Lessons from a Senior Learning Technologist

At Texthelp it’s our mission to help unlock everyone's full potential through technology. We love hearing from other like minded people who are passionate about education, accessibility and technology. That's why we invited Sky Caves, a Senior Learning Technologist at Basingstoke College of Technology onto the podcast.

Sky shares why she's so passionate about integrating technology into the classroom and how her and the digital team at BCoT drive digital adoption across the college.

To find out more about the EdTech Demonstrator Programme and to sign up to get help and support from schools and colleges like BCoT, visit edtechdemo.ucst.uk


Patrick McGrath (00:16):
Welcome to another episode of the Texthelp Talks Podcast. The podcast, of course, where we've got a host of experts covering a range of topics from education right through into the workplace. So make sure you subscribe through your preferred podcast player or streaming service, so you never miss an episode. And even more importantly, I would love it if you joined in the conversation with questions for our guest or ourselves at Texthelp today. To contribute to the conversation, ask questions, and join the discussion, just jump on Twitter and use the #TexthelpTalks, and join in with myself and our special guest.

Patrick (00:49):
I'm Patrick and I'm Head of Education Strategy here at Texthelp. And it's my privilege to be your host for today for the next 30 to 40 minutes, depending on how our conversation goes with our guest, to take you through her perspective on the last couple of years, and looking forward to digital learning.

Patrick (01:07):
Of course, at Texthelp, it's our mission to help unlock everyone's full potential through technology. We love hearing from other like-minded people who are passionate about education, accessibility and technology. And actually, our guest today, I know uses the word passionate in her Twitter bio online, regarding all those three things.

Patrick (01:26):
So today our very special guest is a person that I met a few years ago now, and she maybe can't remember this at this stage, when I first went to see Basingstoke College of Technology, and just the impressive team and support that they offer for students there. And that person is of course, Sky Caves from Basingstoke.

Patrick (01:46):
Sky's story from student to a Senior Learning Technologist is one I know we can all gain insights from, especially as many schools and colleges now find themselves on their own journey to using digital tools for learning. So Sky has now joined us. Sky, brace yourself. It's the bit that we all cringe at, which is your bio piece.

Patrick (02:04):
So we're going to quickly run through that now, and impressive though it is, you've clearly been a very busy person over the last couple years. Sky is a Senior Learning Technologist at Basingstoke College of Technology, a general further education college in the Southeast of England. She trains and supports students and staff to use digital technologies in a way which supports engaging, inclusive and personalised teaching and learning experiences.

Patrick (02:27):
Sky has a particular interest in the use of technology to make education more accessible to those who learn differently, the impact of essential digital skills on social mobility and digital citizen, citizenship, I should say, and the all important well-being within education. In 2021, she co-authored a short online module on digital well-being, encompassing topics such as online safety, digital reputation, and online privacy, which was completed by all full-time learners at the Basingstoke College of Technology. She's also run bespoke workshops on these topics in their specialist provision for learners with SEN.

Patrick (03:05):
Well, Sky, welcome, and wow that took me, I think that you go on record as the longest intro there. That's a fairly impressive CV, and I think that's only the highlights of the last 18 or 20 months or so?

Sky Caves (03:17):
Yeah. Thank you for having me on, it's a pleasure. Yeah. It's been a busy one, really busy time, but yeah, it's exciting to talk about and look back on the things we've been doing, actually.

Sky (03:26):
I think for a lot of people in the sector, it's been so jam-packed and just fighting fires all the time. It's quite nice to have a chance to reflect, actually.

Patrick (03:33):
And I think I'm quite jealous of you today, Sky, because I can see you sitting there in a lovely media room in Basingstoke College of Technology, where I'm still in the spare room, in the little podcast booth that I have, but it looks great and it's fabulous to see you back at the college. And I know you've been there for some time, but we're absolutely looking forward to talking to you today, Sky, hearing your firsthand experience, including coming back to that word, passion, figuring out why you're so passionate about integrating technology in the classroom and how your team really drives digital adoption.

Patrick (04:03):
That's something that's always very close to my heart as an EdTech company. We can sell products all day long, but it's no point doing that if they're not used and they're not useful, and that adoption piece is really key. And I know you strive to get adoption as wide as you can on technology, into the hands of as many students as you can.

