cyclist on the open road

What is the future in FE for TEL and Digital Pedagogy? Thoughts from the bike by an FE Teacher Educator

Jamie Heywood, Bedford College Group @jamiewheywood

What will Covid-19 mean for TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) and Digital Pedagogy in our beloved FE sector? Well, the truth is, no one really knows due to this extraordinary and unprecedented situation. As an FE teacher educator, looking ahead to the new academic year, I am curious on how digital pedagogy (the approach and method of digital elements to change ways of delivering teaching and learning) will look when courses begin again, students are back, and another cycle begins where teaching and learning will undoubtedly be under the microscope more than ever before. I am particularly interested on whether the perception of TEL has been moulded, how teaching has been transformed and what the perennial impact of Covid-19 will be. Teacher knowledge change, belief change and culture change are all needed to implement a new definition of effective teaching (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2014) but have these concepts been developed? I have experienced first-hand how diverse the responses have been from FE lecturers, with some struggling to adapt to the new demands of online delivery to others who have thrived; will these experiences make long lasting influences to their deep rooted teaching beliefs?

One personal benefit that has come from the lockdown is the chance to get out on my road bike more and this is often the time I reflect and consider what the new landscape may look like. Cycling and using TEL actually have some similarities: the inexperienced need some support at first and the more you do it, the better (and faster) you get! Please forgive me for using a couple of cycling analogies here!

Personal Bests

Many educators have been thrust into an unknown reality, and after the initial pandemonium, have become dependant on TEL. Like riding without stabilisers for the first time, this can be daunting at first (and can result in a few falls) but as ever, the resilient FE workforce, can adapt and thrive. The SAMR model provides a four stage TEL framework from Substitution (TEL acting as a direct substitute, with no functional change) to Redefinition (TEL allowing for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable) (Figure 1). Where many practitioners pre-Covid may have defaulted to the substitution stage, I have seen genuine examples of redefining learning as a result from having to change gear, trying something new and becoming more confident.

In cycling, riding with others is easier as you can share the workload and cover further distance, and it is no different when in education. Promoting group cohesion and opportunities for collaboration is something we emphasise in our teacher training courses but most teachers struggle to generate the same dynamic on their VLEs. Moving from blended learning to interactive blended learning is a long-needed change, where practitioners create a bustling VLE with opportunities for connectivity, not just a content repository. I have experienced teachers harnessing this in innovative ways, for example using discussion boards to enable reflection and creating online platforms for group work and believe this pedagogical change has been accelerated.

Flat Tyres

Unfortunately, these are inevitable along the journey. Some teachers may be less reluctant to embrace change and have regressed back to didactic teaching through tyring (sorry) lecture-style remote delivery. Teachers who would never dream of delivering a full two-hour lecture in a F2F classroom, as it would not be reasonable to expect a learner’s attention span to last that long, but in contrast, are content with adopting this approach for online delivery.

Being in a sector which experiences change in policy perpetually, the FE workforce have become accustomed to adapting. Another concern is that some teachers will regress exactly to before and will not be willing to go through further change. They may not have embraced TEL and will go back to riding with stabilisers. There are also potential potholes relating to security and infrastructure which may struggle to cope with the increased demand.

Finish Line

I applaud those teachers, making positive change, trying new approaches, being innovative, and going out of their comfort zone, however small it is at first. It will be fascinating to see how teaching and learning changes over the next decade. I truly believe we will look back at 2020 as a pivotal juncture – similarly to being at a crossroads when cycling and deciding whether to push on or go back.

Comments welcomed and extra points for bike puns!


  • roy cole says:

    Hi Jamie

    I have read your blog with interest. I was the E learning director in a school nearby for a number of years before I returned to FE. VLEs and e learning felt like flogging a dead horse to staff. Meetings were rarely attended, senior leaders not interested. the only interest came from 2 young Humanities teachers.
    If you want to discuss my findings and/or experiences, please feel free (wheel) to contact me

  • Jamie says:

    Hi Roy,
    Thank you, really appreciate you reading the blog and leaving a comment!
    I definitely know where you are coming from, it is an ongoing challenge but I am optimistic these current times will have opened up new opportunities for many teachers.
    Ps. Wheelie love the pun!

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