Exploring the future
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The Digital Education Futures Initiative (DEFI), based at Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge, works with partners in industry, academia, policy, and practice to explore the field of possibilities that digital technology opens-up for education.
We are dedicated to close-to-practice research and developing new models of education, serving as a global hub and thought-leader that connects digital education actors to each other, to Hughes Hall, and to the wider Cambridge community.
DEFI’s vision is to create a more inclusive global education system by building a community that offers a space for open dialogue, research, reflection and thought leadership on digital education’s role in shaping a sustainable future.
New possibilities for education
DEFI maps the educational logic of the new Internet Age through research that explores the pedagogical affordances of new technologies: the ways of teaching and learning that they make possible for education, ways which were either not possible before or more difficult to implement before.
While some of these affordances have long been noted in the literature, not enough effort has yet been put into research into how they might or might not transform education in the future. Design-based research is required that implements these affordances in working models of education in order to investigate their consequences.
DEFI offers research-based answers to some of the big questions that new technology raises for education:
- Can individuals be supported by technology to pursue unique educational journeys? What are the necessary pre-conditions and supports required for this kind of self-directed learning? What are the consequences?
- Can education be integrated into the worlds of work, leisure and citizenship in a way that removes the need for separate educational institutions? What kind of educational eco-systems would be required to realise this vision in whole or in part and are such systems sustainable?
- Can we build on the global interconnectedness provided by the Internet to create new models of education that transcend traditional limits of space and time?
What we do
Collaborative research projects with industry partners is the core business of DEFI.
In addition we already, or intend to:
- Conduct evidence mapping, horizon scanning and future scoping to analyse emerging trends, anticipate their impact and explore new models of education that may have a ‘real world’ impact.
- Build and support a global community of stakeholders (including academia, education, policy and industry) to explore and develop new models of education and new research priorities arising due to the growing prevalence of digital technology.
- Create collaborative research initiatives, for example research with industry partners on ‘Virtual Internships’ as a model linking enterprise and schools, research on just-in-time learning and on online lifelong learning.
- Work with Cambridge University Press & Assessment and other partners to develop innovative ways of assessing important ‘future skills’ and competences (e.g. teamwork, creativity and collaborative problem-solving)
- Support a strong PhD programme, for example joint PhDs with companies exploring the educational potential of different technological innovations
- Offer social enterprise education and support for education initiatives that spin-off from research
- Investigate new models of education by design-based research, for example; Cambridge OWL, a global web to support young people learning together as they tackle global challenges; CamTREE, an online-mediated teacher research exchange and VIP, virtual internship scenarios supported by enterprises to give young people the experience of working on real-world challenges.
DEFI works with partners in industry, policy & practice to explore new models of education enabled by digital technology and serves as a catalyst for positive change
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