Launch of the Digital Education Futures Initiative

Group of primary school children in a classroom using a table top touch screen display

On 21 January 2021, Cambridge launched the new Digital Education Futures Initiative (DEFI) in a virtual event attracting 350 educators, researchers, policymakers and experts from across the world. 

DEFI will work with partners in industry, policy and practice to explore how digital technology might transform education in the future. Established by Director Rupert Wegerif, Professor of Education at the University of Cambridge, DEFI will deliver collaborative research projects and build a global community of thought leaders. 

Jane Mann, Managing Director of the Cambridge Partnership for Education, hosted DEFI’s virtual launch and emphasised that at Cambridge Assessment and Cambridge University Press we are already pursuing options for close collaboration with DEFI. She explained "in our work developing coherent and resilient education systems with governments and partners around the world, we seek to draw on the collective knowledge of the University of Cambridge to inform best practice and DEFI will be an important part of this approach". 

At the virtual launch event, PISA study founder, educationalist and Director of the OECD Directorate of Education and Skills, Andreas Schleicher, set the scene for why this conversation around education technology research is vital. Painting a picture of a rapidly changing world in the first quarter of the 21st century, Mr Schleicher shared insights into the rising use of technology alongside the everyday learning realities for students in a wide range of countries. 

Speaking next, Executive Director of the World Heritage Group and Honorary President of the Indian Ocean Education Societies, Professor Mmantsetsa Marope emphasised how critical it was to ensure that research is translated into impactful practice. While celebrating the launch of DEFI, she called on its founders to consider the importance of knowledge brokerage as well as research. 

Industry perspectives were also shared by early DEFI supporters, Arm Education and Dipont Education. Nick Sample, who leads the Arm School Program and sits on the Strategic Board of the Cambridge Maths Hub, highlighted the role of industry not only as sponsors, but also as active partners in tackling the issues that DEFI seeks to address. He underlined the need for industry leaders to think critically about how they engage with the education sector, focusing on educational impact, evidence of how technology can accelerate learning and cross-company expert collaboration. Feiyi (Jeff) Zhu, Vice President of Dipont Education, shared Dipont’s aspirations of working with DEFI in China to build a bridge of dialog between Chinese and Western educators. Mr Zhu also raised the importance of this conversation learning from recent events, where schools' and governments' measures to cope with lockdown restrictions have escalated the use and discussion of education technology.

You can find out more about and find out about DEFI and how you can get involved with the initiative by visiting it's webpage. A video of the launch event will soon be available of the DEFI You Tube channel, which also has conversations with Cambridge Partnership for Education's Jane Mann and the University of Cambridge's Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education Professor Graham Virgo.

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