Edtech Insiders

The Secrets of Edtech with Al Kingsley of Edtech Shared

May 29, 2023 Alex Sarlin Season 6 Episode 6
The Secrets of Edtech with Al Kingsley of Edtech Shared
Edtech Insiders
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Edtech Insiders
The Secrets of Edtech with Al Kingsley of Edtech Shared
May 29, 2023 Season 6 Episode 6
Alex Sarlin

Al Kingsley has over 30 years’ experience in educational technology and digital safeguarding.

For the last 25 years Al has been the Group Managing Director of NetSupport, an international software company developing market-leading software solutions used by over 18 million customers, designed to support the effective use of instructional technology in classrooms alongside eSafety technologies to safeguard students online.

Al writes for a range of international titles on all aspects of education, with a particular focus on Digital Strategy, the use of EdTech, Blended Learning, Safeguarding and broader strategic planning.

He is the author of “My Secret Edtech Diary” and “My School Governance Handbook” and the co-host of the “EdTech Shared” podcast.

Recommended Resources:
The Innovator's Dillema: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business by Clayton M. Christensen
Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns by Clayton M. Christensen



Show Notes Transcript

Al Kingsley has over 30 years’ experience in educational technology and digital safeguarding.

For the last 25 years Al has been the Group Managing Director of NetSupport, an international software company developing market-leading software solutions used by over 18 million customers, designed to support the effective use of instructional technology in classrooms alongside eSafety technologies to safeguard students online.

Al writes for a range of international titles on all aspects of education, with a particular focus on Digital Strategy, the use of EdTech, Blended Learning, Safeguarding and broader strategic planning.

He is the author of “My Secret Edtech Diary” and “My School Governance Handbook” and the co-host of the “EdTech Shared” podcast.

Recommended Resources:
The Innovator's Dillema: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business by Clayton M. Christensen
Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns by Clayton M. Christensen



Alexander Sarlin:

Welcome to Season Two of edtech insiders, where we talk to the most interesting thought leaders, founders, entrepreneurs, educators, and investors, driving the future of education technology. I'm your host, Alex Sarlin, an edtech veteran with over 10 years of experience at top edtech company. Kingsley has over 30 years experience in educational technology and digital safeguarding for the last 25 years Al has been the group Managing Director of NetSupport, an international software company developing market leading software solutions used by over 18 million customers designed to support the effective use of instructional technology in classrooms. Alongside e safety technologies to safeguard students online. Al writes for a range of international titles on all aspects of education, with a particular focus on digital strategy, the use of edtech, blended learning, safeguarding, and broader strategic planning. He's the author of my secret edtech diary and my school governance handbook, as well as the co host of the Ed Tech shared podcast Al Kingsley. Welcome to Ed Tech insiders.

Al Kingsley:

Hi, there. Pleasure to be here.

Alexander Sarlin:

It's a pleasure to speak to you, you have been in ed tech and writing about edtech. For a while you have decades of experience in ad tech and school governance, I am not going to force you to recount your entire life at ad tech, because you've done a lot of different things. But I'd love to hear you talk about how the EdTech field has evolved. Since you first entered the field, what did ad tech mean on your first day sort of being in it? And what does it mean now and how as sort of what's transpired in between?

Al Kingsley:

Well, it's certainly wise not to try and recount all of it. Otherwise, we wouldn't be here a while, I suppose the truth of it is when we think about the advent of technology, and probably things started to pick up a bit, you know, in the late 80s, where technology became slightly more affordable, and we roll forward. I think for many years, there was an effort to either take personal computing devices or business computing devices and find a squeeze or a fit within the education landscape. And sometimes it was a case of we've got a tool. So how do we find a purpose, as opposed to as we've you know, fortunately, thankfully, reached a point now where we actually look to see where something can actually have a positive impact and purpose. And more importantly, I think, increasingly, we've seen as time goes on, we're also very mindful of evidence and evidence formed edtech. I mean, the word edtech itself has kind of evolved in many regards. One thing that I tend to be quite a strong advocate of is there's a natural persuasion when we talk about edtech, to immediately think of the classroom full stop period, if I'm in my North American mode. And of course, that's absolutely the space where ed tech does exist. But what we've also seen over the last few years is that actually, we need to look through a wider lens, and edtech is all of the technology that underpins our ability to deliver efficient and effective teaching and learning. And when we start thinking about data, we start thinking about the idea of the blended learning environments, the flipped classroom, thinking about bigger topics like wellbeing, parental communication, effective use of data, managing timeliness for staff, suddenly, we start thinking about edtech, in a much more ecosystem based mindset. And I think what we've seen is we've kind of, hopefully, we're still on the journey, that's for sure. Because technology keeps moving at that pace that nobody can claim to have all the answers just yet. But what we have seen is technology joining up the idea that rather than having pockets of technology that we were using, in an isolated way, or silo way, working within certain schools or classrooms, we're now starting to look at how technology interacts together. And actually, maybe we'll come on to it. One of the measures of good technology is actually about having that interaction and that sharing of data, so that we're not duplicating duplicating the effort that we're using technology for.

Alexander Sarlin:

It's a really interesting point. I haven't been in edtech as long as you have, but I've seen some of that shift as well, where it goes from taking off the shelf software or software that's meant for business purposes and trying to figure out how it could be used for teaching. Now we have so many edtech startups, we have so many edtech tools, we have some big companies, that feature that really focus only on education technology, and they have expanded what it means it's not only classroom use cases, home use cases, parent communication, obviously the pandemic accelerated this idea that learning can happen anywhere. And I think the whole world has really adjusted to that. One of the topics you think and write a lot about is how edtech can and should serve goes beyond traditional academic learning. It's not just about Maths and English and social studies are, you know, can do a lot more. And let's talk through some of these other use cases. You just mentioned mental health in the US and I believe throughout a lot of the world, you know, we are having a mental health crisis for young people who are in schools. One out of three teen girls has contemplated suicide, according to recent CDC reports, 60% feel persistently sad and hopeless. We've seen anxiety, depression, you know, everything you might think of. And in the UK, there's an online safety bill that intends to protect children from harmful content online. So there's sort of a realization that students are in a mental health crisis, how do you think a moment like that can matter to our ed tech field? And how can we support the student body at this really strange moment in history?

Al Kingsley:

