EDTECH

Student Ross Lowe, 16, discusses his journey with the micro:bit, from user to contributor, to designing and releasing his own ‘Maker’s Kit’.

Every school year is a cycle of activities that require administrators to maintain attention to detail. At the same time you must keep an eye on the big picture.

Here’s the thing about teachers. I think we all secretly want to be Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie Dangerous Minds (or maybe not even in the movie!). Our job is the hardest, most grueling job out there. And yes, it is rewarding – but often our influence is noted, absorbed and internalized within a student but we don’t ever get the satisfaction of being told by a student what actually made a difference (although I’m pretty sure my jokes have).

After working in technology for almost two decades, I’ve observed some trends which I think will take the education sector by storm in the months to come…

We’ve all come to appreciate that technology will play a significant role in the careers and workforces of the future. However, we’re yet to see how this will manifest in practice, so preparing today’s children for their future by arming them with transferrable and relevant skills is crucial.

Increasingly, we are seeing schools turn to technological methods of teaching, communicating, reporting, monitoring students’ progress and behaviour and, well, pretty much every other aspect of school life too. With students being permitted to use personal devices for educational purposes in many schools, and homework and lesson tasks being set online, technology has become an integral part of the way teachers teach and students learn. Ask a 21st Century student to conduct their homework using only an encyclopaedia, no doubt they’ll look at you confused and aghast.

Every pupil is different. They all have their own learning styles, their own strengths and weaknesses, and their own levels of attainment. Most classrooms in the UK today are mixed ability, which means teachers need effective ways of catering for each and every pupil, so that no one is left behind.

On Wednesday last week I sat in an innovation symposium with a Virtual Reality headset on. I was then strapped into a sports seat mirroring one that one would find in a modern racing car. The helpful assistant informed me that when the program begins I might find the 360°, fully immersive experience slightly disorientating. Being a son of a digital revolution that for me began with the Amstrad CPC 464, I dismissed his comment with an arrogance that these days is usually demonstrated by someone located in an office that is oval shaped. How dare he think that I would find the experience disorientating? He has clearly never played Manic Miner!

As teachers, we spend our careers refining and honing our teaching skills. It makes sense, therefore, that any technology we use in school should enhance these skills or free us to use these skills better. As a teacher, I saw how this could happen, but also how commonplace badly designed software that didn’t have a positive impact was, as well as how many teachers struggled to plan and apply any technology well.

Reading gurus Giglets Education has released an advanced version of its online literacy resource, the Learning Cloud, for use by teachers and pupils in Primary and early Secondary education.

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