Patrick (04:21):
So look, welcome. And I am super, super, super excited to go through this next while with you today. I suppose, Sky, over the past kind of... particularly the past 18 months, and maybe longer than that, maybe three years or so, lots of new job titles have arrived on the scene with people. We've got our Digital Learning Leads, we've got our Learning Technologists, and you come to us as a Senior Learning Technologist. You've got the term Senior in there, but for those of our listeners who may be not familiar with that role, what does that role involve in BCoT for you?

Sky (04:53):
Yeah. It's one of my favorite questions that people ask a lot, including my family who don't really know what I do because it's really difficult to answer, actually. The bulk of my role is supporting teaching, learning and assessment, and particularly the use of technology to enhance that.

Sky (05:10):
So that entails sort of training, creating training resources for staff members and students, live training and workshops. And then also looking at EdTech tools and assessing whether they've got a use and a place where we teach. But I also sort of do some more working one-to-one with learners, particularly around accessibility, sort of the past three years or so, I suppose that's become sort of a bit of my focus in the team.

Patrick (05:37):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sky (05:38):
But really, my role has evolved quite a lot. So our team, for context, was only formed five years ago. And at that point, I joined the team as an apprentice.

Patrick (05:48):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sky (05:49):
And we've been really lucky to have some fantastic people in our team, and we all have different backgrounds and skill sets. So we kind of bring that and we've kind of forged the role as we go along, depending on what the students and the teachers need really.

Patrick (06:03):
So it's obviously a strategic role from a teaching, learning standpoint within the college, but I suppose it tends to be quite dynamic. You're having to be reactive to students' needs, and then you're also having to look forward, I guess, at what's there that can help students, and is there a benefit to actual students for say new technology? So it's a fairly flexible role, I guess.

Sky (06:23):
Yeah, absolutely. And as well, like when our team was sort of formed, we were just introducing flipped learning at the college. So that was an hour session for all courses, all full-time courses where their teachers would set them sort of learning online, and then they'd complete those in a timetabled one hour flipped learning session. So that was to promote sort of independent working skills, and also to help embed digital skills across the courses.

Sky (06:48):
So yeah, when I sort of began, a lot of my work was helping teachers sort of discover and use tools to create sort of engaging online learning essentially. And then it was sort of more integrating technology more widely into the curriculum. And then obviously the past 18 months, which nobody could have planned for, was very much sort of going to full-time online learning, and helping teachers and students adapt to this very different way of doing things.

Patrick (07:16):
Do you think because of... You said the team was established about five years ago, Sky, did I hear that right? Yeah. So about five years ago in general. So Basingstoke have always been very well known. In fact, in advance of today, I Googled a particular point of Basingstoke, and lo and behold, there was a picture of me standing there in Basingstoke, came up on the first results. So about four years ago, as part of the EdTech Hub that was launched there.

Patrick (07:39):
So Basingstoke have very much been ahead of the curve, and I suppose, do you credit that kind of vision and foresight with being more successful through the last 18 months, or did it give you a good head start to the transition you had to put in place?

Sky (07:53):
Oh yeah. It definitely gave us a good head start, and I think for first, firstly, we were so lucky to be in a position where we had a digital team whose job it is to support staff and students to use technology, because it meant that the week before lockdown in March 2020, I'll never forget, our team were just running around to every staff room, introducing them to Google Meet, which is the platform we ran our lessons on, creating videos and guides for learners. And a lot of places weren't that lucky to have the resource in terms of people whose job it was to do that.

Sky (08:25):
So yeah, we were very lucky to be prepared, and also our staff were already across all areas using digital tools for learning. So not that it wasn't a difficult transition. I think it was for everyone, regardless of your circumstances, but it definitely gave us a head start.

Patrick (08:42):
I think it's probably fair to say that post the last 18, 19 months, there's certainly going to be a few more Learning Technologists roles throughout schools and colleges. And we're going to come onto that later in terms of initiatives like the DfE's EdTech Demonstrator Program, the Hub that you have there within BCoT and how that is strengthened and supporting, and really building that network of support across schools and colleges.

Patrick (09:03):
But I want to maybe pair it back a little bit and come back to you. You've mentioned starting your role there in BCoT, but what about your journey through education? Did technology help you as a student, and how did you end up finding your way into the team at BCoT? What was your journey?