I mean, it's a big topic, isn't it? I mean, there's different layers where educational technology plays a role. So wherever we are around the world, whether we're in the UK and keeping children safe in Education Act, or super in America, or wherever we are, we've got a legislated obligation to keep our learners safe online. And that applies for all of our learners. And that can be whether it's about proactive monitoring, filtering, making sure we control the content our young children have access to. But also, it's built into the broader context of digital citizenship actually teaching and informing our learners in ways to keep themselves safe. Now, when it comes to the broader health, there's a whole raft of different areas that are linked around social emotional, mental health, so we can think about some of our most vulnerable learners. And we can think about how technology provides, much as we're doing today, the opportunity for face to face reassuring scheduled routine conversations. And through the pandemic, we saw our most vulnerable learners, were able to maintain that routine and that reassurance from trusted sources in school that otherwise would have built anxiety and challenges for them, I think bigger than that, we look at technology as a platform, I'm very much of a mindset that actually one of the most important areas we're trying to develop for our learners, is skills based rather than about our ability to consume and retain knowledge. And so I suppose there's those different strands isn't there, there's building resilience in our learners, how they stay positive, how they build that perseverance into their practice, developing their problem solving skills, their open mindedness, their self control, all those kinds of strands are linked to both having technology that's accessible and equitable for all. And sometimes we think technology. And we think the best products, the one with the most features on the toolbar or the most capabilities. And you're actually if we want inclusivity. And we want to be able to make sure that all of our learners have access to technology, we're much more mindful of tools that are simple, reliable, flexible platform agnostic, can be accessed from the smartphone, where we can give curated resources that can support learners with whatever challenge or vulnerability they may be encountering, and give them the confidence to trust information as provided. Now, I would argue technology is a fantastic tool, if we assume we've got a level playing field. And that's really the key when it comes to digital poverty and digital equity in terms of households and how many devices they have available for their children. But where there is parity, we suddenly open up the opportunity for lots of different resources that can be curated and to help children reflect and share their feelings, their emotions and their mood, and provide them with tools and strategies for how to best engage, as well as be that connector to those trusted voices. So in the UK, there was a big phase of 18 months ago, we updated our guidance, there were challenges about online sexual harassment and bullying, peer to peer abuse. And one of the key things is how do we provide a way for a child to reach out and share their concerns with an adult? Well, actually, if it's something of a sexual nature, perhaps a child with a male teacher may not be comfortable sharing that but providing a pathway to other trained and supported staff where they can share their anxieties and concerns provides an opportunity for visibility. So I think we can look around nurture, we can look about building those resilience and skills. And then we can also look at technology that is appropriate and inclusive for all of our learners. And that's a really potted summary, because there's so much more we could chat about on that topic.

Alexander Sarlin:

Sure. I want to dig in on one aspect of it, which I find really interesting, which is this idea that educational technology and consumer telecommunications right now allows everybody to be connected. And there's sort of a double edged sword there, it means that you are exposed to people, if the children or students of any age are exposed to people they may not want to be exposed to the night can cause bullying or social media harassment, or all sorts of things like that. It can also be a positive in giving people access to mental health services, specialists, trusted advisors, coaches, mentors, everything like that. So I'd love to hear you talk a little bit more about because I think that's a really interesting point about how edtech and sort of communication tech just giving access to other people sort of lay together because sometimes we think of edtech, as you know, giving people content. And I think this is a very different and positive reframing of giving students access to other trusted humans,

Al Kingsley:

there are some great resources that are available to provide those often it's about peer case studies that young people can access. And often that can be far more powerful than hearing from an adult. I think we use technology in so many different ways. Every Sunday, each week, I spent four hours as a child line counselor, so from home supporting some of the most vulnerable children across the UK encountering some really challenging situations. Now, ironically, the technology unlocks their willingness and capacity to engage and confidence to share their most challenging thoughts in a way that face to face probably wouldn't do to their own self esteem and confidence and talking to a strange adult. I think within our schools, we recognize that as professionals, as educators, we can curate resources that we know, have been suitably shaped and evidence and could create content that's appropriate to our school board, or whoever is monitoring that core content. And we can curate that to make sure our learners find it easy. And they're able to access that information. I think the final part on all of these things comes down to, we can provide all the resources in the world for our learners, but we have to empower them with the confidence and the skills to actually know how to identify and recognize when there's a challenge, and to have the confidence to reach out. So I think the digital skills and the critical thinking skills, the personal development skills are something that's really come to the fore and we wrap something up in digital citizenship, don't worry about thinking about what personal information we share thinking about, we may not know who this person is who's claiming to be a friend of an equal age on a chat group. But it goes beyond that, because I think it goes to the skills to actually not only access and find information, but then to challenge its authenticity. And that's been accelerated here in the UK, we've had this lovely word Brexit. That's rambled on for many years. And in the US, you've had some challenging elections along the way. And all of those have sparked accents have to be trusted the information we read, how do we validate and evidence it and I think the same applies for young people is actually we don't want to scare them. But we also want them to be mindful that information that they find needs to be validated. And if we're thinking about resources that support their mental health, one thing we've really seen is because there's been an increase in challenge and trauma for many of our youngest children, the online platforms, whilst they provide safe spaces, if curated, well also have the risk of placing young people in somewhat of an echo chamber, and they can express their fears and vulnerabilities. And sadly, there are some echo chambers that will amplify those fears, rather than actually provide any kind of alternative residents to try and dampen that down. So I think like all these things, you know, it is a double edged sword, isn't it and but I think the more that schools can curate the signpost through their own digital platforms, their click the place where their students will access each morning on the school website, the more they're able to empower that. And the last part that is I'd say is, we shouldn't stop at students, some of the best practice we see is about actually training and empowering our parents so that they feel confident in providing support and engaging with their children. We can't assume that every parent, by the nature of having children is an expert on all aspects of developmental support that a young person needs, none of us are perfect. So again, I think that was where digital provides a far better opportunity in a world where parents are busy. And at the door, school engagement continues to diminish.

Alexander Sarlin:

incredibly interesting points in there. And I think the idea of creating a curated safe space within the school environments that's protected, but also giving people the skills to be able to navigate the larger online space which we all occupy on a daily basis. It's a really interesting combination of mental health resources and support that needs to there's a lot of design that needs to go into a system like that you say, we want to keep them safe and trust the people they know around them, but at the same time, know that people aren't always trustworthy information isn't always correct. And they have to be dubious and skeptical and thoughtful about what they consume. But you also want to keep them safe and not expose them to it. It's a really interesting, back and forth. They're all

Al Kingsley:

skills for later life to one day. I mean, our objective is that all of our learners leave the school system with all the skills that they need to navigate the adult world, an ever changing world. But one thing I would say is that we've seen particularly in the last two or three years, is the workplace, the adult world has changed. It's become highly digital, much more flexible in terms of working. And I love that because it creates and it removes the place based barriers for many of our children, that it doesn't matter what city you're in, you can apply for an access careers and opportunities internationally, all from the comfort of your front room in your house. But at the same time that increased reliance on digital means that we can't just brush over that in our schools. We've got to make sure that's really a core part of our curriculum delivery. Yeah,

Alexander Sarlin:

digital representation, how we appear online is a huge part of how we are going to work as well as learn. You're talking about Career and Technical Education sort of, or at least the idea of education for purposes of career, you know, growth and adjusting to the adult world. That is also a use case for ad tech that has been enormous ly on the rise in the US, very much inspired by European ad tech workforce. Investment in ed tech for the workplace has continued to rise throughout the sort of ups and downs of the last few years in K 12. And University. We've spoken to, you know, companies like multiverse, which is a US and UK based company that also works in the US to do apprenticeships, that kind of attempt to serve as a possible replacement or alternative path to college. You've been a champion of educating youth that support students abilities to emerge from school with career relevant skills that allows them to find fulfilling and remunerative work, you know, outside of the school environment. Where do you think Ed Tech is right now, with regards to career and technical education? Who's doing interesting work in the field? Where do you think the field is going right now?

