Next steps

November 3, 2013  |  Featured, reflection  |  Share

Last week saw the first of what I hope will become an annual conference for BEd Primary Digital Literacy and ICT specialists at Plymouth University. We brought all four year groups together in the lovely surroundings of Mount Edgecumbe house to learn together, and from each other. The result was a great buzz, some important discussions being raised, and students from different year groups making connections with each other.

We had a thought provoking talk from Professor Andy Phippen, who shared with us his continuing research into how technology legitimates social behaviour amongst young people. His talk picked up from the work I blogged about here, and gave us much to think about as Primary teachers. Steve Wheeler told the story of several of his undergraduate students who have developed their projects into academic papers, and offered advice on how others could do the same.

The highlight for me was the three presentations from students Amy Parkin, Gemma Wright and Emma Taylorson who shared the process and findings of the research projects that in many ways are the culmination of their time on the specialist course. They rose to the challenge of explaining the successes and failures of their research, as well as their interesting findings, and presented in such a confident and well informed way it really blew me away.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about metaphors for learning. Whilst learning is usually conceptualised as a series of objects (a skill, some knowledge) that we acquire, being involved in University education has made me realise that so often it is also about who we become as people. Our students develop a whole set of skills, and acquire a library of knowledge, but there is something more to becoming a teacher, or indeed becoming a graduate.

Over the past two years I’ve worked with the team at Plymouth to give people opportunities to participate in events and activities that they might develop not just what they know and can do, but who they are. I’ve preached the mantra of taking opportunities when you spot them and created a few for students myself. Seeing them developing and growing as a result of this has been one of the most rewarding parts of this job, and a great privilege. In what are testing times, I think this concept of learning as becoming is central part of what University education is all about.

Now I have been offered a new opportunity myself, an exciting chance to explore the real potential of digital education with Nesta. Taking this up was a difficult decision as I have enjoyed bring at Plymouth University and learned so much from students and colleagues. There have been both exciting and testing times professionally and personally in the last two years, and one way or another I have become someone I wasn’t before. The conference last week made it hit home for me that I will be really sad to leave such a dedicated, interesting and warm group of people and friends.

I owe many thanks to people I have worked with, both staff and students, for welcoming me here, supporting and challenging me, and for teaching me so much. One person I must specifically thank is Pete Yeomans, who encouraged me to take the opportunity of working here, has consistently challenged and developed my thinking, and has become a great personal friend who has supported me through thick and thin.

However, it is the right time and the right opportunity for me to make a change once again and in January I will be relocating to London to take up the post of Programme Manager for Digital Education with Nesta. I have been following their work for some time, particularly that surrounding the report ‘Decoding Learning‘, and when the opportunity came up to work with them on national and international education projects it was one I had to go for, and I was fortunate enough to secure. There are some really interesting and exciting projects getting started already that I will be working on, and I am looking forward to moving to another great team of people.

Personally I am also looking forward to spending some time living in London, with all the challenges and opportunities that also brings. I’ve come close to ending up there a few times in the last ten years, and it feels like now is the perfect time for me to make the most of that experience.

2014 is going to be another exciting year, full of change and full of learning. There is always some sadness when moving on from a good thing, but the time is right for a different challenge, a new place, and a new chapter. I’m looking forward to seeing what this one brings…

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1 Comment


  1. Julia Skinner (@theheadsoffice)

    Another exciting step in your adventure Oliver! Many congratulations and please remember 100WC in your travels!

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Oliver Quinlan: Learning, teaching, technology by Oliver Quinlan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at www.oliverquinlan.com.Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.oliverquinlan.com/blog