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Education Technology Summit speaker interview: Ziwei (Jo) Huang

Jo has always known she wanted to work in edtech. She grew up in China and was educated in the public school system until age 18 then she studied in both the US and the Netherlands before taking a master’s degree at the University of Oxford, UK. She realised how transformative education was for her and wants to help make an impact for other learners.

Jo is edtech product manager at FeedbackFruits. With her colleague Maria Uglvig, she will co-present a session on scaling inclusive learning design at the Education Technology Summit.

What attracted you about your current role?

I wanted to improve the learning experience and I was lucky to find a company (FeedbackFruits) on a mission that resonated with my ideals. I knew that I wanted to work on the infrastructure side and to design tools that are fundamental to the way we teach and make connections rather than just create learning content. I’m now working with the tools I wish I had when I was a student.

How do you see the tools making a difference?

From my early student days, I often found learning and teaching practice very ‘old school’ and I was disappointed that there wasn’t a culture of using technology although I could see how it could make us more productive. When I studied in a class of 50, it was already evident that the teacher struggled to manage the input of all students. When I got to the Netherlands and class sizes were 300 to 400 students, the challenge of facilitating engagement was even bigger and more salient and I could see that my peers were equally frustrated by the lack of feedback from instructors.

What we have is a broad suite of tools to help teachers implement the kind of learning design that best suits their needs. Previously teachers might not have had all the elements required to support a complete learning design. Now they can design a holistic experience. The ability to integrate different types of tools breaks down the walls between different pedagogic practices where tasks seem disconnected. Students can see how tasks contribute to their overall learning goals and the skills they are building. It helps students become owners of their own learning process.

How does your work support inclusivity?

Inclusive learning design is fundamental to what we do. One aspect is making sure the tools are fully accessible for all users and the other aspect is supporting diverse learning designs in different contexts.

Again, I can draw on my own experience because I have seen how learning designs that are too rigid can cause international students to feel excluded and not able to present their best possible work reflecting their own background and experience. I feel there’s a lot edtech can do to improve the learning experience by working with both students and instructors in this space.

All our tools are about stimulating students’ critical thinking and encouraging them to improve their own work.

Tell us more about the interactive audio and video tools.

Teachers who want to stimulate interaction and make teaching materials more engaging increasingly turn to YouTube videos or podcasts. Such study media can enrich the experience yet it can be very difficult to get an understanding of how students are responding to the resources. We provide ways to centre and mediate those discussions by collecting what students say in relation to thought-provoking questions prompted by the media and bring the teacher’s voice into those discussions. This way it becomes a collective learning experience rather than simply consuming the medium.

You are using artificial intelligence (AI) - does that raise ethical issues?

We do use AI in some areas. Education is for social good and it’s important that we consider the implications of how we use data. AI is a buzzword that many people don’t fully understand and there are too many examples of companies using human data or other people’s work to achieve a purpose that those individuals may never have agreed to.

Obtaining consent and involving humans in the design process are crucial. Our approach is not to collect learner data via use of our tools. We don’t use student data to develop our machine learning model. We do have a special dataset with university and student permission but mainly we rely on human feedback to improve our algorithms.

I’m excited to see topics relating to inclusivity and ethics on the programme for the Summit and I look forward to exchanging thoughts with the other participants.


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