Digital Education Futures Initiative

Launch of the Digital Education Futures Initiative at Cambridge

DEFI would like to invite you to their virtual launch on 21st January 2021 from 12:00 to 13:00 GMT. Addressing the theme of the futures of education as mediated by technology, will be PISA Study founder, educationalist and Director of the OECD Directorate of Education and Skills, Andreas Schleicher and Executive Director of the World Heritage Group recently head of UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education, Dr Mmantsetsa Marope.

Jane Mann of the Cambridge Partnership for Education will host and Professor Rupert Wegerif will talk about his hopes for this new Bridge Initiative – DEFI.

To register please click here

We will be recording the event and circulating the link to everyone who has registered, so please sign up even if you think you can’t attend on the day.

Digital Education Futures Initiative (DEFI) at Cambridge

Researching the new possibilities for education that will shape the future.

The Digital Education Futures Initiative works with partners in industry, policy and practice to explore the field of possibilities that digital technology opens up for education. It is both a Centre for this kind of close-to-practice research and also an initiative to create a new Institute at Cambridge to serve as a global hub and thought-leader in this area.

Arm and EPIC Games have provided some initial enabling support. While DEFI would never be an uncritical advocate for the use of more education technology it has a role as a catalyst for innovation and development.

Mapping new pedagogical affordances

DEFI maps the educational logic of the new Internet Age through research that explores the pedagogical affordances of new technologies, which means the ways of teaching and learning that they make possible for education, ways which were either not possible 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 implements these affordances in working models of education in order to investigate their consequences.

The core business of the Centre is collaborative research projects with industry partners. In addition, depending on the support we receive, this initiative and proposed future Institute, will:

  • 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.
  • Work with Cambridge Assessment and other partners to develop innovative ways of assessing important ‘future skills’ and competences (e.g. teamwork, creativity and collaborative problem-solving).
  • Provide a social enterprise support programme for Cambridge PhD students in the area of education and ed-tech preparing them for possible engagement with a range of start-up incubators and accelerators (the details of this programme will be developed in collaboration with Hughes Hall fellow, Professor Paul Tracey, co-director of the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation at the Judge Business School);
  • Host an online-mediated teacher research exchange. This project led by Pete Dudley and Sara Hennessy proposes a platform to support a potentially global network of teachers sharing and developing close-to-practice research. This project builds on and further develops extensive resources informed by cutting-edge research evidence to support the professional learning of teachers through inquiry into their own practice.
  • Host a ‘Virtual Internship’ platform linking schools to enterprises, and other partners such as NGOs, who wish to offer online-mediated educational experiences which at the same time augment the curriculum and offer young people greater engagement with the world of work.

A development period of five years

This initiative seeks to lay the ground for the creation of a permanent institute over the next five years. It is Hughes Hall’s intention that DEFI will become a permanent feature of the global education research community, in the process building a reputation as a thought-leader in the field. Through rigorous research into the affordances and dangers of new models of education made possible by digital technology DEFI will offer and invaluable resource to policy makers globally.


The DEFI Cambridge Team

Twitter – @DEFI_Cambridge
Instagram – @deficambridge

Drive team
Rupert Wegerif, Director
William Conner, Develoment Director
Louis Major, Principal Researcher
Genevieve Smith-Nunes, Media and Communications Lead
Jude Hannam, Project Administrator

Classroom Learning Research Exchange
Peter Dudley, Borough of Camden, Lecturer in Faculty of Education, Fellow of Hughes Hall
Sara Hennessy Reader in Teacher Development and Pedagogical Innovation, Director (Research) DFID EdTech Hub, Faculty of Education, Fellow of Hughes Hall, Cambridge







Digital Education Futures for Medical Education
Bill Irish, Postgraduate Medical Dean and visiting professor of medical education at Bristol University, East Anglia and Anglia Ruskin universities, Medical Digital Education lead, Fellow of Hughes Hall, Cambridge
Riikka Hofmann, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education, Fellow of Hughes Hall, Cambridge

Other team members and advisors
Andreas Stylianides, Professor of Mathematics Education, Fellow of Hughes Hall, Cambridge
Tobias Kohn, Research Associate, Department of Computer Science and Technology, Fellow of Hughes Hall, Cambridge
Mark Anderson,  Former MD, Pearson UK & Bridge Fellow of Hughes Hall, Cambridge