Al Kingsley:

Technology? It's an interesting one, I think what we've seen is the requirement of skills for the workforce, the things that we previously would have put top of the priority list have shifted in recent years, I still maintain that the most important skill that as an employer we look for in people are their personal, interpersonal and communication skills, alongside their resilience and inquisitiveness, shall we say, and then we start to build the layers. And I think what we've seen, and within the UK, I'm an apprenticeship ambassador. So that's grown, perhaps the traction for that was more about the fact that actually, education post 18 is an expensive journey. And for many, the ability to learn and acquire skills and qualifications, whilst also working at the same time is far more access accessible, I think, you know, we want a level playing field wherever possible. But I also think that for employers, we are recognizing, particularly in the technology space, because ironically, for many jobs, when when somebody applies for a role, we can say, Oh, you've got 10 years, you've got 20 years experience, that's a value to my business. But is it with technology, the actual code, the approaches, the opportunities, the tools we use, they're all new, they're all being redefined on a regular basis. So actually, another big tick in the box is age is not a barrier, you can have just as much experience at 22, as somebody at 40 have a particular new tool technology or approach. And I think what employers are recognizing is in now an increasingly hybrid workplace and the cost of individuals, that actually one of the better approaches is to grow your own is bring people in with the aptitude and appetite to learn and develop them into their way of working and the way that they've developed around the technical tools that you need. And actually, the best tech companies are not only co producers in the education space, or working with schools and educators. But they're also organizations that recognize you constantly have to be refining and adapting the technology you offer, you can't stand still and just keep bolting on a few extra buttons on the toolbar. I'm a big fan when it comes to concepts around digital disruption. And with plenty of good case studies about how that's happened over the last 20 years. But you know, in a very positive way, I think that element of recognizing that digital skills can be acquired, without needing to go through the traditional pathways is really key, I would say there's one other lever which has changed over the last few years. And that's parental perception. As a parent, we have an aspiration that our child leaves their formal education and they go to college or university. And there's a measure of success in their academic journey up until quite recently, the perceptions of alternative pathways, whether it was apprenticeships or whether it was vocational qualification or technical education, were seen to be more the traits the electrician, the plumber, the Craftsman the the roles that were fundamentally the things that keep our country going. But perhaps parentally weren't the ones that they aspired for their children to do. And suddenly, we recognize now that actually those labels and those career options because of the diversity and breadth of pathways within those umbrellas are just as valid. And just as important, and most importantly, provide just as big a career opportunity for their children following those pathways. And one thing that I think still needs to change is certainly here in the UK, schools are partly measured by the success of how many of their learners leave the school and go on to a university. And I think that's wrong, because we're looking at but one pathway, what we should be saying is how many of our children leave our school and go on to into another form of continued education and professional career. And if that's the pathway of choice, then we've done our job. What we care most about is young people that leave school and have nowhere to go in their next steps in Life. So I think if we start to shift and being linked to Metaverse and other, you know, high profile organizations whether we start to see that, that almost that validation from the workplace that these are actually in demand placements and opportunities to develop skills, then suddenly we'll will reinvent a little bit. I've seen some amazing people come through the doing technical courses on the apprenticeship program within the UK, I've had many within our own organization that are now Junior and middle managers after a fairly limited period of time. And actually, they are well ahead of the curve with graduates arriving into the business at the end of their pure, more pure academic journey.

Alexander Sarlin:

The point about non measuring schools purely on how many people they send to university or to post secondary education really resonates with me right now. And I think I'm sure it resonates a lot with our listeners as well, in that the world has changed so much in some really core ways that you just named, you know, just for my two cents on this, before we move on really quickly. Two things that I'm hearing you say that I think are very important for the EdTech world is that lifelong learning. And alternative pathways were both two concepts that I think have gotten lip service for a long time, we've talked about them for a while. But in the last few years, it feels like they've become much, much more concrete, there really is access to lifelong learning in almost any field. And it's basically required. And it's often offered by employers in a way that it never was in the past well beyond existing corporate training of the past. And then as you mentioned, alternative pathways which used to be seen as the trades or the which can be fun. But also, as you say, parental aspirations don't always go that way, especially in the US, frankly, it there's really a change instead of those certification programs being for, for plumbing, therefore, our electrician or for transportation, you know, they're now for data science and user experience design and coding, of course. And that is such a shift in how we perceive education. You know, sociologically, it's really interesting to hear you call that out in exactly that way. And you know, we've just seen some of these pathways explode in not only popularity, but also status. It actually, I remember a really interesting study from a few years ago that said that all things being equal parents would prefer that their students get a Google internship than a Harvard degree. And that was a little bit of a mind blowing moment. But it's it speaks to exactly what you're saying, actually, a Google internship is more selective than a Harvard degree at this point, and arguably, more directly practical and more of a fast track to a lucrative and status filled, you know, and fulfilling hopefully, career, I'd love to hear your response to any of that we got to talk data,

Al Kingsley:

surprise, surprise, the world is changing, you know, technology has been abused everywhere. And it's sad in a way, but we do need to make sure that within within our schools as well, one of our roles as our as our learners develop through the later part of their school years, is about careers guidance is about thinking about pathways. And that's a tough one. Because many cases where we're trying to educate our learners now and give them a breadth of courses that will equip them for a career in 10 years time that is yet to be defined. For many years, people will have heard of things like Moore's Law where technology gets twice as fast and half the size every year. And I feel as I get longer and longer in the tooth in the tech space that you know, one thing I figure out every day is the more I learned, the more I realize I've got to learn. It's a never ending cycle. So with that in mind, I think we can't afford to just say, yeah, I get that. And yes, careers in Google and so on are really helpful. We need to be reflecting and saying, so what have we done to change the provision of what we're offering across our course content? How have we changed the weighting? How have we made sure that our learners have access to the platforms or the opportunities that will allow them to be competitive with all those other young people from around the world? Who too will be applying for an internship at Google or Microsoft or Apple or anywhere else? And I think when we start thinking like that, there's there's actually a bit of pressure on education systems around the world now to do more about that. And it's something that I've been working on with the OECD for many years, not wishing to golf too much on a segue on our conversation. But for many years, we'll know if we look around the world, we have a measure of high performing school systems, and we have the PISA rankings. And that looks at all of the different national education systems and said, hey, you know what, Finland's great, Singapore's great they come out top of the league tables. Well, those league tables are based on 15 year olds in a very clearly defined set of academic measures. What the OECD is now looking at is an education system for human flourishing. And the argument which is why I'm passionate and I'm involved from a UK perspective is actually I don't want to say this schools best because the children managed to retain the most knowledge and come out with the best grades is, although that's one thing that we'd love to see. But what about how happy that child was? What about their personal development and resilience? Did they leave school thinking, never again, am I going to open the book, I got the grades, but never again, that was hell, or are they going to say I've got a deep love of learning, I'm passionate about reading about inquiring about more information, I want to follow this and build on it for the next 40 years that I contribute to society. And if we want to measure school systems and say, That's the model to follow, then it's way too narrow, to focus purely on who's retained the most knowledge. And that resonates with me, because one of the pathways that they're looking at when it comes to human flourishing is about skills, digital skills, and how the role of things like AI, both within the workplace, at home and in school is going to change it is changing the landscape. Whether we like it or not, the input we have is whether it's for the better or not

Alexander Sarlin:

incredibly interesting, I mean, AI is a trigger word right now, as soon as I hear that evoked, I want to go off on a whole conversation about it. But it's really, really interesting point about human flourishing. And you know, there's different terms for that kind of whole person approach rather than knowledge regurgitation, or standardized test scores. Many, you know, people have lots of different ways of phrasing you. But it feels like there's becoming more and more of a consensus worldwide, and maybe projecting here, but I think there is that the goal of education is not just a single pathway through university or post secondary, it's not purely one thing. It has to involve career success, it has to involve lifelong learning, as you just mentioned, it has to involve students and people becoming happy, productive citizens across the board. It's just a different perception of education, you know, one other aspect of edtech, that's incredibly important, but separate from academics. And something you've spent a lot of time thinking about is student data privacy, how to avoid exposure to inappropriate content or advertising as how to keep schools safe from cyber attacks, as there's a whole world of sort of the infrastructure of how education and ad tech works to keep student data and students safe. You have extensive experience in this and in cybersecurity and privacy. And you know, our listeners know that Europe also has extensive regulations on privacy and the UK has some of its own, often, you know, the GDPR is this Data Protection Regulation Law that many, many people in US tech and ad tech, you know, have to know a lot about if they're going to work in Europe. How do you think about data? How do you think about GDPR safety and privacy? I know that says a huge question. But give us a little bit of an overview on how experienced these topics and what people should really know about them.

