Q: Technology in education is constantly evolving, what do you think was the most significant edtech development in 2015?
A: With edtech having been one of the fastest growing tech sectors across Britain through 2015, there’s been a number of significant developments, but for us the leading one has been ubiquitous technology solutions driven by a collaboration between application based learning and technology partners. There’s been significant growth in solutions that encourage virtual and distance learning with students having more control of their learning environment and educators being able to tailor their approach. This has led to a rise in connected institutions and a hybrid IT approach.
Part of this is also about bringing fun into learning via specific apps, some of which were highlighted ISTE 2015, demonstrating that you can promote learning through gamification and offer a more impactful learning experience through innovative and creative approaches.
Q: Were we successful in reducing the digital divide this year? How do you think we can improve on this in 2016?
A: This year we published our Digital Inside Out research report, which shows that that around a fifth (22 percent) of consumers believe that digital education should be part of the modern school curriculum, highlighting a real need to see investment at the beginning of the digital journey.
We launched our Education Ambassador Programme in January this year, aligned to the Education Technology Action Group, and designed to support in addressing the digital divide and promoting collaboration between technology experts and education establishments.
There is undoubtedly still work to be done, particularly focused on people from a more diverse background and a growing need for a more competitive digital experience.
Q: The computing curriculum has now been in place for over a year, has it proved to be a success so far, and how do you think we will we see this evolve in 2016?
A: We know that this is incredibly topical currently, given the recent announcement by Nick Gibb and what we’re seeing and hearing from policy makers in respect to the changes to IT GCSE and A-Level qualifications.
We know from our conversations with those we work with in education, that they feel that the computing curriculum is beginning to drive a more future-employment focused approach towards skills development, however, we also know that 83% of ICT teachers say that they don’t receive regular ICT training or CPD. That’s the evidence for organisations like us that there is still a long way to go to make educators comfortable in teaching and delivering core computing skills in the classroom. We know that to address this it’s about collaboration between education, industry and government.
We envisage more digital disruption taking place and our young people leading the way
Q: E-safety is still a key issue in schools, with cyberbullying presenting a huge problem. What steps can we take to tackle this?
A: This begins with an understanding of your digital footprint at early age. We know that social media use and use of digital channels continues to grow, particularly among young people, and as this happens, education establishments are under increasing pressure to educate and provide increased awareness for both young people and parents in the community.
We’re working with organisations like the Tablet Academy, supporting young people in making more effective and productive use of digital channels, but also ensuring that they understand the virtual trail that these tools leave behind.
With the Governments recent Prevent duty legislation, added pressure has been placed on educators, and as a core provide into education and to UK plc. We know that we also have a responsibility to support this with our expertise. One example of our work in this space is with Lancaster University, where we’re supporting their MSc in Data Science and providing real-world skills development linked into our own Security expertise.
Q: BYOD adoption continues to rise in our schools and universities. How can we ensure we further reduce the data security risks associated with this next year?
A: In our discussions with education establishments we’ve seen that the majority of the issues in relation to data security, arise from the fact that the employee or student owns and to some extent maintains the devices. This means that there needs to be a clear view and strategy from the start around things like: ensuring there is not a merging of teaching and learning data with personal data; having a plan of action for loss of device or when students move on from one establishment to another, or then into employment.
Organisations like ours can of course provide the technical and security expertise, but it’s also about the establishment having the right, multi-disciplinary team in place internally to ensure data protection and security standards are adhered to and maintained. A clear policy and implementation plan, as well as ongoing audits are a must.
Q: MOOCs, BYOD, WYOD, gamification, are all popular terms and trends seen and used throughout the education sector. What trends will emerge over the coming months?
A: All of these are transforming our consumption of technology and offering a new approach to teaching and learning. We envisage a continued rise in MOOCS and WYOD in particular over the coming months, and linked to that is the Internet of Things (IoT).
This is an area where we and our partners, such as Intel, are investing a lot of resource as we see IoT technology as something transformative from an accessibility, collaboration and creativity perspective.
With that, we also see that technology will become ever more seamless, with everything becoming more connected and technology being seen as the fourth utility. It’s all about ensuring that barriers are removed and through this driving greater freedom to learn – something demonstrated by the success of MOOCS and the impact that has had on online learning. We envisage more digital disruption taking place and our young people leading the way.
Ash Merchant is the head of Business Development for Education at Fujitsu Network Communications