Sky (09:21):
Yeah, absolutely. So when I was in school, I'd never heard of a Learning Technologist and I definitely wouldn't have imagined myself being one. I wasn't a techie person at all, actually, but I struggled in mainstream school quite a lot myself. And before coming to college, I was in a PRU, a Pupil Referral Unit. So very small classes, very sort of individualised education, because I hadn't got on well in mainstream.

Sky (09:48):
So going to college was really anxiety provoking for me, going back into a sort of mainstream classroom environment, particularly as I hadn't got on with it previously. But the way that my teachers were using education on my... using technology, sorry, on my course to sort of create resources online that people could come back to if they had been absent, particularly my teacher, Scott, who's now my manager, he was using a lot of technologies like doing chats on Twitter and apps like Socrative, so that people could engage in discussions and debates in the classroom without having to physically put your hand up and contribute in the classroom.

Patrick (10:27):
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Sky (10:28):
And that completely changed my educational experience. So I completed a one-year media course there and then went off into the world of work. Was working in hospitality, didn't really know what I wanted to do. And then I saw that sort of off the back of the work that Scott had been doing, mostly with his course and then starting to work with others, I saw the opportunity for an apprenticeship, in basically supporting other teachers to use the kind of technologies that I'd been lucky enough to have access to as a student.

Patrick (10:59):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sky (11:00):
And because of how much I recognised that helped me in my education at the college, and it changed my perspective of education, and it wasn't a one-size-fits-all approach.
Patrick (11:13):


Sky (11:14):
So I kind of thought, "Yeah, I'd like to do that. I'd like to make sure that every student, regardless of what course they're on, has sort of this toolkit to help them engage."

Patrick (11:24):
But when we think about use of the tools and we think about, say your experience in BCoT, one of the challenges, and we talked about it briefly in the intro, was just how to get buy-in when it comes to integrating technology. Now, you talked earlier about your first focus, if I've got it right, was really on that teacher buy-in part, and the second part was, "Right. Well, how do we get now students on board?"

Patrick (11:49):
What's your secrets or what's your process, or what's your initiatives to drive adoption of digital tools? If you take teachers say on the one hand, because you've been there, done that, and I guess continuously have to do that. And then on the second side, what do you do for students? How do you encourage students? So maybe talk about teachers first?

Sky (12:07):
Yeah. So with teachers, we find that sort of when we first... when our team was created and flipped learning was introduced, there was quite a lot of resistance, actually, because we're talking experienced teachers who've been teaching longer than I've been alive, and been doing it the way they've been doing it. And we are coming along and saying, "Oh, maybe you should try doing this, that's new."

Sky (12:27):
And obviously, there's going to be resistance there. But the way we really framed it was looking at ways that we could introduce tech that would help them save them time, and sort of enhance their practice. So we've always said that the EdTech that we use is led by the pedagogy, it's led by the teacher, and it never could be a replacement. Technology is just a tool and it's one of the tools that teachers and students can use.

Sky (12:53):
So I think the first thing that's really important is how you frame it. We didn't come in and say, "Okay, what you're doing isn't good enough, and we're going to bring in some wizzy tech that's going to make it better."

Patrick (13:03):

Sky (13:04):
Because actually, you can have the best EdTech tools in the world, but if you don't have fantastic teachers, like we're lucky to have at BCoT, then they're pointless.

Patrick (13:13):
You see, you mentioned resistance there. Do you mean by resistance, resistant to change or is it a perception that there's going to be somehow increased workload by using these new ways to teach with technology? Because in actual fact, you're not saying that. You're saying, "We're going to support your current high quality approaches to teaching and learning”. Is it resistance to change or what?

Sky (13:37):
It's a bit of both, to be honest. I think mostly resistance to change, but one thing that's slightly unique at BCoT is when we sort of introduced our digital team and things, we also went over to Google for Education, having been mostly Microsoft previously. So we use both now. We use kind of whatever works best for whatever class or situation, but because we were kind of introducing a new platform at the time, and we sort of moved away from Moodle onto Google Classroom. So there were sort of changes and new things that teachers were needing to learn as well.

Sky (14:10):
So there was all also that kind of element of teachers already have an overwhelming workload, and that made it difficult because obviously, we didn't want to introduce these things to make life harder for teachers. We were introducing them because from the sort of prototypes we'd ran in certain courses, it was working better. And in the long-run it was saving teachers time, and it was just making workflows and processes easier.

