What do you think the year ahead has in store in terms of Educational Technology?
I think 2017 is going to be an exciting year, there’s going to be a lot more cloud-based technology than there was before and when classes and content are delivered in the cloud and via browsers, it means kids can access the same experience and content at home as they can in the classroom.
I also expect to see a lot more robotics and makerspaces in schools. I think school leaders now realise that the jobs of the future are being replaced by robots and if we’re not teaching kids how to build, programme and control robots to do the things we do then they’re not going to have a great future.
What are Disruptive Innovations and how do you see them making a big impact on Education this year?
The way I think of Disruptive Innovation is when a new inexpensive technology comes along and makes something which used to be very expensive, much more affordable. One example of this in education would be instead of having a £3000 interactive whiteboard, a teacher can plug a £30 Chromecast into a projector and everyone in the classroom can collaborate on an assignment.
I also think a really cool thing which is allowing kids to travel all over the world, and out of this world is Google Expeditions. Pupils can use a £5 Google Cardboard, put their own smartphone in there and their teacher can take them to the an art exhibition in Paris or even the Moon or Mars.
What about Machine Learning? How big a role will this have to play in the year ahead?
In Education, Machine learning means that we can take the collective intelligence of teachers worldwide and apply it to scoring oral reading fluency or scoring writing. At Texthelp, we’re working on one of these initiatives right now and we believe that in the future we can take a recording of a pupil’s reading and give them an accurate score for words correct per minute which means that teachers will be able to free up some of their time, and allow kids to practice on their own, in their own time, and get independent feedback from a computer.
How will Texthelp be getting involved?
In the spaces where Texthelp operates, there are two or three things that we’re interested in. One is looking at how kids use the tools that we create like text-to-speech and talking dictionaries and word prediction tools; do they materially improve their learning outcomes? By giving them access to a word prediction tool which provides real time, all the time guidance on word choice, grammar and spelling, will they learn to write better and faster than kids a generation ago who didn’t have that technology? I think they will and I think data’s going to prove that.