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How will tech shape the future of education?

By Paul Matthias, National Director of Hays Education

Recently Education Secretary Damian Hinds challenged the tech industry to launch an education revolution for schools, colleges and universities. Once thought of as the disruptive influence in the classroom, technology is now innovating teaching and learning in a way no one would have ever predicted.

Teachers are no longer lecturing from the front of the class to rows of children, learning from the same textbook. More and more schools today are incorporating digital devices (tablets, laptop etc) into their lessons, which would have been unheard of five years ago. However, at this rate who knows where we will be in the next five years.

Today’s classrooms are not simply evolving to use more technology and digital resources; EdTech is shifting the role of the teacher to make use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. But how?

Machine learning

The future is about machine learning which is set to take student learning a lot further. Machine learning works by getting computers to learn themselves and therefore progressively improving their own performance on a specific task - by using data it has gathered it is able to predict and make decisions based on algorithms. Just like how Netflix or any other streaming service makes recommendations based on a machine learning algorithm, by using endless streams of data based on your (consumer) habits.

In an educational setting, the computer can support teachers with their workload by gathering all marking and test data, tracking improvements as well as making suggestions for further study. It will have the ability to produce personalised data for each individual child, tailoring outcomes based on the student’s abilities, needs, and learning, as well as being able to predict future performance. Importantly it can also grade students in a way that takes out human bias.

It sounds like the role of a teacher will become obsolete, but, machine learning will free teachers up from the more mundane administrative side of things and allow them to focus solely on the teaching. Done are the days of marking each student’s work, giving feedback and trying to ensure they all improve in some way, the computer will monitor it all.

Accessibility from around the world

The future of teaching and learning is about access, anywhere, anytime, both locally and globally. E-learning in higher education has become common place with students easily being able to access learning portals remotely, from anywhere in the world.

This has great scope to transcend and increase into secondary and even primary settings, enabling students to access lessons and assignments from home and allowing them to easily catch up should they have missed a class.

Paperless society

The future is about moving towards being a paperless society. Teachers in some settings are already able to upload resources, lessons and homework/assignments online without harming a single tree. Students can choose to read up on a lesson before it happens, perform extension tasks, test themselves, post questions and submit homework.

In the Cloud

The future is about everything being accessible via the cloud. The cloud is made up of physical locations that house software, hardware, and services which are accessed via the Web, instead of your hard drive – it can be accessed anywhere from an internet enabled device.

We don’t know what the device of the future will be, but it will need the cloud to function. Schools will need to ensure that they have the correct infrastructure in place before shelling out money for devices. This starts with providing an internet connection that is fast, secure, private and reliable.

Exposing Children to Technology

The future is about investing in our future workforce to prosper in tomorrow’s world. It’s about giving students the best outcome, especially since they will be entering a future where AI is the reality, it’s important that all educational institutions expose students to and use technology.

We don’t want the advances in technology to cause a socio-economic divide, with those who can afford the latest innovation in technology to be more equipped for the ever-changing world than those who can’t. Perhaps to stop this we could see a culture of school’s supplying tablets for students to use, borrow, lend out or even have students bring in their own device.

A 2017 report by Ofcom to understand children’s use of media, says there is a growing number of children with their own mobile devices, one in five 3-4s and more than half of 8-11s and 12-15s have their own tablet. Which shows there is a growing number of children (of all ages) in the UK with access to their own tablets.

Teacher training

The future is about including and supporting teachers. All the above is superfluous if schools don’t have the correct training in place to assists teachers. Teachers will need to be provided with the resources, support, and training ahead of any thought of introducing more technology into the classroom. It is also up to those building the Edtech to make intuitive educational apps/tools and should consider utilising teachers for feedback and input when creating these products.

Damian Hinds sees the benefit in this too, as part of his plans to launch an “EdTech strategy”, to “harness the power of technology in schools”. This plan “will also seek to strengthen training for teachers and reduce workload”. An investment of £10 million will be supported by a group of schools and colleges “selected to aid the development, piloting and evaluation of innovative technology”.

Which is great news for the future of education. Tech will, and is shaping education, but we must ensure that all children have access today and teachers are proficiently trained to handle the rapidly changing technological world of tomorrow.

About this author

Paul has been with Hays since 1999 and the National Director of Hays Education since 2007. He is responsible for leading experts from 40 offices across the UK who specialise in recruiting for Early Years, Primary, Secondary, SEN, Further Education and Leadership staff on a daily supply, long term supply or permanent basis. His extensive experience is invaluable to ensuring schools, colleges, nurseries, academies and MATs have access to the best possible candidates.

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