MirandaNet and TPEA: A Future Partnership

‘Fixing the Web For Education?’

The TPEA was formally launched at Bett2020. Mike Sharples gave a keynote talk and a discussion followed. Below is a summary of the event which looked at future strategic directions for the partnership between MirandaNet and the new TPEA. Our shared and developing mission is to inform policy and practice in EdTech, ultimately through more direct work with developers and creators of educational technology solutions. Another key issue for exploration is to consider a shared participation in the emerging Contract for the Web.

Related material

The New Web. Text of keynote by Mike Sharples, 24th January 2020 @ Bett 2020

The Decentralised Web: Links to news sources, articles, and websites

(A copy of this page is to be found on the MirandaNet website)

At Bett 2020 the new TPEA was formally introduced to the world of EdTech via its own show stand and events, and on Friday 24th January the formal launch was led with a keynote by Mike Sharples that responded to the question: ‘How Can We Rebuild the Web for Education?

The context for this talk has three aspects:

  1. Widespread and general concerns that have emerged in recent months and years about the drift of the World Wide Web (WWW) away from its original, enlightened aims, towards unwelcome negative effects on culture and social discourse;
  2. To consider the response of Tim Berners-Lee and others to these concerns. The response takes the form of a Contract for the Web, a set of nine principles for governments, organisations and individuals that aim to promote and ensure a World Wide Web that is “safe and empowering for everyone”;
  3. To answer the question: what role might the newly formed TPEA play in this initiative, and should this include the TPEA endorsing the contract as an organisation?

As an organisation that promotes, develops and researches educational practice across a wide range of phases and social contexts it is clearly important for TPEA to recognise the value of the WWW for teachers and learners everywhere. In so doing TPEA should uphold appropriate values and practices. If TPEA’s stated, overall aim is to inform EdTech policy and practice it is therefore socially and politically helpful to adopt a shared framework of principles that act as a guiding light when interpreting research and analysis so as to benefit the future development of edtech for all.

Mike’s talk was thoughtfully received and a brief and useful discussion ensued. In answer to (3) above he suggested that TPEA could inform the new initiative by adding “educative” to “safe and empowering” because it is necessary but not sufficient to have a safe web that empowers. It should also enable learning – and for that it needs input from TPEA (and other similar organisations) about powerful pedagogies for lifewide learning.

Two questions emerged from the discussion:

  1. Is the web broken? and … 
  2.  … should  the TPEA be at the forefront of a movement that aims to ensure a safe and empowering web?

The answers to these questions may be summed up as:

  • The web is not necessarily ‘broken’ because there are many points of view about who it works for and the content it makes available.
  • Yes, the WWW contains much that is dark and anti-social …
  • … but no, in everyday use, the WWW is a real and important tool for useful knowledge that can change lives in very positive ways.

Is the WWW a force for good even if in some or many aspects it offends and disturbs as well as enlightens and empowers? Or could there be structural changes that, when introduced, enable more support for  learning?

For TPEA the issue therefore becomes a matter of strategy: with whom or with what does TPEA engage in order to inform practice in EdTech? How does TPEA go about this engagement while supporting the broad principles set out by the Contract for the Web?

Indeed, TPEA might regard its endorsement of the Contract for the Web as a first step in engaging with its own new future.

However, in a more free flowing stage of the discussion suggestions were made for how TPEA might further engage with people and institutions such that it establishes and maintains its position as a policy informing organisation.

Aside from established practices, principally the publication and dissemination of research through the TPEA journal, traditional activities such as lobbying governmental agencies (ministers, government working parties, committees etc) are increasingly regarded as less effective. In the present political climate organisations like TPEA are more frequently outside looking in and their voices are less distinct than in the past.

One suggestion is that TPEA could work with company partnerships similar to those that have been developed by MirandaNet as a potentially more effective approach to influencing policy in practice. Facebook, Google and Microsoft have already signed up to the Web contract.

Thus the key pathway that suggests itself is a strong, structured and well supported effort to engage directly with product and service developers to provide research and analysis expertise by involving TPEA members in evaluation and implementation. While hardly new (such approaches are a common format in practitioner-developer relationships) this strategic focus represents a new direction for TPEA drawing together the traditions of ITTE and MirandaNet, to work on technology front with both small and large, established developers while also working directly and developmentally with practitioners at all education levels from early years through higher education.

In this way TPEA can position itself to be able to inform policy and practice and to contribute to the reformation of the WWW as “SAFE, EMPOWERING AND EDUCATIVE”.