Al Kingsley:

Feel free to interrupt me in about three hours from now when I finished waffling. So, in a nutshell, I think it's good that we've got processing and regulations in place. And I think like all these things, the word appropriate is the thing that always springs to mind. In any legislation, we have to recognize in increasingly digital world, we are going to capture and store more data about ourselves, and particularly our young people. And we therefore need to have the right measures in place and the right best practice to ensure that data is not used in a way that could be harmful to any child within the education space. GDPR came along and across Europe, it created a fresh set of protocols, both in terms of our awareness of how we keep our data safe, and also an awareness and a right for the individual to find out what data was held about them. It also puts some mechanisms in place to make sure that when we were looking at technology, for any nature, whether it's personal or for in education setting, we knew where that data was stored. Now we have standard policies that are adopted. So in the UK school, we have a thing called a data protection Impact Assessment, which roughly means if you'd like a bit of software that you want to use in the classroom, before you can actually subscribe to it and upload your student cohort data, you need to know where is that data being stored, who has access to it? How long is the data being stored for and what are the implications if that data was breached? And you form a basic risk assessment based on the nature of the information stored? Is it lots of personal information? Or is it purely initials and some scorecards, and you form a risk assessment of whether that's an appropriate tool to take now the pandemic kind of amplified that because many educators and organizations around the world in sort of March 2020, were scrambling to find alternative solutions to mitigate the learning loss from not being in the classroom. And I thought it's a good period of time solely. I hasten to add, for the reason that it was a real catalyst for innovation. For the first time many educators were allowed to go and try stuff. Whereas before, that wasn't an option on the table for them. And in trying stuff. Some things worked well and some things didn't. And that's fine. That's what you would expect. But it also highlighted the need that we have tighter controls on the data that we use, more often than not. The challenges and the narration around data within education systems comes down to lack of transparency, parents having concerns about have the tools or to the school chooses to use that because the school hasn't been clear in sharing its data processing policy is tied to privacy policy hasn't signposted. The tools that are there. I think the EdTech sector has also had to up its game. There were many vendors who had really, really poor data processing agreements on their websites, some were in clearly constructed by a team of lawyers, and they were, you know, 60 100 pages long, and were intended to be entirely inaccessible. And now we're saying actually, and I signposts rubrics for schools for how to best select and evaluate edtech. And one of the criteria for me is, if you don't understand the data processing agreement, if they're not making it clear where your data is being stored on what happens to it, then you should pause. And the onus is on the vendor to signpost that. And you have to question why have they made it so difficult for me to understand, I think there's a moral purpose on our tech vendors. And we are a community of vectors across edtech. Many know each other, it's a sector where, if you're a successful edtech vendor, you are not starting a transaction with a school, you're starting a relationship, it's an ongoing process. So you have to have the right moral purpose. And people get found out if they promise things that they don't deliver on. So I think with that in mind, there is a greater onus now on having technology and recognizing that education is not corporate tools in the NGO space, they are education tools. And as such, the way that we treat we protect, and we preserve data needs to be undertaken with that basis in mind. So it's a combination, the final thought on cybersecurity is absolutely it's a real concern. But I would always argue people talk and asked me to come and have a talk about building a digital strategy. And I think their expectation is my first opening conversation will be here's a list of shiny things on the shelf that you could have in your school, if you've got the budget, when actually the first part of the digital strategy is to reflect on what you've got. Where is it? How effectively is it being used? What software application subscriptions? Are you paying for annually that possibly you actually aren't using within your teaching practice on a regular basis? And once you've got a sense of what have you got? Where is it and who's using it, you're in a much better position to say and how do I know it's maintained and up to date, because most security starts with missing patches outdated software, and then it follows on with those user guides that best practice the school guys that go to staff in an acceptable use of their devices, the students acceptable use policies on how they use the technology. And again, you can enforce that. So start at the academic year, everyone has to sign that they've read and seen that. And then it comes back to golf, shock, horror, effective communication, something we all advocate in schools, but aren't always quite as good as we claim to be. And so it's not a you know, it's a much like anything else. For professional development, it is not a start of the academic year conversation, period, it is something that needs to be continuous, it needs to be an ongoing reflection of best practice, how we do things, a reminder of what we share a reminder of how we treat emails from people that we don't know how we open things, where we store our information, making sure we have secure backups, making sure we have a clear plan of our infrastructure, and that that's running the latest firmware and updates on it, the list goes on. And there's some great resources out there. But I'd always argue, I always use the Donald Rumsfeld quote of the known knowns. But it's the unknown unknowns we have to be worried about. So much of the catalyst is actually by forcing you to do that digital strategy, what you're actually doing is you're signposting all the elements that make up your digital ecosystem, and you're bringing into conversation, the point about welfare all of them, we need to evidence and review their effectiveness and their impact and value to the school. But at the same time, we can also evidence whether they're appropriate and secure and safe as well.

Alexander Sarlin:

So many pearls of wisdom in that answer, there's a lot to unpack, I want to ask you about one aspect of it that really stands out to me, because it's been sort of a through line and a lot of my ad tech work, which is, you mentioned that, you know, the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of innovation happening specifically because some of the classic regulations or processes were sort of thrown to the wind in the chaos of the pandemic, and that spirit, a lot of innovation. And you know, when I hear you listing all of the incredibly important aspects of you know, digital strategy and cybersecurity and data policy, it always makes me feel like you know, there's sort of two different mindsets that could be taken. There's a sort of security mindset where the first thing you're thinking about is ensuring student privacy is ensuring data privacy is avoiding, you know, ransomware attacks. And then there's the sort of throw caution to the wind, Hey, I just found an amazing tool. My students are gonna love it. Let's try it kind of, you know, mode that obviously can be very dangerous from the data privacy standpoint, but can be very sort of exciting and innovative and fast moving and agile from a learning standpoint or an engagement standpoint, and I'd love to hear you talk about sort of the how these two mindsets sort of interact, because I think sometimes from within the EdTech world, you hear things like, wow, we're gonna have this data on our students, which means we can make it interoperable with other systems or we can personalize their education or we can do you make adaptive systems to tailor everything to each student. And then from the other side, it's well, schools and parents and administrators, of course, don't want the data to sort of be flowing freely from place to place or indifferent in the wrong servers. I'd love to hear you sort of talk because I know you've been on both sides of this world, about you know how these two ways of seeing the world sort of can come together.

