10 edtech leaders on essential disruption

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pi-top CEO Jesse Lozano speaking at The Bett Show (Image credit: @GetPiTop). pi-top CEO Jesse Lozano speaking at The Bett Show (Image credit: @GetPiTop).

What changes are needed in the UK education sector? We posed this question to 10 of today’s leading gurus - here’s what they said.

1. Jesse Lozano, CEO and cofounder of pi-top

Edtech largely seems to be understood as being smart whiteboards, iPads or VLEs - instead of true educational technology tools that teach you about physical computing, coding and learning by making platforms. It’s astounding that the education sector has been so slow to adopt new technologies and, indeed, approaches to teaching children fundamental skills that will enable them to succeed in later life. Many schools have yet to successfully apply technology that provides learning by making platforms in the classroom, and often they continue to teach from textbooks with a focus on memorising facts rather than encouraging analysis and the application of knowledge. The oncoming fourth industrial revolution will usher in an age of automation irrevocably changing the job market and the opportunities for workers. If we want our children to succeed, we must harness technology and inspire fundamental changes in education practices to ensure learning is both relevant and effective in the context of a dynamic and highly-competitive world.

2. Neil Watkins, managing director of Think IT

Nowadays, you simply cannot run a school without technology; even the health sector is adopting technology faster than the education sector, and they’re notoriously slow! Schools sometimes regard IT as an expense rather than a valuable resource, which can ultimately help to save time and money. With low levels of digital skills in some schools, there needs to be a heavier focus on training and CPD for schools to really make the most out of their technology. This is ultimately going to benefit students and teachers.

3. Carl Sheen, head of training and development at Genee World

Generally speaking, I think public opinion is that schools are still very traditional, didactic, lecturing establishments, using traditional theories of pedagogy such as teaching from blackboards and textbooks and nothing more. Yet, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Schools are embracing, and need to continue to embrace, all sorts of advanced technologies and new methods, including robotics, blended learning and even interactive technology to enable global collaboration between classrooms. They’re putting universities and corporate businesses to shame in many cases.

4. Elliot Gowans, VP of EMEA at D2L

Edtech has not only has it made students become more engaged with their lessons, but it has created an engaged and inclusive community amongst students, teachers and parents. Teachers have often been tasked with keeping parents up-to-date on their child’s performance. However, with a growing workload and greater pressure to achieve above-average results, this is becoming an unmanageable task. Parents today also want regular updates that will help them encourage and support their child’s development in line with their abilities and potential. Digital tools - such as virtual learning environments (VLE) - allow for communication between schools and parents without the time and distance barriers teachers so often face. Using digital portfolios, teachers can now share a child’s work, provide insight into upcoming assignments, divulge test scores, and share classroom conversations and activity feeds in real-time. With the help of technology and digital portfolios, parental engagement and communication is now able to take place beyond the confines of the classroom walls. This is paving the way for a much more streamlined, collaborative relationship between the student, parent and teacher, which will, ultimately, lead to more skilled, capable and well-rounded children.

5. Liz Rabone, marketing executive at Nano Simbox

What surprises me about edtech is how little we are seeing digital technology being used to its fullest. Even in a decade that has seen so much edtech, there are still significant educational gains to be made. Are we making the most of opportunities offered by technological advances? Where is the need? STEM initiatives still outweigh others when it comes to education. Why? Because our economies will suffer if we do not have a workforce fit for the technological world we live in. What can be done? We must enable technology to deliver Science, Engineering and Maths. For example, great Science teaching is needed to excite our next generation of scientists. This isn’t easy when explaining the world around us through a lens into the invisible world of atoms and molecules. However, technology can now enable students to see into this invisible world. Using rigorous scientific simulations, we can now bring to life beautiful representations of this incredible world. Such edtech helps learners to better understand what this world may look like, contextualising learning like never before.

6. Tim Clark, UK sales director of Classoos

The reluctance and slow adoption by many staff in schools of education technology needs to be addressed. It has been - and often still is - acceptable to say “I do not understand technology”. Think the recent lack of a national strategy, national procurement and limited research into best practice. Consider the failure to ensure that sufficient teachers are trained and qualified to use and teach using the technology in schools, particularly in Primary schools. Schools’ use of IT is not like that of any business, and so schools need to work with and purchase from education specialists who understand their specialist demands, who account for them in their products and services.


7. Adam Caplan, CEO of eMathsMaster, Mathatar and Unique Software Professionals

I truly believe that we are on the brink of making some of the most important leaps forward in human evolution, powered by what we can do with education. The very next stage in human development could be just around the corner. For the first time in history, we have the opportunity for everyone to receive the benefit of the highest quality of education possible. I've always said that pupils are not low-ability, they are low-opportunity. Edtech must and will level the playing field so that every single person who has access to the internet can now get the same high standard of teaching, irrespective of their background. Now, if you have the motivation, everything is available to you. With the increase of accessibility of internet, the incredible low prices for equipment supported by tech giants like Microsoft and HP, there's never been more opportunity for human advancement.

8. Steve Deutsch, chief executive at Wesleyan Bank

Newer technology like virtual reality can bring locations and situations to life in ways that haven’t previously been possible without experiencing something first-hand. Furthermore, immersive technology can be transformative in helping pupils to understand scientific principles, for example Newton’s laws of motion or weightlessness. It also has potential for children with special needs - a child with autism could take a virtual trip to a museum to prepare them for the real thing, or allow a wheelchair user to experience an activity they might otherwise not be able to participate in. With so many ways that technology can add value to the learning experience, it’s frustrating as to just how many UK schools are trailing behind due to financial restrictions through a lack of government funding. This is where flexible and tailored finance solutions from specialist providers need to step in, allowing schools to spread the cost of their technology investments over time.

9. Naimish Gohil, CEO and founder of Satchel

Despite the huge rise in edtech and the rate at which the market is growing, both in the UK and globally, what has surprised me most about this sector is the complete lack of guidelines on procurement for schools. The limited information on this topic has cost schools a lot of money, because they haven’t been provided with the information they need to make informed decisions in what is otherwise a relatively new sector. The government, who should be championing the use of software in schools, especially those that help to tackle the teaching crisis through reducing stress and workload, should be playing a more pivotal role in educating teachers on this process. They should also provide in-depth literature on what schools should consider when purchasing new technology, and the effort such processes take. Too many schools are unaware of exactly what they're taking on, but also, of the extent of the reward they'll get when it's done right.

10. Joslyn Adcock, senior marketing manager at LEGO Education

I think there is a mutual understanding and appreciation that technology has and will continue to play a significant role in the careers and workforce of today and the future. What’s surprising though is how quickly these technologies are evolving and adapting, and it’s hard to know whether what we’re teaching students now, will be entirely relevant when they leave education and enter the world of work. We’re yet to see how this will pan out, so it’s vital to prepare today’s children with transferable and relevant skills through the use of edtech. Building computing and coding knowledge is not only going to develop their technical abilities, but will also help them build communication and collaboration skills that will be key in finding success whatever their career.

[Comment courtesy of Mango Marketing]

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