Three Makes a Movement: Branson creates youth panel for student voice in ed tech

Based on my involvement in the Evolve conference sponsored by the 20 Million Minds Foundation, held in January, I wrote a series of posts covering the discussions around online education and educational technology. The three main posts:

During the conference I put out a call for other conferences to follow 20MM’s lead and work harder to directly include students in their discussions of ed tech – full post here and video below:

Before we get to the analyses, however, it is important to highlight once again how unique this format is in education or ed tech settings. There is plenty of discussion about needing course design and support services that are learner-centric, yet typically ed tech conferences don’t have learner-centric discussions. We need to stop just talking about students and add the element of talking with students.

While I do not believe there is a direct connection, this week Sir Richard Branson created a youth panel as part of the UK’s Generation Tech review, giving students a direct voice in educational technology. The panel’s focus is K-12 usage and is described in The Telegraph:

Young people will be given the chance to voice their ideas about how technology can support learning in the UK, thanks to a new council being created as part of the ‘Generation Tech’ review.

The new Digital Youth Council, a panel of students aged between 13 and 17, will share their experiences with technology and discuss ways in which education technology can be improved in a classroom setting. [snip]

The council is being created as part of a wider review, launched at the end of April and led by Sir Richard Branson, looking at what impact technology is having in schools and what the future holds for teachers and pupils alike.

As children become increasingly confident using new technology, schools have often struggled to keep up – however, many classrooms are now equipped with tablets, interactive white boards and online learning platforms which allow teachers to more effectively monitor pupils’ learning.

The wider Generation Tech review is set to analyse how these new technologies are impacting education.

This is welcome news, and I hope these two efforts, along with WCET’s commitment for a student panel in their fall conference, mark the start of a movement. Who else will join? Are there other examples people can share in the comments?

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About Phil Hill

Phil is a consultant and industry analyst covering the educational technology market primarily for higher education. He has written for e-Literate since Aug 2011. For a more complete biography, view his profile page.
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4 Responses to Three Makes a Movement: Branson creates youth panel for student voice in ed tech

  1. While I am all in favour of student participation – including panels – at conferences, I really don’t think the more recent two events constitute the ‘start” of such a movement. A simple Google search on “student panel” (in quotes) yields 199,000 results.“student+panel” Even a search for Ed Tech student panels specifically yields more than 2,000 results. So I think that the trend is qwell-established; perhaps where it is new is among the 20MM and Branson Foundations of the world (which are often the last places to get it, and the first to claim credit).

  2. Phil Hill says:

    Stephen, it sounds like we agree on the end goals, but I’m not convinced by ‘simple Google searches’ that student panels are well-established. At the conferences I attend, student panels / interview / real input is woefully lacking and often not even considered. Do I attend the wrong conferences, or have you seen meaningful student input at events?

    The other issue is that both 20MM and Branson have gone beyond a token panel. The 20MM event was entirely organized around the students – other panelists spoke to the students, and the students lead the Q&A. The Branson youth council appears to have a significant role in the Generation Tech review aimed at funding priorities in the UK. Unless I’m just missing a series of events with significant student input, I would hardly consider 20MM/Branson as late adopters and early boasters – it seems to me they actually are leading the pack.

  3. Well I’m a veteran of many student conferences – such as the Canadian Federation of Students and Canadian University Press – so I’m quite sure there’s no shortage of student conferences, and conferences that include students. Maybe “conferences organized around the students” is a new thing – is that one where the organizers pick the students that will participate, rather than the students selecting themselves? I’ve also seen – and reported on – meaningful student participation in Ed Tech conferences for years, as far back as 2002 in Regina, when students ran the conference media in an AMTEC conference. The EduCamp conferences run by Diego Leal were run mostly by students. I’ve seen student panels, student keynotes (one of which I mention today from Alt-C), student association presentations, and much more.The Google searches were illustrative, not proof. But you’ll find many examples in the searches, and if you aren’t seeing them at the conferences you attend, then maybe indeed you are attending the wrong conferences.

  4. Phil Hill says:

    Stephen – thanks for info. I’ll check out some of these references.

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