Al Kingsley:

I think like all things, there's always a ying and yang, but I think it's really helpful because let's start with a really simple fact. Why would we assume that somebody's selecting the next software solution we're going to use in our classroom will both be an expert from a pedagogy perspective, and from a technology perspective. Now, we often use kind of research that's well shaped for educators things like TPAC, Koehler, and Mishra where we kind of recognize that a teacher has got their pedagogical knowledge and they've got their content knowledge of their subject, they come together, and technology sits as the third circle of the Venn diagram. We can't be experts at everything. So when I talk to schools about building a digital strategy, and to be fair, I Magpie lots of resources. I've seen some great resources in the US in Ohio, Pickerington School District, Brian Seymour has done some great work there that I know he's shared it is the but we start with that kind of sense of if we're going to evaluate, we start the very beginning of we're looking for a new tool that's going to help us do something in the classroom, as the best practice is to separate the two streams between curriculum and technology. So the curriculum side, the educator can say, Does this tool I'm looking for what's my checklist? does it align with my current curriculum? Have I done any kind of review of the features and functionality that's within it? How about check that we don't already have another tool that sort of does the same thing? And maybe there's some savings to be had here? And do we actually have a clear understanding of its instructional purpose? What are we hoping to achieve? And while they're doing that there's somebody else from a technology point of view pulling their hat on saying, Are we happy this is going to work effectively with the devices that we have within our school now and in the future? And will it work on our current infrastructure? Or is it going to create additional load or capacity? It's a challenge, have we reflected on its data privacy policy and how it's being processed? And maybe just to save a bit of repetition? Is it going to roster with our existing student data systems, whether it's through clever or classlink, or whatever it might be? And you kind of follow those two through and then you say, Okay, well, if you're both happy, now's a good time where you can actually evaluate the product, you've checked off those two lists. Now you can start looking and saying, well have a group have you got together and actually now looked at this in detail as the vendor coming in and giving you a presentation? Have you tested it out? In your setting in your classroom? Not just for five minutes on a tradeshow booth? But have you actually used it? And did you actually pilot it and have you sat down and review the outcomes for the pilot, were there any clear evidence that impacted in the way that you anticipated? And then if you're happy, you can go and speak to purchasing decisions about buying something. But what you've done is you've got to perspectives that it's going to be functional and scalable in your environment, that it's fit for the purpose it was intended. And you've also signposted no surprises for your technical team, because they now know that this is a solution that they were part of the process for, and is going to be adopted. Because one thing we also find in schools, and the lesson learned is we buy better curriculum software, we install it, a week later, an educator playing with it has a problem. And they assume if they are in tech support, they are an expert on any and every application used in the school. And in many cases, they've never even heard of the product, but we're expected to answer and provide tech questions. So building that together also forces that closer alignment with how we actually manage and therefore get the most out of our edtech. That idea

Alexander Sarlin:

of these dual checklists, one for the pedagogical use cases instructional meaning of the tour and one for the data privacy, security infrastructure devices, you make it seem so obvious, I have never heard somebody say it. So clearly. And I think that is incredibly great, best practice for institutions of all types from families, for universities, where school districts, that is a very powerful model. And then ideally, you know, it's a process to make sure that those two sides are rowing in the same direction. But that's really, really interesting way to look at procurement was one more topic I want to talk with you about in terms of you know, non traditional education, which is this concept of whole child or holistic approaches to education. This has some relationship to the mental health sphere that we've been talking about, but it is a term used, especially the term whole child has sort of gone in and out of fashion in the US people are trying to figure out the best way to help the whole field understand that schools are beyond academic. What did you tell told me to you know, how do you think the field can accelerate this without getting caught up in, in politics or in you know, arguing over semantics?

Al Kingsley:

I think it can be a quite a divisive conversation. And sadly, because on one sense, we've got a statutory expectation of what our schools provide for our learners. And on the other hand, we've got amazing educators doing way more than is on the job description, and absolutely focused around more of the concept of the whole child. And maybe it links a little bit to that earlier conversation about human flourishing. But I suppose at the heart of it, you've got the academic development, you've got that, that pillar of the whole child, which is about building their their academic capabilities, their knowledge and their skills that we want them to flourish at throughout their journey. And alongside that, the bit that I'm very passionate about, we've got that cognitive development that I want them to have those critical thinking skills, I want to have the tools and equipment to be able to challenge and research and understand. And then I've also got physical, you know, my I want to be a child that active gets involved in sports developmentally, I think that's really, really keen, we've had the conversations that have been amplified the last few years, I suppose in terms of thinking about mental health, that's such a broad umbrella that we can be thinking about how we develop Children's Mental Health Resilience. One part is the ways that we can put processes in to provide appropriate support for all of our different learner types. And the other is about how we can implement strategies that build in self resilience and hopefully, support some of the learners from reaching a point where their mental health impacts on their ability to perform at the levels they want. And I think it's a two part process in that regard. The challenge with mental health is, it is but not one person's role, often mental health depending on what we're thinking about in the same way, as we think about our learners that have different developmental challenges. It can often be about a collegiate approach involving lots of services and support that needs to come together, I'd argue we've now developed the tools, that means there's no excuse for not being able to collaborate and CO produce on the ways that we can put wraparound care for our learners. Sadly, one of the challenges tends to be money and resource and capacity, the number of specialists that are there for them. So we've kind of got that social emotional development. And that comes down to another thing that I'm a fan of what do we see the one of the biggest absences for our learners during the pandemic, it was their interaction with their peers, it was their opportunity to be involved in experiential activities. And sometimes I'll hear educators say to me, our experiential is great, but it doesn't matter unless that it's actually aligned with the curriculum, and they're not getting something out of it. Well, yeah, but actually, sometimes it's about that child's social emotional well being. And actually we think about the the drama performances at school, the schools competitions, where children that may not excel academically can excel in different ways. We think about the the music and the concerts that children's performed and, and other activities that the school trips, where for the first time we were away from home, when we developed some resilience and map reading skills with a compass in the woods, all those kinds of things. And I will always argue for as long as anybody who's willing to take a listen, that if you ask most people when they leave school, what are their fondest memories, it will be the field trip we did to the forest, or our trip to the coast, or that museum, when we have a laugh on the coach, or it will of course be that teacher that always came up with crazy experiments are something different. That is a key pillar on having a love of learning. Those are the things that shape our attitude. And so for me, the whole person is both that well being it's about their own social mental health, it's about their resilience is about their physical health, it's about equipping them with the skills, cognitive development, to be curious, inquisitive and robust and later in life. And it's to give them the academic development, the content, the knowledge, the facts, that ultimately provides context. And they need the context to use their critical thinking skills effectively, on that baseline. Of course, within that, I'm going to say, of course, they need to go to read and write and do other things as well. But that all comes under the academic umbrella. Let's be honest, when it comes to measuring our school and how well they're doing, and all the things I've just covered. In most cases, they're only going to measure on one thing, how much do you how much is the measure of progress this child has done developmentally? And actually, if you achieved that learning, we don't really care whether the child was happy, sad, disconnected from learning disengaged, as long as they've retained the information, happy days. Well, actually, when you walk out of school and into the workplace, as an employer, as I've said before, my first thing will be okay, well, you got through the door, because you've got some qualifications. But I want to know about you, what are you going to bring to my team? How are you going to interact with my customers? How are you going to innovate new ideas for me? Are you going to be robust that you're going to be somebody that adds value to our team? And so suddenly, all those things that we deem when we measure a school's performance as being not that important, are and they're really important. So we need to catch up in education and we need to measure on the same measures we're going to do spent for the next 40 years of our working profession. One of

