Share, Learn, Collaborate.

All sectors are grappling with similar issues around technology use.  There are common themes and challenges we’re all having to work through around safe and effective use of technology at reasonable cost.  There’s no escaping the big news stories highlighting failed tech projects, wasted money, safeguarding issues, data breaches etc.   So, where practice aligns, let’s not repeat these costly errors and instead learn from each other, collaborate and develop practice together.  Almost all arts and cultural organisation work with schools and young people. Education is a sector where there is some great practice and a fair few mistakes along the way from which to learn.  Schools are often early adopters of new technologies.  There are schools in our loca area using VR to support humanities and science teaching; using film to support English teachingt; adopting collaborative tools such as Gsuite and Microsoft 365 for productivity and learning and exploring ways to integrate computer science into other areas of the curriculum such as music and maths.  Not all schools of course, but where schools have done it well, it can be transformational.  Rosendale Primary in south London is a good example – they have invested well in their infrastructure and have a variety of portable devices in each of the classrooms in addition to a small mac suite where children can create and edit content.  They have class blogs and use them to connect out with parents and the wider world.  They have a radio studio and create podcasts and shows which they put out via their website.  Most significantly they have created a unique metacognition/self assessment model using some simple technologies which allows children to reflect on their learning and teachers to personalise their teaching in response.  This project has just received second wave funding from the Education endowment fund.   If schools are doing this in their day to day then why not every cultural organisation in the country.   Technology enables us to explore, research, plan, collaborate, design, create, learn, share, publish, promote and much of this can be done on free, open source and/or low cost software and kit.  What’s stopping us?


From our work with smaller arts organisations the main barrier to adoption is simply knowing where to start.   The desire to develop digital programmes is never an issue and more often than not, money appears to be down the list too.  However, good quality, impartial advice, especially for senior leaders and decision makers seems to be missing.  How can managers create meaningful digital strategies that align to artistic and business aims, when their tech understanding is often so limited. Of course, this is not the only issue as online safety fears, staff skills, staff confidence, poor infrastructure also hinder progress but get senior leaders up to speed and the rest should follow.

The idea

Let’s not work in silos.  Provide impartial support.  Support senior leaders in their digital understanding.  Help organisations within and across sectors partner up and learn together.   Raise awareness of the fantastic content already available . Provide schools with a cultural context for their digital learning within and beyond computing. Make small pots of funding available to enable organisations to shift on their practice.  Celebrate and share the marginal gains – not just the big news/big money stories.



Why the contribution is important

Why is it important

Good use of technology requires time, resource and money all of which are limited.  There’s a lot of kit and expertise in schools.  Use it. Share it. Work together.  I have met several practictioners who believe the arts experience should be tech-free – but why, when it can help to enhance the experience or in some cases, provide first access to culture.  Technology is not inherently good or bad.  It’s neutral and it’s for us to determine how and when it should be used.  In our local area we’ve been helping organisations to access new audiences, connect with communities and deliver innovative new programmes all at the budget end of education technology.   We’ve also been working with schools  encouraging them to use digital collections to gain deeper insight into galleries and museums pre and post visit.  We’ve supported schools in using their social media channels to connect and communicate with organisations. We’ve taken in kit and young digital leaders to advise museums and other cultural settings on simple ways to use technology within their programmes.  We’ve worked with museums exploring the integration of open source and other tools within their schools’ programmes and we’ve used arts’ experiences as a context for our digital skills adult project in libraries and job centres.   We’re working on the marginal gains approach rather than transformational change.  Interestingly, some of the larger pilots in the sector have been off putting to smaller organisations as they’ve always involved a lot of money and time and speciliast input..  They are so removed from what most organisations can achieve that’s it hard to translate the lessons learned into these contexts.  So, let’s have closer working between education, schools and the cultural sector.  There’s so much to gain.  Let’s not waste this opportunity.



by jlawrence on July 25, 2017 at 10:24AM

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  • Posted by willpsaunders July 26, 2017 at 13:27

    Thanks for your contribution. If you feel one of the solutions might be to network learning and opportunity better - how might you imagine creating those networks & whose responsibility might be to create and maintain them? Some parts of the cultural sector have delivery organisations like The Arts Council and some are grant funding organisations only, So for digital solutions to work they need to be networked, but do you have any thoughts on how that might be possible?
  • Posted by jlawrence July 27, 2017 at 10:12

    There is already some good practice in this area. Trinity Arts Award has appointed a digital lead and they are doing some great work supporting schools and arts organisations in thinking about the integration of digital into arts practice. They have made good links with tech organisations and will run a arts/ed day around MozFest this year. Our organisation, London CLC, has run some insight days - helping arts organisation understand what's going in terms of tech in schools. Culture24 ran a really dynamic conference in the Spring showcasing how some organisations are using high end and low end technologies within their education and learning programmes. They also put on a cross-sector teach meet - as have the British Museum , NSEAD and others. So, great work exists but it needs something overarching to drive it forward. The Bridge organisations would be a good home for this work. They have a remit to develop partnerships between the cultural and education sectors and many are already doing work in this area eg ROH Bridge has run sessions for arts leaders (from SM arts organisations) on digital strategy and always includes digital practice within their conferences and events. Many Bridge organisations have good links with MATs, Academy Chains, Federations etc. They'd be well placed to manage a coordinated approach - their remit within the cultural sector goes beyond ACE core funded organisations. Beyond England - in terms of education - things are much more centralised. Eg Wales - which has a both a focus on creative learning and on digital skills. In terms of technology, there has been investment in broadband speeds, infrastructure and tech skills for staff. Re creative - there is now a network of lead creative schools across the country many already using technology within their arts programmes.[…]rning-through-the-Arts.aspx Case studies/good practice is shared via the Welsh learning platform, Hwb. I know there is plenty of content on Hwb from arts organisations - I don't know if cultural organisations have logins. Perhaps they could?

    I realise this doesn't coordinate practice across the UK - but it's a start...

  • Posted by lucymacnab August 07, 2017 at 10:30

    Thank you for this, it's very reflective of a lot of our experience as a small arts organisation working closely with schools. In the spirit of marginal gains, I have followed your links and suggestions to gain more insight!
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