is one but Microsoft and some others as well, they're not looking at degrees, because actually, the research they've done shows that the people that are joining them, without the degrees often will accelerate and move beyond that. And, whether you think that's right or wrong is a different, different thing. But I think we need to definitely look beyond it. I think we need to look at the skills that employers are asking for. I think there's a great example in terms of the XP School, where they're looking and engaging with employers to actually say, What do you actually need in the context of that environment? So Leeds might be different to London and London might be different to Manchester, Manchester might be different to Birmingham. So let's say what do we actually need in terms of skills as well as the qualification to make sure that we're providing a student or an employee that is actually ready for the world of work, whatever our industry, whenever that comes. I think I've talked about in terms of the four C's, that needs to be embedded, I think it has to be embedded for our education to make each of the students have those skills. But beyond that, as well. There's lots of reports on what the top ten or top five skills of industry is looking at. Are we using that as a guide to make sure that we're providing learners and people that are ready for the world of today? Nevermind 2030. I think it's not necessarily the schools and teachers fault. I don't think it is, I think, because we're so driven by league tables and the end result of in terms of an exam, and that's how we set up the data, there's not a lot of time to make sure that we have an approach to support that, they're so focused on that curriculum and that subject that actually they don't have enough time to do that. So yeah, we need to shift. Google in regards to their platform, I think it's a great idea. And I think there's so much out there, we've been using the applied digital skills stuff, but there's the idea platform, there's loads of different things out there, where actually students can develop those skills in readiness. So more for it, IBM are doing some great work with their PTech and their open PTech stuff. And I know Microsoft, and Apple have some engagement in terms of platform as well. Everybody needs to be looking at those in tutorials and, whatever that looks like outside of the classroom or as an alternative to stretch and challenge students to develop their skills further. We're ready for it. The world is ready for it. Never mind 2030. But I think education and the gap between education and actually what employers and industry is looking for is widening, and we need to catch up in education. But that needs a massive shift and a massive culture change across the organization. And I think that That's a big word that we need, that i've not mentioned yet, culture, what is the culture? what we're trying to achieve? Why are we doing this? Is it to pass an exam? Or actually is it to prepare students for the world? And I think I'll get down off my soapbox. But that Yeah, we need to be definitely doing more 100%.

Alessandro Bilotta 30:17
I do agree with you, I think that probably we still need to catch the technological progress in the present. And then from there move forward to the future. So there is a lot of work that needs to be done, but the sector is moving. So we will see great results soon. I have one final question. Based on your experience, what is the key to bridging the gap between education and technology?

Steven Hope 30:46
I think the key is that it is a strand of teaching and learning, and a focus on learning that technology is not an add on. It's teaching not teching. And I think that has to be the focus that education technologies, if it is seen as an add on or an option, that actually people will have an option to decide whether they're going to use it or not. So I think that whole joining approach of a learning strategy, it has technology within embedded within it is a focus and has to be and will bridge the gap then, as well as a real focus on development and support and making sure that we can empower our staff to empower our students with the use of technology, both in and outside of the classroom.

Alessandro Bilotta 31:26
Well, thank you, Steve. It's been a pleasure.

Steve Hope 31:29
Pleasures all mine. Yes, thanks for inviting me on.

Alessandro Bilotta 31:31
So that's it for today. You can hear more from Steve listening to his podcasts Edufuturists. He'll also be one of our speakers at the EdTech Summit, which will now take place online. Good news for our international audience. Same dates as before 18th and 19th of November 2020. To check the agenda. All speakers confirmed and also register for free. Visit our website I'm Alessandra Bilotta. Content lead of the ad Tech Summit. Until next time.