Sky (14:33):
So yeah, again, sort of the way we reframed it, I think was really important to getting the buy-in. And then also, the fact that we had the team for it to be ongoing support. So we didn't call in someone from a company to do a talk one day and then expect everyone to just run with it. We had a dedicated team who would go in, support the teachers, do one-to-one training, do small group training, do coaching, and it's sort of that ongoing support.

Sky (14:57):
Whereas I think quite often you see... Well, sometimes you see sort of when places introduce new things, they'll just wheel it out, show it to the teachers, and expect adoption to happen.

Patrick (15:09):

Sky (15:09):
And teachers don't have time to play around with technology and learn it that way. So we kind of-

Patrick (15:16):
I think you mentioned there, you mentioned coaching and mentoring throughout that process. And I think that ongoing piece has obviously been key to success. I see it in BCoT and I see it in other institutions, where we'd point to and go, "They're shining lights of integration," because it's kind of always on. It's not the inset day twice a year, and then it's forgotten about at the end of the day, because frankly, there's so many other things to do. It is about that constant process.

Patrick (15:40):
That's interesting that you find that, and framing certainly, I think it's so, so, so important. And what about students then? So if you look at the kind of consistent process for coaching and mentoring, and support for the teaching staff there, how does that transfer then into students?

Patrick (15:59):
So you make it available to students, but now you need your students to actually use the tools and understand why they would even want to use the tools, I guess. What's the secret or what's the process you follow in BCoT around that.

Sky (16:12):
So I think one thing that's been really successful for us is every year, since we sort of started doing flipped learning and introduced the digital team, we've done a digital induction with all learners.

Patrick (16:21):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sky (16:22):
So as I said, previously, they have an hour timetabled flipped learning per week. And in September, the first one or two, we've varied year on year, sessions have been that sort of digital induction. So our team will sort of offer a sort of short course and a few checks, and time for them to play over the tools and get used to them, and make sure that they know the functionality.

Sky (16:44):
So I think that was really important because it means that they've got sort of a couple of hours at the very beginning of term to actually familiarise themselves with the tools, and understand what the purpose is rather than just saying, "Here's some stuff that you can use," and then we never mention it again.

Sky (17:01):
But also, we use that time in digital induction to frame that again, our team is here for ongoing support for learners, as well as staff. So we're based in the college where we have an open door policy in our office, both students and staff can come in whenever. I think a lot of people sort of think about techy people and think, "Oh, they're hidden up in an office and probably not the friendliest of people."

Sky (17:26):
So we really try and make sure they understand that actually, our role is primarily supporting teaching and learning. It's not the tech side of it, but we can help them use technology to do that.

Patrick (17:36):
Obviously, Sky, you know us at Texthelp, and we're not here to talk about our tools, but we have been for 25 years or so, very focused on literacy through say something like Read&Write which I know obviously, BCoT have, but what I'm really interested in finding out from you, we have a message when we talk about Read&Write. We say, "Look, it may be necessary for some, but it's useful for all," and we know that through our experience.

Patrick (18:01):
But what is the importance of providing one tool, whether it's Read&Write or anything else, that may have specific support criteria to all of your students? Because you mentioned earlier, "I want to support people that just simply learn differently." I think that's key to this. I think we've all found that out over the pandemic, just the diversity of learners that we have and how important inclusion is, but what's the importance of supporting an average student with the same tool?

Sky (18:28):
So I think I'll use Read&Write in the example, because that is one of the key tools that we introduce it to all learners in the digital induction, and it's something that we encourage everyone to use. And part of the reason for that is because we don't want to be singling people out and saying like, "Okay, you need this extra support because of X, Y, Z."

Patrick (18:47):

Sky (18:49):
But it's also because, as you said, it can be useful for everyone. And I think particularly, in further education where we are trying to encourage learners to take more responsibility and be more independent in their working, it's really important for them to be able to identify how they learn best, and what will help them so that when they leave college, they can continue to use these tools and these kind of tools independently.

Patrick (19:15):
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Sky (19:17):
So we introduce it to all of our learners as just part of their digital pencil case, if you like. It's something that they have. Some days they might need some things, they won't all need the same things. And it's one of the things we really like about Read&Write, is because there's a lot of different options on there, and whenever I'm introducing it to learners, I always go through the options and I also say, "Some of you, some of this won't be relevant to you. Some of you, some bits will be, but there'll always be a time where something will be of use."