Alexander Sarlin:

the things I love most about that answer is that it combines some of the existing roles of school in and especially the roles of school that we don't always think about as the core concepts of school, the friendships, the field trips, the drama clubs, the talent shows, the concerts, it frames them, rightfully, I think as part of our investment in whole child education in gym class teams. Absolutely. Yeah, I think that's a really interesting, you know, as we say, in the US right now, we're going through this moment where social emotional learning, there's becoming a political backlash to that term hold child, people are trying to figure out if that's the way to do it. And I think what's really interesting about your, your structuring, and your framing of all of this is the idea that education has always been invested in multiple areas of development for the child. Now that we're in this new world, lots of technology, enhanced education, lots of remote education or alternative pathways, we can't lose that core idea that we're providing many services. Right now I'm in Los Angeles, Los Angeles is in the middle of a school strike. 420,000 students are not in school today, because the teachers are all and the teacher aides and the bus drivers are all on strike. And one of the things that the district is doing is giving out food, of course, right giving out those lunches and breakfasts to families that rely on school food, I mean, talk about a service that people didn't originally think of as core to schools missions, they certainly don't measure that on any standardized test. But wow, that's the physical aspect. That's the nutrition aspect. There's so much to unpack there. And I really love where, where you're going with that we have two more topics, I want to get to that. I know we're getting a little long. So let's let's keep moving. But that's so fascinating. You've seen a lot of learning trends come and go or learning learning paradigms come and go, you've seen a lot of companies rise and fall in the EdTech space. We have a lot of listeners who are founders and entrepreneurs and starting their own edtech ventures, we have others who are investors, we have others who are operators who are working in established ad tech companies of all sizes in a lot of different countries. I guess my question is, what advice would you give to those who are looking around at this moment in time and saying, Wow, you know, edtech is not brand new, it's been around for a few decades, it's evolved? How can I learn from the things that have come and gone over time, and avoid the mistakes of the past and really, you know, not fall into the same traps that other movements have not be the next inBloom, for example, not be the next board that loses its loses a lot of its advantage because of the UX. What kind of feedback would you give to entrepreneurs

Al Kingsley:

on might not be the most typical responded on this, from my introduction, that, you know, I spend half my time as an ad tech CEO, and half my time as chair of a multi Academy trust clusters of schools in the UK, supporting schools in education. So I perhaps have a slightly different weighting when it comes to my role as an ad tech CEO. Because my view is if you're interested in edtech, as an opportunity, from an investor perspective, and an opportunity to be lucrative because it's a hot sector at the moment, then you don't necessarily resume with my values. Because I don't believe you do this with with profitability being the key driver. In fact, the education space with public money is always going to be one where it has to be value for money. And sustainability is not a quick in and out, as I referenced earlier, you start a relationship with schools, if you're good. And in the long term, of course, you need to be profitable, you need to be sustainable, because the profits are what drives your investment in innovation. But it needs to be for the right purpose. So maybe there'll be some listening, saying, Well, I don't agree with that, in which case, good luck to you. But you may not agree with all my thinking my thinking fundamentally in this sector, and it is a high popular sector. Certainly, during an accident on the backside of the pandemic, some of the multipliers that were going on ed tech companies and investment levels were pretty aggressive. So definitely a space that people are interested in. I've always said the fundamental difference in education, and maybe not entirely unique to education is that the best solutions are built around CO production. The real shift is not just create a solution that you think people need, engage with schools and then tell them why they need it. You need to understand what the challenges are in schools where the you can shape evidence that your technology or your approach to a solution can be refined, and then develop from that. And it's something that and this is not me doing a plug that I wrote back in about in my secret ed tech diary because I decided to do a chapter specifically for vendors rather than the rest of the book, which is all for educators, which is really to kind of focus that there's a different kind of approach. So you're either going to develop I suppose with that idea that you come up with a concept, we want to make something we're going to set aside our resources and our team that are going to develop something. And then all the way through that process. We've got the stock gaps, where we're actually engaging with end users, the CO production element where we're getting feedback, litmus tests from the market, what we do and if we do that, We kind of end up with more of a what often gets referred to as an emergent strategy you're refining all the time. Typically, we tend to develop technology. On the basis of a number of variables, there's opportunity, there is our own technical capability, there is our ideas, the creativity, and the big one we're going to mention is what our competitors are doing. And typically what happens is a new solution gets released at the point where it's just about got the functionality that is appropriate for the market, because it's new. And we want to have the door quick. And we tell our customers, it does this, but coming soon in the next release will be a few more features. And over the next few years, we add features based on user feedback about CO production, we refine certain things, so they're more effective. But we also see what other solutions are doing that compete with us. And so we try and add in either features they've already got, or a bit of one upsmanship. And over time, we keep building those layers, and we get a product after 10 years that's gone well past what the actual customer originally wanted, were off the top. And that's the bit for me where there's the digital disruption, which is you've now gone well past what a customer needs, you're just adding things because you can or to differentiate. And actually that's not effective. So at that point, you have to do a reset and say, I'm now going to refine the way and actually redesign the way I deliver a solution to a problem. I'm going to package it differently based on all that experience. And again, I reset a new point at what schools need. And what we've seen is this, it's a little bit alien for the tech sector in many ways is we've suddenly moved from the product X and Y, how do we compare let's put them side by side and look at the functionality that's available to now be much more focused on research to inform ed tech, pedagogical standards, user accessibility, ease of use, being device agnostic infrastructure flexible, because we don't possibly can't possibly know what technology in a physical sense might be available to us in three years from now, five years from now. So we don't want to invest in technology that's going to lock us into one platform. And we're also getting more savvy, maybe people like myself are trying to share it. And people are saying Hang on, you are an edtech vendor you want to share too much out. But we're also making sure that our systems aren't sticky. And sticky is something that many vendors are very good at, which is once you bought into that ecosystem, it's really hard to get that historical data, curriculum student data out, which makes you more reluctant to navigate to what could be a better solution or a cheaper solution that does the same thing. You know, and there's, there's plenty of vendors that started off, shall we say, selling books in a bookshop, that became an online bookstore that have diversified doing music and all other resources that you can access. And one of the things is you don't really want to leave, even if you could get your books cheaper somewhere else, because there's other things that they do that's really a value for you. And it's all the fact it's one side, and it's one ecosystem, it's a bit the same with Ed Tech, which is we want to make sure that by the nature of convenience, we're not using average technology, we want to be best of breed. But best of breed in edtech is not just that measure of all those things, it's actually it's got to be cheap, it's got to be affordable, it's got to be sustainable, and nobody wants to buy a fantastic product from a company that's not going to be here in two years time. So actually that evidence that actual corporate values, their infrastructure, those white papers from other schools and districts that have used the product first. And I often talk about there's four different zones you can you can go into when it comes to EdTech evidence, I've really been amplified now. So I think there's a real shift in the ecosystem, fantastic opportunities, because one thing I think we can all agree on is an education is not a sector that's going to disappear. We're going to need to always educate. It's just we're redefining the landscape. And we touched on it earlier. And I saw your eyes light up when I mentioned the AI word. Normally, I am not a fan of AI in the written sense, because whenever I see it, I think someone's put my name on it. And I keep saying our will disrupt education at all. I'm certainly not planning to do that. But it's always AI. But that changes the goalposts doesn't it because it's new technology, new opportunities, which means it's not a saturated market. It's a virgin landscape if you've got an innovative idea that will really meet the need. And I suppose the final part of my ramblings around that is when we think about school priorities. We've always talked about school priorities as being a measure of student outcomes, pretty much period. But actually, if we look at the strategic responsibilities of schools now, we're also now thinking about staff recruitment and retention. We're thinking about wellbeing. We're thinking about financial viability, well, actually edtech has a huge role to play in all those things. Summit Tech has nothing to do with student outcomes. But it's all about making a teacher's job easier, providing audio feedback, rather than written feedback, providing more effective use of data to identify where there are gaps, providing easier ways of communicating and sharing learning resources across a district rather than within a school. The list goes on. But they're all new measures that we're not used to using as our measures of impact.

