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The exploration and evaluation of digital technology in education has never been so important

DEFI: One year on.

DEFI at Hughes Hall, the Digital Education Futures Initiative, launched in January 2021. One year on, it works globally across industry, policy and practice to research, assess and share best practice on the possibilities that digital technology opens up for education. It specialises in the development of education models, investigating the impact of digital education in the widest sense, and maps the educational logic of the internet age for pedagogical advancement.

“Our research is focused on rethinking educational frameworks based on technology,” says Professor Rupert Wegerif, DEFI director, “rather than simply applying technology to the existing system.”

This year has seen DEFI launch to many hundreds of specialists in the international education space and go on to realise its vision through several impactful projects. It has attracted global support, engagement and funding (from Arm Education, Dipont Education and Epic Games), launched a successful webinar series, and created partnerships to develop new research, virtual internships, assessment frameworks and other programmes.

“DEFI is an exciting and progressive step forward in how we think about technology in education. The pandemic has thrust us into new ways of learning – in a digital world – at a pace we haven’t experienced before. DEFI is doing the research around these new ways of learning that we didn’t have time to do!” said Professor Wegerif.


DEFI’s vision has captured the attention of researchers and organisations from around the globe with the launch events featuring OECD and the Cambridge Partnership for Education, as well as presenters from Raspberry Pi and the EdTechHub.

The Centre now runs in-person and online seminars, attracting hundreds of registrants and helping to form a DEFI community of academics, practitioners, and industry representatives. You can find upcoming topics and view past seminars online at https://www.deficambridge.org/events.

Coming up

27th January:       Igniting EdTech – Creating impact through research and enterprise start-ups 

Produced by the Enterprise Strand of the DEFI Research Network, this event features presentations from Kate Boyle, CEO and Founder of Banjo Robinson, Sarah Mintey MBE, Founding Director and CEO of Developing Experts and James Whelton, Co-founder, CoderDojo.  Online only: https://bit.ly/Igniting_EdTech

24th March:         ED 2122 – What will education look like in 100 years?

A trans-disciplinary event, essential for anyone curious about the future of education and interested in mapping its shape and scope. Join visionary thinkers and future-focused organisations from throughout the Cambridge ecosystem. Online (morning session only) or at Storey’s Field Centre in Cambridge: https://bit.ly/ED2122

Projects and initiatives

DEFI is home to several research projects:

  1. CamTREE, the Cambridge Teacher Research Exchange, led by Dr Pete Dudley and Prof Sara Hennessy, is the first global platform supporting educators from around the world to conduct and share classroom-based research. Dr Dudley explained that CamTREE grew out of asking “what type of professional development for teachers has the biggest impact on students’ learning?” CamTREE enables teachers to shape the future of education “CamTREE allows the voices and innovations of teachers and practitioners to inform policy, in the same way that other professionals, such as lawyers and doctors, are able to inform their industries,” says Dr. Dudley.
  2. DEFI also runs an Innovation Lab taking on cutting-edge and bespoke research projects on the future of digital education methods. Working with a team of PhD students and postdoc researchers, the Lab explore ideas in education, using rigorous methodologies and specialist expertise, with the agility often missing from longer-term studies.
  3. Inquiring Learners is a study designed to “help children navigate the online world, with classroom resources and research into children’s digital media and information literacy.” The study is being headed up by Dr Laura Kerslake, a Hughes Hall graduate.
  4. And finally, DEFI is launching an entrepreneurs’ group to help students in education understand how they can apply principles of innovation to develop their ideas for improving education. The group is open to anyone at Cambridge with an interest in educational entrepreneurship.

Contact us at DEFI to find about more and discuss collaboration: defi@hughes.cam.ac.uk.

Get involved

For education students and researchers at Cambridge, there are many opportunities to get involved with DEFI and its work. The simplest way is to come to one of our online seminars. The conversation is relaxed and even fun, but that the issues and questions get to the heart of serious academic and front-line issues that impact today’s learners.

As Professor Wegerif reminds us: “In education and beyond, we’re transitioning to a hive mind. Technology is a critical part of how we learn today, and we must evaluate it critically to ensure we do it right.”

“DEFI is shaping the future of education and there is much to do!”