Tech it or leave it: Andy Barnes

Fourth in a series of seven: Is teaching keeping up with edtech? With Andy Barnes, Director of Technology, Bryanston School

Broadly, is the education sector managing to stay on top of the current rapid advances of technology?

In many cases, no. The scramble to adopt any form of computing curriculum has drawn schools’ attention to the lack of relevant skills amongst the teaching profession. This has led to many missed opportunities in wider areas of development such as AI, robotics, social engineering, and big data. However, those schools who have invested in a robust infrastructure are well placed to take advantage of all the developments in the mobile learning space – developments that may help give personalised learning some real traction. 

Do schools, colleges and universities need to work hard to stay abreast of all these advances – or is it more a question of knowing where to focus their energies? 

A data-driven society is becoming more prevalent: therefore, preparing our learners to engage and manage their presence within that is important.

To do so, the key skill of a school or university is to make technology accessible to its learners, whether through coding in multi-language environments, or understanding social change engineering through big data. Both of these have a place in the learning environment, but not all learners have the desire or interest to engage in them. A breadth of learning opportunities is important.

And how can schools, colleges and universities best future-proof themselves against all the changes to come?

Looking outwards and engaging with key industry partners can provide great insights. At Bryanston School, we get invaluable support from partners who provide us with access to emerging technologies being applied not only in educational environments, but also parallel fields such as retail and hospitality. 

Can you point to any UK (or overseas) institutions or sectors where advancing technology is being harnessed to great effect?

One of the most exciting places for technology in learning is Singapore. Driven by absolute clarity in what it wants to achieve, the education space there is alive with projects looking at ways technology can enhance and support education. One such example is the investigation of the use of beacon technology both in the classroom environment and in public learning spaces such as museums, to offer learners a truly personalised experience. 

The scramble to adopt any form of computing curriculum has drawn schools’ attention to the lack of relevant skills amongst the teaching profession. 

Are developments such as gamification, bring your own device (BYOD) and virtual learning environments (VLE) being harnessed effectively?

‘Full function’ VLEs have had their day. Very few institutions make full use of all the features available, and instead schools are settling for a sort of artist’s palette of solutions, blending elements and tools such as O365, Google, assessment apps and revision apps into their own shape of learning. Many of these are delivered through a BYOD environment. What we can count on is that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will change how we manage and roll-out these technologies. 

Do you foresee any changes to our use of technology in education, in the wake of Brexit? 

Technology knows no geographical limits, so this is one area where we may well flourish. However, in trying to position ourselves within the appropriate legislative frameworks, we will certainly face change, especially in managing more rigorous privacy policies and complying with increased GDPR requirements. On a positive note, this should simply help educational institutions apply more structure to their technology deployments.

Generally, are we equipping our students sufficiently for life in the technology-rich wider world?

I think most schools equip their pupils with the technological skills to progress to higher education. An area that continues to offer challenges, though, is educating pupils to understand their digital footprint. All too often this is limited to management of social media, however, an understanding of location and behaviour dynamics must be included if pupils are to truly understand the way their digital presence is presented to the outside world.

Bryanston School: www.bryanston.co.uk