Earlier this year, I attended the Microsoft Education Exchange (E2) event in Paris. It’s a chance to celebrate the work of educators around the world – and I haven’t stopped thinking about the impact the event has had on me and my practice. Three main thoughts about the direction and use of technology in the classroom have stayed with me.


1. Nurture unique skills

Grimsby, where I’m from, is a far cry from the streets of Paris. The old fishing town is almost completely cut off from the rest of England, with no direct motorway connections and a limited railway station (if you want to visit us, you’ll be taking country lanes to get here). During the entire event, I only met two people who had even heard of Grimsby, and I felt quite insignificant when chatting to people from more far-flung locales like Melbourne, Nairobi, or Ho Chi Minh City.

It got me thinking, if I was feeling like that, how must others from the town feel?

What would it be like if everyone from my home town experienced an event like E2? Strangers from across the globe, joined together, split into teams, and quickly finding that all-important team dynamic in order to co-operatively solve a problem.

Then it hit me: this isn’t limited to an event like the Education Exchange. This is life. This is how it should be, with individuals drawing on their own unique strengths, skills, and perspectives – listening to others and using these strengths to help everyone. Whether you’re a Grimbarian or a Parisian, we all have a unique set of skills to offer our peers. Developing that in our learners is vital to help inspire and build aspirations, no matter where they’re from.


2. Technology needs purpose

Technology is continuing to transform the classroom experience – but that doesn’t mean it’s something that should be used just because it’s there. It’s shouldn’t be simply a box-ticking exercise. To treat it as such misses the point and the power of technology in education.

As educators, we need to carefully plan and prepare for the introduction of any tech into the classroom. Consider…

  • Why you’re deploying it
  • How you want your students to learn
  • What you wish to achieve

This lets our learners collaborate, communicate, grow, and – just as developmentally important – fail in a safe, guided environment.

Used in the right way, technology is an empowering force. In the hands of the right educators, we have the potential to change the world – one school, college, or university at a time. But any classroom technology must have a purpose if it’s to support and engage a learner’s journey.


3. Ed-tech breaks down social barriers

Education technology goes beyond a laptop in every school bag and engaging PowerPoint slides on hi-tech TVs. We only have to look at the work of inspirational educators like Koen Timmers to see how education can support the reduction of poverty and inequality.

Tech is helping to break down barriers like these, as well as overcoming obstacles like location, distance, and even time. With the right tools, ed-tech lets students gain a greater perspective, learn about and respect other cultures, and discover new worlds outside the classroom. We need to harness these tools not just to help educate students in terms of the curriculum, but also increase their worldly knowledge and empathy.

In other words, the final barrier is the four walls of the classroom. There’s a wide and exciting world beyond it. The Microsoft Education Exchange shows us that, but it’s the technology that helps every one of our learners not just explore it, but experience it in all its glory.


Find out more

Tools to transform your classroom

Student-centred learning


About the author

Elaine Topham, Senior Learning TechnologistElaine has worked for over 10 years in education, delivering ICT qualifications and training in Further Education, Higher Education, Community learning and apprenticeships. She now works as a Senior Learning Technologist at the Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education. In the role, she helps more than 400 academic staff implement technology solutions in the classroom, as well as fully integrating Office365 technologies into work processes of support staff. As a MIE Expert and active member of the Microsoft Educator Community, Elaine drives the adoption of learning technologies throughout the Grimsby Institute and provides Microsoft Office Specialist training and support for staff development. Dedicated and passionate, Elaine recognises the growing need for digital capabilities within teaching, and believes that with the right support, technology creates better learning experiences.