Reflecting on the First Edition of Nordic Track: Embracing Change in EdTech

Last week marked the debut of the Nordic Track event, a pivotal gathering moderated by Emanuel Karlsten, a renowned journalist and digital expert, and featuring a profound opening keynote by Professor Neil Selwyn. This event represented a significant leap forward in the discourse surrounding educational technology, particularly in the context of recent global disruptions and the European Union’s strategic directives.

Neil Selwyn’s Opening Keynote: A Call for a Mature EdTech conversation
Professor Selwyn set the tone for the day by challenging the Nordic education community and policymakers to engage in grown-up conversations about the role of technology in education, something he finds scarce in the public debate at the moment. He emphasized that support for educational technology must be earned through rigorous scrutiny and responsible deployment, rather than assumed. His call to action was clear: It’s time to move beyond the hype and engage in serious discussions about what digital transformation means for our schools.

As a special treat we have published this year’s opening keynote with Neil Selwyn and you can rewatch it or share it with your community here.

Academic panel discussion: Status Quo, Challenges, and Path Forward
Elaine Munthe professor of pedagogy at Stavanger University presented the key result of the large scale research overview Grunndig, presented last year. Key findings included that implementation, how teachers use edtech, is the keyfactor for increased learning outcomes. As education and learning is context based it is difficult to draw generalist conclusions on if a tool is efficient, it is more about the context. Professor in Neuroscience, Torkel Klingberg, called for the need of large scale randomized and clinical studies to determine efficiency in using technology in an educational setting. Linda Mannila, associate professor at Helsinki University brought a nuanced perspective from her practice-oriented research in digital competence, AI, and programming. Professor Mannila highlighted the importance of understanding both student and teacher perspectives in the integration of new technologies into the classroom. She argued that while technological tools offer substantial potential for enhancing learning, their success fundamentally hinges on the teachers’ digital competence and the readiness of school systems to adapt to these tools.

This dynamic and engaging conversation reflected the diverse opinions and the ongoing debates within the academic community about the best paths forward in the utilization of technology in education.

Navigating Through the Digital Backlash
The fluctuating PISA results and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need to critically evaluate how external factors impact our education systems. The “Navigating the Digital Backlash” panel, from the five Nordic Edtech organizations, emphasized the need for a mature conversation about the real implications of EdTech, calling out for a need to define what we are talking about:  communication tools, social media or educational technology especially designed to be used in schools? The discussion also highlighted the small size of Nordic edtech companies and how important it is for small language and curricula markets in the Nordics to keep local edtech, how do we set up public private partnerships on the challenges all stakeholders face?

Union Leaders Illuminate the Path Forward
During the “Charting the Future” seminar, key representatives from the teachers’ unions across Sweden, Norway, and Finland provided critical insights into the evolving landscape of digital education. Åsa Fahlén shared findings from a new survey on digitalization and AI, highlighting the need for national strategies. Thomas Nordgård discussed the integration of AI tools like ChatGPT in Norwegian schools, emphasizing thoughtful adoption. Jaakko Salo stressed the importance of equipping every individual with essential digital skills. The session concluded with a panel that forged consensus on the necessary actions for the future, focusing on collaboration and strategic planning.

European Union and Nordic Responses
In November 2023, all EU Member States adopted critical recommendations to bolster digital skills and ensure European competitiveness, including:

  • Establishing national strategies for digital education and skills.
  • Fostering partnerships with stakeholders.
  • Enhancing digital skill development for all teachers.
  • Investing in robust digital infrastructure and educational tools.

Georgi Dimitrov, head of the “Digital Education” unit at the Directorate-General for Education of the European Commission, outlined how the Nordics are aligning with these directives. He also highlighted the upcoming reviews of member states’ efforts under the Digital Education Action Plan, starting in May, showcasing a proactive approach in shaping our educational future.

Moving Forward Together
The inaugural Nordic Track event has set a benchmark for future dialogues. As we reflect on these discussions, it becomes evident that embracing change, fostering collaboration, and focusing on inclusive educational practices are necessary steps toward a brighter educational future.

Join us as we continue this critical conversation, striving to shape an educational landscape that is informed by diverse experiences. 

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