Learning, Digital & Education from Oliver Quinlan.
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This week: Focus, Money for nothing, YouTube University & Ed Tech evidence

I used to struggle to pare down all the links I'd collected each week into enough for this newsletter. I made a resolution a while back to be much more focused in my use of the internet and my reading, which means some weeks it's actually harder to find three things I've read worth commenting on. I've been trying to read more books recently, but I've found there are so many interesting ones to dip into my 'to read' list has become as long as the one I used to maintain of links to articles! I'm convinced one of the biggest personal challenges of our time is focus. With access to so many possibilities and so many interesting ways to spend time, how do you make the most of the time you have? That's before even considering the uninteresting but often immediately compelling uses of time our highly connected lifestyle provides...

I've read a lot in mainstream media recently about digital detoxing and reducing access to modern distractions, or 'avoiding the bad'. There's as many books on that as there are articles too... There's far less out there about making positive choices about how we spend our days and striving to achieve them. It's easy to make a decision to avoid frivolous activities (harder though to achieve this!), what's most difficult is making the decision to cut out genuinely fascinating and rewarding things and focus on meaningfully engaging in the few things we have the time to achieve.

Don't forget, my edited book 'The Digitally Agile Researcher' is out now, and for those less into research and more into teaching and learning 'The Thinking Teacher' is also available.

Money for nothing? Finns tot up value of basic income experiment

I've read tons of articles about the idea of basic income in the last year or so, but this one digs into what actually happened when some people in Finland experimented with giving a guaranteed income out without means testing. It's an interesting insight into how people value their activities when they are no longer so tightly linked to earnings. The saving of time and money by removing bureaucracy around means testing of benefits also seems interesting. Like any early trial, it seems they've learned so much they wouldn't implement it the way it was designed. This is a really interesting area to watch.

Inside the 'University of YouTube' where children are transformed into YouTubers

"We're starting to hear about high-school kids who say: 'I want to be a YouTuber when I grow up' ... That's a phenomenon that wasn't even a job five years ago."
"Rather than celebrity being something someone is, celebrity is now something someone does."

About ten years ago the stories started of talented young people getting noticed on YouTube and becoming famous. This has now turned into an entire industry, complete with talent schools, agents, coaches and huge numbers of really young people hoping to make it big. This article gives a fascinating insight into what it's like to be part of it all.

What is the evidence for Ed Tech?

Nesta's education and investments departments take a look at the state of Ed Tech at the Bett show in London and find much to celebrate in terms of evidence. In my time working at Nesta we spent a lot of time working with education startups to try to encourage better evidence of the impact they made, and it's great to see how increasing numbers of them are pushing forward with interrogating and trying to demonstrate the impact they have on learning. With RCTs, collaborations with research partners and lots of digital tracking to show their benefits, it appears that the ed tech community is responding to calls from people like EEF and Nesta to be have more rigour in their claims. I have to wonder though, how much do school teachers actually want this?

I spent some time at Nesta trying to get a project off the ground to present the evidence for the impact of ed tech to schools, and we never really got past the fact that we couldn't be sure teachers really wanted what we thought they needed. Recommendations from other schools seem to be highly valued, I've even heard of schools asking for services that providers brought to schools down the road with little understanding of what it involved but because the recommendation was so strong. Research based evidence though, I'm not so sure. I'm with Nesta in believing this kind of thing *should* be part of the picture when schools invest in ed tech, but with all the other pressures and the complexity of the landscape I'm not sure it is in more than a handful of schools, at least in the UK. 

If Nesta are right and ed tech providers and investors are becoming sold on the ideology of evidence based education, perhaps it's time to look more closely at how we could get to the same place with schools. I suspect that's likely to be as much a case of removing concerns that don't impact on learning as it is providing more evidence.
Thanks for reading.
Until next week,


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