ISE 2024 Education Technology Summit review

ISE 2024 Education Technology Summit review
Gill Ferrell, chair of ISE's Education Technology Summit, reviews the 2024 event, titled Educating Humans in a Digital World.

ISE 2024 saw the Education Technology Summit going from strength to strength and filling the CC5 conference suite's largest auditorium for the first time.

Juan Antonio MartinezJuan Antonio Martínez-Carrascal from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona opened proceedings with a talk about designing learning spaces in the digital era. Martínez-Carrascal focused on the need to rethink the use of space based on modern teaching practices. He highlighted the value of connecting via this community by describing how his university has used the TU Delft University Education Spaces Cookbook first presented at ISE in 2020.

Mhairi AitkenOur keynote speaker was Dr Mhairi Aitken from the Alan Turing Institute which brings together some of the world’s leading researchers in AI technology. Aitken cut through some of the media hype and misinformation around AI. She pointed out that it’s not new: AI has been embedded into systems that affect many areas of our lives, including in healthcare, policing, entertainment and education for a number of years. Most importantly, it’s also not intelligent! Aitken criticised unrealistic, sensationalised concerns about the risks AI presents and used a lot of humorous examples to point out its failings.

She did however list some very real concerns that the industry needs to address namely: bias, misrepresentation, disinformation, exploitative practices and environmental impacts. Aitken stressed the need for education about AI. We need to understand the limitations and the risks in order to fully exploit the potential for AI to deliver great benefits in education. Teachers and learners need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to engage responsibly with AI.

The keynote was a balanced overview of how AI might impact education emphasising that how the systems are developed, deployed and used will affect whether the impact is positive or negative. Aitken said that education is a key area in which the future of AI will be shaped but, crucially, that future is not yet decided. Engaging communities such as the ISE audience with the issues is vital to future success.

Cecilia GoriaSally HanfordA series of interconnected sessions looked at hybrid learning from different angles. Cecilia Goria and Sally Hanford from the University of Nottingham asked the question whether hybrid learning is a futuristic model or a model for the future? Goria and Hanford reported on a series of studies undertaken by the universities of Nottingham and Birmingham looking at the issues from the perspective of different focus groups most notably students, teachers and AV support staff. Hybrid learning got the green light from students particularly in the areas of offering flexibility and choice and meeting accessibility and inclusivity needs.

X2O Media sponsored the summit and Rob Brinklow shared the company's thoughts on good practice. The X2O OneRoom installations are a far cry from the situation that many educators found themselves in during emergency remote and hybrid teaching. Brinklow outlined their aim to deliver hybrid experiences with no decrease in key performance indicators over fully in presence delivery. Many of Brinklow’s key messages echoed those from the first presentation of the day about putting pedagogy first in order to design effective learning experiences.

Panel - Ferrell, Hentzel, Arnold, ReynoldsSummit delegates also heard first-hand experiences from the professional staff supporting the use of AV and learning technologies in education. A panel consisting of Deborah Arnold, Sónia Hetzner and Sally Reynolds discussed the current issues. Arnold recently completed a PhD on the topic and outlined a model behind the development of a new type of ‘third space professional’. Reynolds, as Chief Operating Officer of the Media and Learning Association (MLA) is able to take an overview across the MLA member organisations and described the pace of change as ‘messy’ with no single direction of travel. Hetzner is President of the MLA and also brings the perspective of her home institution: Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. Inevitably, the conversation turned to how AI might impact the roles of support staff. Reynolds described how MLA members fall into two camps: those who are focused on the operational side of using AI in educational media production and those who are addressing the broader questions of approach across the campus, overall policy and taking decisions on ethics. Arnold can see that use of AI should free up academic staff time but feels that it’s not necessarily happening at the moment. Hetzner is optimistic about the possibilities and feels we need to do a certain amount of building the bridge while crossing it rather than having the leisure to do things as sequentially as we might like.

Sarah TichoSarah Ticho of the XR Health Alliance introduced summit delegates to the many uses of XR in health education. Ticho described the size of this market. The health service in England employs 1.3 million people who need ongoing professional development throughout their careers and there are currently 160k learners studying to be part of this workforce. She illustrated how a range of immersive technologies are cutting costs and reducing risk and showed some impressive examples of using such technologies to improve mental health and well-being. Despite the scale of the market and the evidence of benefits, there is still no joined up ecosystem for taking innovative ideas through the research development and testing stages and into mainstream practice.

Aitken, Hanford, Hetzner and Ticho took part in a final Q&A with the audience although our time was up with many more topics yet to discuss.

The team behind the ISE Education Technology Summit will be keeping a watchful eye on developments in the edtech world, including AI and new types of learning environment, ready to bring you the latest news and examples of good practice again in 2025.

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