Sky (19:44):
And I always give the example of... I use the screen mask and the reading light after a long week, if I'm trying to read like a long document on my screen. I use it just to help focus, and I always give that as an example to the learners so that they can see, okay, I know they'll have that there, and there might be situations where I need it every now and then.

Sky (20:02):
And I think that's a really important way for us to frame it because, again, it doesn't single out any learners and it helps everyone realise that all these additional tools and technologies we're using are there to meet a need, not just for the sake of it.

Patrick (20:17):
I think that yeah, absolutely. That's a core message, certainly from our perspective, that removal of stigma of, "Well, you get Read&Write because you're this," or whatever the technology tool is. It doesn't have to be Read&Write, but this is assistive technology. And what we're trying to say is, "No, it's just technology."

Patrick (20:33):
Like when I talk about me wearing glasses, that's assistive technology, but I never say my assistive glasses. I just say my glasses and they do help me. Without them, I'm blind, and that reduction of stigma, I think has definitely come, and I hope you've seen it too, more to the fore throughout these extended periods of remote learning, because students are finding their own way that sometimes I guess, there's a temptation to say, "Look..." Say in Read&Write, and you go... And if a salesperson's talking about Read&Write, they'll go, "There's 26 different features in Read&Write," and teachers would look at that and go, "Really? I've got to get my student to use 26 different features?" And that's not what any of us are saying on any of the EdTech tools we work with. It's what's right for the student and develops their learning, and it's wonderful to hear that.

Patrick (21:15):
And thinking about inclusion in BCoT, do you think the digital skills that you talked about earlier on, and sort of the general sort of integration of technology, do you think that by its nature, has helped with the inclusion drive within an institution like BCoT? Has that been part of the process of being a more inclusive college?

Sky (21:39):
Yeah, definitely. I think so, particularly, we've done a lot of work around different ways of capturing assessment for learners, and sort of them creating evidence. And we use technology in a variety of ways for that, whether it's sort of video, them creating visual things like posters and things. And we always encourage our teachers to offer learners the sort of variety of options for tools that they could use.

Sky (22:04):
And when I say tools, I don't just mean digital tools. It might be some people prefer to write out an essay. Some people prefer to type it. Some people prefer to do a vlog of it, and that I think has really helped with inclusion because it means that learners have different strengths and weaknesses, regardless of what course they're on, but we're sort of showing them that they can still utilise whatever their strength is.

Sky (22:27):
Some of our students are... they get blank page syndrome and really don't like writing an essay, but if you stick a camera in front of them and ask them to cover the criteria in a professional discussion, then they could go on for ages. So I think just showing our learners that we're not going to try and fit them all into a box and say, "Okay, you have to do it this way, otherwise you don't pass." It's a case of, "Actually, as long as you're learning and you are sort of meeting the industry needs, you can evidence that however you want, and you can work to your strengths." And I think that's been really good,

Patrick (22:58):
But that, I suppose that only comes out of all of the other steps that you've done, where the coaching and mentoring programs with the teachers, with adoption with the students, because we can talk about, I suppose, frameworks like Universal Design for Learning and we go, "Oh, we need multiple ways to represent content, and we need multiple ways to articulate learning."

Patrick (23:17):
And that's all good and that's good practice, but actually, you need to go on that journey that I guess you've already been on, and you continue to be on with your teachers and students, to give them the necessary skills to actually enable that inclusion.

Patrick (23:29):
And as I've kind of got thinking through today, Sky, and I thought I'll put an interview type question with you. Don't worry. We're not looking to steal you away from BCoT at this point, because this is a BCoT related question, but the college's mission is for all our learners to progress with the skills employers need. In a line or two, how do you think the digital team, your team at BCoT contributes to that mission?

Patrick (23:54):
How are we using all of this technology and this new focus and drive that your team's got? How does that actually get your students ready for employability, and the skills that employers need going forward? How does it contribute to that?

Sky (24:10):
So I think one thing that we are really good at doing at BCoT is working with industry, working with employers, and listening to their needs. And that's something that influences a lot of the things that we do, both in terms of digital and not digital.