Alexander Sarlin:

So many interesting trends in there. I'm going to pluck a few of them out just to highlight and then I'd love to ask you more about my secret edtech diary and and some of your thoughts about The landscape and utilization. So I hear this idea of switching costs that in the past, there have been these locked in contracts or that, you know, ecosystems in the EdTech space have really sort of expected and wanted to be the single point solution that they keep building features and try to make it more and more difficult to leave, you know, for a school or a district to leave their their system. But it sounds like what you're saying, and I agree with this is that there's, because technology has accelerated so much there, people don't want to be as locked into long term contracts, they don't want to be working with only one solution, because you never know, things are changing so fast. There's startups and new companies entering with all sorts of interesting ideas. There's also expansions of tech companies into new spaces. And then, of course, AI can't go go without responding to that. I agree. Virgin landscape is such a great phrase for that we are in a moment where both large players and small players are starting to say, Oh, my goodness, this could be a huge accelerant to the business to the learning to the personalization. What do we do here, and it's creating yet another round of if I'm a school procurement person, right now, if I'm Arizona state that you know, tends to use every new technology, I'm going to take a pause and say, Oh, my goodness, you know, six months from now there's going to be 10 new companies that do this thing a year from now there'll be 20, I really have to stay on top of this field, rather than expecting one vendor to sort of continue to evolve to meet my needs, and then go way past by deeds. As you mentioned,

Al Kingsley:

one of the things that's interesting on that is, in the early days of computer technology, the thing we used to talk about from a programming point of view was garbage in garbage out. If you write or code, you get poor product. Well, you know what, I think that's the same when it comes to AI. One thing we've seen already, whether it's chat GPT, or bars, or whatever tool you're looking at, is it's already identified the importance of effective questioning, shaping the question and signposting the information you want, as the ironically back to those, those skills we talked about for our learners shaping those kinds of questioning skills and be able to dig a bit deeper. And so I think the same applies, we've got this fantastic opportunity with new technologies. Again, we've got data privacy considerations in there. So we've got to be mindful of that. But we've also got an opportunity, we've got a consideration that hidden one when it comes to AI, which is about the datasets, the actual breadth of information we're accessing for its purpose, but in terms of time saving, looking at the fantastic resources for creating lesson plans and resource sheets that can support teachers. And yes, there's a fear that all young people could use it at home to cheat. But last time I checked, you know, the evolution of technology, we've only got to say the Alexa or Siri word and those devices in our house that will answer many questions for us, and have done for quite some time. And I've always said, You know what, let's think about accessibility here. For a lot of learners. They've got amazing cognitive skills and content retention, but actually asking them to sit with a pen and paper for two hours. It's a real challenge. Why on earth are we not reaching the point where we can ask the question that a child talk about it the probably trigger and capture far more evidence of the content they understand and process in that period of time, you can't push on AI, it's like the tide coming in, you could you're never going to stop it, it is a natural focus. What we need to be mindful of is there is a space for education, AI, tools and solutions that are curated and ring fence specifically for learning environments that can be a safe space where we know the datasets and the information used is appropriate to the age of our learners. And that's the thing we shouldn't be really focusing on.

Alexander Sarlin:

I agree. And I think there's a lot of anybody listening right now, there is a moment in time right now, where AI is out there, this clumsy term prompt engineering is coming into play with this idea of how do you ask the right type of questions to get the right type of information or output you want. And there's this enormous gap between the commercial AI and its, you know, these API's and how this could be actually used in schools meeting the data privacy concerns that you've named Alvin a meeting the appropriateness or, you know, the mental health concerns that has already been talked about how AI can really mess with people's sense of reality and mental health. There's this incredible opportunity for Ed Tech to come in and say, what tools What structures need to be in place for this unbelievably powerful tool to be used in an everyday way in the classroom in innovative ways that actually prepare students for a world in which this is going to be part of everybody's work.

Al Kingsley:

I'm sitting chatting with you. And I think what's lovely is You we can all see these opportunities on the horizon. And I think, you know what, let's just pause and reflect on the fact that we're talking about positives here. Opportunities we're not talking about. Well, we know it's tough, and it's challenging, but we've got no solutions to handle. The problem we've got is there are so many solutions. How do we pick the right one? Well, that's a challenge. I'll grant you but what a position to be in in terms of this is something that we've not had as a catalyst for the last 20 30 years of education, and that's why I think it's so significant. And again, I've heard people far more informed on either me talking about the when we look at AI in a year's time, what we're currently dealing with will seem, frankly, prehistoric. That's the pace of change.

Alexander Sarlin:

Yeah, it's totally amazing. I've been spending more hours than I'd care to admit with mid journey and chat GBT and trying to figure out how these things might work and literally been trying to replicate the use cases of existing ad tech tools saying, can this thing do what this company does? And so far, surprisingly, often it can, it's a really interesting moment. So speaking of the rise of evidence that you've cited a few times, and the rise of solutions, all the positive options that we have, you know, we often on the podcast cite a learning platform study that basically says that, in the US students use more than 70 Different edtech tools on average, in a given year, teachers use more than 80, districts use far more, because of all the types you've mentioned, that are about, you know, privacy or school sustainability, when you have so many solutions, so many different options, you've mentioned how you know, you for one aspect of that is if you call it, they don't have any idea what tool you're working with, because you have 70 Different ones all being paid for by the school. But that also means that some are being used and being affected much more than others. And I know this is something you think a lot about about, you know, school contracts and usage. I want to get your thoughts just as as a final topic here on utilization.

Al Kingsley:

I mean, the simple answer is, you know, we can talk about technology till so whenever. But the distinction between effective and non effective use of technology invariably involves the human being. And one of the most important things we have is if we have so many solutions within our schools, how on earth do we expect our teachers to have the level of professional development and confidence with all the tools to use them effectively, because we sure as heck don't provide the time within the day. For them to learn, though, we're expecting them to be YouTube ninjas in the evenings and sharing their pit PLN on social media and developing them. So in one sense, actually, less is more if we're actually thinking about skill set and signposting across our schools and districts who are the go to people so we can share confidence. And confidence tends to be the catalyst where staff are more likely to try and use tech, then we've got the the simple hard facts, which is if you've got maybe 10 schools in your district, there's opportunities where if you are buying a piece of technology, and all your schools use the same technology, there will be economies of scale, there will be economies of scale in your purchase price, because you've got the natural power and lever in what you're negotiating. But you'll also have huge economies of scale in terms of technical support and infrastructure, because you'll have one team supporting one instance of something. And potentially, depending on the nature of the tool, you'll also be able to have district or in the UK terms trust wide central aggregated data of the effectiveness of that tool, which actually helps with reporting. And we always say, you know, data is not useful until it had becomes context. And it's the context, that's key. So bringing that together and providing comparators of similar children in similar cohorts at similar times, is suddenly when we can start to draw practical and effective conclusions. The other part is, again, it falls on vendors, you know, for many years, too many years, I think I've mentioned the 30. My business NetSupport, we've had lots of standalone products start at the pandemic, we launched classroom dot cloud, all the solutions coming together in one single cloud interface a lot simpler to access. Again, some people like cloud solution, some don't. And that's fine, too. I'm not an advocate that the cloud is the panacea to everything. I mean, it's very helpful in many regards, I must admit, but what we recognized was actually you want a single administration point, one single set of integration with your single sign on and your, your school rostering. And then the different tools or depending on the user, some teachers need to see just the instructional text functionality, some need to see students safeguarding and wellbeing data. Some people just need to be a techie to be able to diagnose if there's a problem on a machine, because if they doesn't start up at the start of the lesson, teachers will lose confidence using those Chromebooks or those iPads, they'll they'll flip back to a more traditional method of teaching because they don't want the disruption at the start of the lesson. So I think all paths come to simplicity, not to say don't look at new tech, but on a digital journey. It's better to adopt two or three new things, embed them measure impact and build confidence and then build the next layer on afterwards than it is to think well, if we try 10 things now something will stick because the odds are all 10 will fail for different reasons, whether it's time confidence, not really understanding the implementation. And also it's harder in public money. I'd much rather take small risks and make sure it's right for our school than get too carried away.

