New Zealand held its first eT4e – EdTech for Export – conference in Wellington earlier this month at Te Papa. What may come as a surprise is the strength of the sector, with a sellout attendance of 200 people at the one-day event.
For Learning Media digital strategist Jill Wilson, a member of the organising team comprising sponsors Learning Media, Grow Wellington and Education New Zealand, it was an affirmation of what she believes to be an exciting and diverse area in this country.
So what is EdTech? “Google it and you’ll find a wide range of initiatives, projects, people, organisations and investors showing up in your search results – but EdTech is perhaps a new term for New Zealand,” says Jill. “It is a name that can cover a wide field of activity, including software and online systems, learning environments, courseware delivery and content creation – a place where even the creators of video games designed to support learning can be found.”
Key goals of the conference included creating awareness of the world-wide EdTech industry and its export potential – which is worth over $17 billion dollars globally – and creating network opportunities for New Zealand organisations and individuals with product to offer. “Conference attendees came from a wide range of disciplines, which is evidence of the potential to build an effective and powerful EdTech export industry here,” said Jill.
International expert and author, Dr Karen Billings, was the first keynote speaker for the day. The VP of the education division of the US Software and Information Industry Association provided an in-depth view of the “What is EdTech” scene and described some of the strategic directions, programmes, start-ups and initiatives happening in the US.
“A remarkable second session was Who’s in the Room? said Jill. “It provided a chance for conference attendees to introduce themselves briefly, and explain where their interests in EdTech lay. As the mic was passed around the room, it became clear how diverse the sector could be and that very real potential exists for export collaborations.”
Global publishing company Pearson’s Karl Engkvist, Senior VP for Business Development in Asia Pacific, was the second keynote speaker, describing his experiences working in China. He explained the need for in-country relationship building to ensure that local cultural interests and learning needs were reflected in the products and services being offered.
The final keynote speaker, Tim Brooke-Hunt, highlighted how mature industries such as traditional broadcast media also have a part to play in the EdTech sector. Tim is the commissioner for children’s programming for Australia’s public broadcaster, ABC Television, with a number of broadcast and digital channels under his wing.
“The remarkable diversity of the three keynote speakers indicates that EdTech is more than wires and hardware,” Jill commented.
For the lunch break – labelled Food for Thought – various speakers were located at different tables, an opportunity for informal conversations with the experts, and a chance to build local contacts following the earlier introductions.
The afternoon featured breakout sessions through which EdTech export stories were shared. Powerful presentations included What’s Hot? – opportunities in digital learning and serious games by Stephen Knightly, Chair of the NZ Game Developers Association. “Stephen is an excellent speaker who highlighted the depth of talent in the serious games arena in New Zealand,” said Jill.
The What’s Next? – future oriented learning presentation by NZCER’s Rachel Bolstad and Dr Garry Falloon from the University of Waikato, described how the nature of teaching and learning is changing in this digital age. They discussed how researchers could share their knowledge with those working in EdTech. “This session helped to drive home the essential need to understand user behaviours and the role of EdTech in engaging them in learning.”
Another intriguing session was Augmented Reality – here and now, presented by Andreas Düenser, Senior Research Scientist from HITLabNZ. “Andreas demonstrated Hitlab’s world-class expertise in the field of augmented reality. He included examples of how AR images can bring a printed book to life for the reader, and how their CityView App can help learners in the future see AR-based 3D models of buildings lost to the Christchurch earthquakes on some of the now empty spaces in the city centre.”
There was an incredible buzz at the end-of-day drinks, says Jill. “Many people were seeking each other out, exchanging ideas and discussing what they learned. It was proof of the wealth of both the technical and creative talents we have to offer the EdTech world; in the near future this export sector could become as important to New Zealand as our film industry.”
www.edtechforexport.co.nz will now become a hub for EdTech news and information. Videos of the keynotes and some breakout sessions will be up on the site soon and the conference survey will ensure feedback for future events.
From top left clockwise: David Barrowman (Vet Nurse Plus) & Steve Clarke (PixelBook); John Eyles (Learning Consulting Croup), Jules Annear (Annear Ropata Consultants) & Stephen Knightly (InGame); Kevin Arscott (American Universities International Programs Limited) & Leanna Clarry (PaperKite); Matt Comeskey (South Pacific Press), Dolly Seow-Ganesan (NZTE) & Amy Rutherford (Education New Zealand).