Patrick (24:23):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sky (24:24):
But with digital in particular, we always emphasise to our students that any job they're going into is increasingly going to have an element of digital, and helping to build those sort of basic digital competencies, but then also confidence in using new tools, it's going to increase their employability because every industry is rapidly changing, and we can't train them on every kind of software that they're going to need in the industry in particular, but we can help them get used to using different tools and learning how to sort of self-teach and just becoming more confident in using technology in general.

Sky (25:03):
It's in our digital strategy, we looked at the World Economic Forum, Top 10 Skills for 2025, and technology's mentioned in there. So I think it's sort of just general digital skills, but also a lot of those are things like creativity, complex problem solving, innovation, and these are all things that we try to use digital tools to help support.

Sky (25:25):
So particularly things like collaborating and creativity, we try to embed those in our digital learning.

Patrick (25:34):
I suppose, Sky, your role in general, I remember going back to 2012 and talking about education technology, and using the whole line of, we need to create skills for jobs that don't exist yet. And in 2012, who would've thought that there would be a job such as yours, a Senior Learning Technologist?

Patrick (25:53):
And I suppose if you rewinded it and you looked at your pathway to that role, the core skills, that collaboration and creativity, and those essential skills that the World Economic Forum has pulled out, absolutely contributed and enabled you to do your current job. So I guess that's testament to that statement. It probably still holds true as many more jobs come up those core skills are essential.

Patrick (26:16):
Speaking about you, so people can follow you of course, on Twitter. And if I've got it right, Sky, it's @SkyCaves9, @SkyCaves19, but a line on your Twitter bio caught my attention, and you say, "Always learning," there. So what's next for you and the team at BCoT in terms of technology for learning? What's on your roadmap for the rest of this academic year and maybe the next, the year after that?

Sky (26:48):
So I think one of the big things for us, as I mentioned at the beginning, we've been doing a lot around digital well-being. And now that we've sort of got digital embedded around a lot of courses, and we stress for learners how important digital is in terms of their employability and career, we are also starting to focus a lot more on these features in our digital strategy, which goes from 2021 to '26, on educating learners about technology and how it affects them.

Sky (27:18):
Not just how it's going to affect their career and how it affects their learning, but really getting learners thinking about their relationship with technology. And that does impact on their learning and their career because take for example, screen time or gaming addictions and things. And we have a lot of learners who... they're coming to college and they've only slept a couple of hours because they've been up on their Xbox all night.

Sky (27:42):
So we are actually sort of... we’re venturing into that area a lot more. So yeah, we did a sort of course in our digital induction this year for all learners, getting them thinking about those things, and we've got some more things planned throughout the year, sort of like events and activities. So I think we are quite conscious that in a lot of ways, we've thrust technology up, and that's for our staff and teachers.

Sky (28:07):
We've sort of got them using more technology, and particularly over the past 18 months. Obviously, it's not really been optional, but everyone's been sat in front of a screen a lot longer. And we want to make sure that we're not being evangelical about technology and saying, "The more technology you use, the better," and we're actually preparing our learners to sort of forge a healthier relationship with technology.

Patrick (28:32):

Sky (28:32):
And we do feel like that is kind of our responsibility to do as people who are saying, "Oh, here are the benefits." We do also need to say, "And here are some of the risks, if you like, and here's how to optimise the use of technology."

Patrick (28:42):
So it is about creating that absolute balance where we've been in constantly for so long now. It's a matter of finding that balance. And it was interesting you talked earlier, as a Senior Learning Technologist, you talked about book work and still using the pen and paper for essays. And that's certainly something that I know EdTech companies are never here to say, "You should be learning online all of the time." There is the right balance for the right situation, and that balance is important.

Patrick (29:09):
Sky, at Texthelp we've worked with Scott Hayden and with the team there, recently through the Innovation Hub that you have in place for EdTech companies. And I would encourage any EdTech company listening to reach out to BCoT through Scott and really get involved in that.

Patrick (29:27):
It's been fabulous for us because we've got something really raw, which is that student voice. Student voice, using our tools, feeding back openly and honesty in what works from what doesn't work. And it has been a fabulous, fabulous resource for us, and we've really enjoyed the process.

Patrick (29:42):
But one of the other things that you're involved in, of course, one of the positives for me coming out of all this online learning has been DfE and as they created the EdTech Demonstrator Program, and that obviously changed through the last couple of years from where it was and where it is now.