Alexander Sarlin:

Excellent rundown on a very complicated topic. And I think, you know, even though teachers use technically, you know, dozens of edtech tools, I think most educators will say, yes, yes, yes, there are these available, but there are two or three that I use that I really know how to use that I've really trained done that I reused. I think I think that understanding of building in layers rather than throwing, you know, spaghetti against the wall and saying we'll give them access to 50 tools, and every teacher will figure out what they're going to do. And

Al Kingsley:

I think sometimes the teachers know it, but those the next layer up who are looking to shift and make changes, often will implement more significant changes without really having that voice of consideration, first, from the people on the coalface.

Alexander Sarlin:

And it's also relevant to that edtech vendor strategy of going teacher first going to teachers trying to get them to use, you know, freemium, or starting to use a product and then trying to sell it into the school or into the district. Well, you know, you're competing with dozens and dozens of other tools. And even if you get some teachers to absolutely love it, there's, there's a context in which that you know, that tool can actually be implemented. That's a whole other conversation. So this has been fascinating. We are a little bit over time, and I want to respect your time. But let's wrap up, we've covered so many different great topics today. Let's wrap up by asking about, you know, what do you see as an exciting trend in the EdTech landscape right now? And I'm gonna I'm gonna take AI off the table. I've been doing this in the last few interviews just because everybody wants to say AI I certainly do. But what you see the landscape from such a interesting perspective, you see so many different things going on? What do you think is coming right now,

Al Kingsley:

because you've taken away the obvious one that I might share, or that I could have thrown in effective use of data, but it's not particularly exciting topic. I think the one that I would share, and I've started to see some great examples is on XR extended reality. Now, I don't mean that in the sense of let's all get our headsets on and head off in a virtual space. And the broader kind of Metaverse opportunities, although I think we're free, kind of unlock some fantastic opportunities. But what we're seeing is, again, this bit about shifting the way we learn, you know, youngsters are very happy with a smartphone, looking at short reels and clips, whether they're on Instagram, or Tiktok, or whatever. But we're starting to see that actually learning through bite sized consumable chunks of information in a visual and impactful way can also be really effective, both as children as adult learners. And so what we're starting to see is, is moved to the way that we consume information and we learn into much more chunks based approaches that effectively sequenced and I think that delivery mechanism also is much more impactful with some of our disengaged learners. It's something that's familiar, it's learning without realizing you're learning. It's something that is something you can follow as a skill set onwards. So I'm expecting over the next few years to see a lot more content being presented for learning in a format that we're not traditionally used to being proper learning.

Alexander Sarlin:

That's a really interesting one, you know, we've covered on the podcast, how YouTube and Facebook and tick tock, or you know, meta and tick tock have all and Amazon actually have all been sort of dipping their toes into these waters, you know, tick tock, just this week created its own STEM content channel. And you know, and there's a bunch of ad tech startups that are saying, where the Tick Tock for education, or I think that this movement is really, really exciting. And I love the way you frame it, as, you know, the learners love naturally, at this moment in time, go to these short video clips, as a go to, to learn anything to go, they're going to YouTube, they're going to tick tock to learn, they're going to tick tock to just communicate the idea of sort of really considering how learning can be optimized with that user behavior at the core of it, which we know is just core to everyone really resonates with me. Sorry, I'm, I'm uh, I feel like I'm ranting a little bit. So but great, I appreciate you being able to go beyond AI, I want to say every week to right now, but I really like that trend. The other question is, what is a resource that you would recommend for somebody who wants to learn more about the topics we discussed today? And of course, we will put the links to both of your books in the show notes, you can feel free to talk about what they are too. But I'd love to hear something that really goes deep that you didn't write as well.

Al Kingsley:

Okay, well, I'm not going to spend time strictly on my my secret ed tech diary is very much if you're into ed tech, I've written something in a way that I hope is accessible to whether you're in an edtech Pro or it scares, the trousers are few. And you want to just start at the beginning and understand stepping stones of the opportunities and choices. But you can have a look at the notes to find out more. I was thinking of a book to share. And there are so many great books. And this is a book actually that isn't specifically aimed at education. But I think in the spirit of what we've been talking about today is a really good one. The book is called The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. And it's really talking about technology, about digital disruption, about how businesses can fail by not looking at technology as those levers for growth development viability. Now, whilst that's looked in the bigger picture, the same applies to our school systems as they grow. It's not seeing that as an afterthought, but actually it's the underpinnings the foundations that allows us to be innovative, creative community Tiv supportive and all those things that we hold dear within education. It's a great book. It's not something I've just discovered from the bottom shelf. It's a well known book. But I would really encourage you to have a look at the innovators dilemma, Clayton Christensen.

Alexander Sarlin:

And I think it has a new relevance at this moment as well. I love that suggestion, because we are in a moment where suddenly very small groups of people can have incredibly outsized effects on you know, can create incredibly complex and really well, well structured products. And I think a whole new level of disruption may be on the horizon where, you know, the companies we think of as disruptive of education already may be disrupted themselves by, you know, two or three people in a metaphorical, you know, garage or dorm room or it will happen, it will definitely happen. I've got to revisit, I love. I love the innovators dilemma. There's also a companion piece specifically about disruption in an education class disrupted. So yeah, we will put links to all of those, but I love that idea. And as mentioned, we'll put links to Al's book, secret ed tech diary, and you want to speak about your other book as well.

Al Kingsley:

I just want to show you disrupting class, that companion piece that you referenced. Yeah. So you know, you've heard lots of me talking, I love to share the things that the majority of things I've learned from others, I call myself an edgy sponge. So please do check out my books. Hopefully, they're of interest. Yeah, I mean, we're very lucky that education is the one sector where most of all people are willing to share in the corporate world, we tend to keep things as our as our competitive advantage and our secrets. And I love and it's so refreshing that educators will share their successes and failures in equal measure. So I've tried to mirror that in what I do as well.

Alexander Sarlin:

I couldn't agree more. You know, doing this podcast has been such an incredible personal education and how generous and how collaborative. The people in the tech space are. I brought people on the podcast who would be considered competitors in different world and there couldn't be more collegial couldn't be more supportive of each other's work. It's really a great field to be in, which is why so many young people are looking to get into it. It's a really nice group of people. And you are one of the pillars of the community. You've been doing this for a while have amazing insights. Thanks so much for being here with me on edtech insiders. It's been a really, really fascinating conversation.

Al Kingsley:

It's been my pleasure. I'm always enjoy talking with like minded people. So thank you, Alex.

Alexander Sarlin:

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