Patrick (29:58):
BCoT of course, has been a leading light in that. It is a key Demonstrator College. And for those people who don't know about that program run by DfE throughout England, can you explain that quickly, that program quickly, and what it takes from a BCoT perspective, and how you help say other colleges or schools in that process?

Sky (30:20):
Yeah, absolutely. So it's been an absolute pleasure to be involved with the program. In a nutshell, it's peer-to-peer support from other schools and colleges in terms of sort of using digital technology. And it's a really flexible program, so essentially, schools and colleges can sign up on the EdTech Demo website.

Sky (30:40):
They get allocated a sort of supporter school or college based on what their needs are. So it might be geographically close to them, or it might be using similar sort of software to them. And then we work with them in a really holistic way. So for example, over lockdown, a lot of our work was focusing on helping people adopt to online learning. Thankfully, now we're doing less webinars and we can actually get out and see people.

Sky (31:05):
So just last week, I was up at a College doing some training, specifically with their construction team, and another day with some of their teacher trainers. So it's led by the school and college that signs up. So it might be, they want to focus on assessment. It might be, they want to focus on marking. Whatever their kind of focus and need is, we can then basically just give advice and sort of offer training, create resources, and just be there to support them.

Sky (31:32):
And I think it's really nice because all of the Demonstrator schools and colleges, it's coming from people working in education.

Patrick (31:38):

Sky (31:39):
So we kind of understand the different challenges and nuances of it.

Patrick (31:43):
And your only interest is teaching and learning at that point, and the right tools for the job in there. So it's completely impartial. It's about good practice, I guess. And it's been lovely to see that grow to kind of a national support network throughout England, with the Hub approaches and the central pieces that have been put in place. I've been very impressed with all of the schools and colleges that have been involved in the program. It's been really, really useful and I hope obviously, it continues to stay.

Patrick (32:09):
And hats off to BCoT for taking such a leading role in that, through the college network over the last couple of years. It's been amazing to watch that grow, and I know you're sharing digital well-being resources that the college has created with other schools and colleges. You're providing support around digital accessibility and online learning.

Patrick (32:26):
But what's key for me in what you just said there is, it's quite bespoke. You're responding to the needs of those colleges that you're coming into contact with, and you're delivering something that's suitable for them. It's not a one-size-fits-all. It's just like education, so that's great.

Patrick (32:38):
I'm sure for all of you listening today and enjoying the conversation with Sky, you'd love to find out more about that program and to access those resources that we talked about from BCoT. And I'm right in saying, Sky, all they need to do is visit edtechdemo.ucst.uk. Hopefully I've got that URL right. Is that right?

Sky (32:57):
Yeah, that's correct. And there's a button on the homepage to kind of sign up for support, and they can put in there their sort of specific things. So like for our digital well-being site, we're sharing that as part of the program. So if anyone wants access to those resources, if they just pop in the form that they would like to work with BCoT, then we can provide them with sort of blank copies of that.

Patrick (33:16):
Okay, that's absolutely perfect. And what we'll do for all of you listeners, we'll pop that in the show notes and make sure that link is in the show notes, and any other links that we've talked about throughout the podcast today.

Patrick (33:27):
Well, Sky, with that, the time has absolutely flown by. And I have really, really thoroughly enjoyed our conversation, as I always do. I do hope we're going to see each other again in person, most likely at Bett, I guess, at this time. So we'll see you again soon.

Patrick (33:41):
So look, I just want to thank you, not only for coming on the podcast today, but for all that I know you do throughout BCoT and throughout the industry. There's a man who speaks incredibly highly of you, and that, of course, is Mr. Scott Hayden, and anything that Scott says and anybody he speaks highly of goes to the top of my list.

Patrick (33:58):
So Sky, thank you for being such a wonderful guest. I do hope people reach out and respond to what you've said there. So thank you for your time today, and I just thank all of our listeners for joining our podcast today. That's another episode in the can of the Texthelp Talks Podcast.

Patrick (34:14):
I would encourage you to subscribe using your normal podcast tool or streaming platform. And of course, as always, what we'd really love you to do is join the conversation. Join the conversation on Twitter. Use the #TexthelpTalks, ask us questions. We'll be sure to get those to Sky and hopefully she can respond. And if you've got any questions for us here, we'd love to hear from you.

Patrick (34:35):
And that's us over and out Sky, for another episode of Texthelp Talks.