The emergence of the hyper-connected classroom
Back in 1991 we saw the first interactive whiteboard. Fast forward to 2017, and digital highlighters that can wirelessly transfer printed text into an application or web browser have now become a classroom staple. The education sector is rife with innovative new devices, leading to the emergence of a hyper-connected classroom.
Part of the reason for this is that students of this generation are digital natives, with the devices they own and applications they use being key to how they live and experience the world. As such, they’re keen to see the same level of connectivity they experience at home in their place of learning.
From an educator’s perspective, bringing technology into the learning experience can help provide teaching that is practical, and in sync with the type of roles students will be competing for when they leave education. But what are the day-to-day benefits of a connected classroom environment?
Why bring technology into the classroom?
On the one hand technology can be used to bring new efficiencies into the learning environment. We often talk about how the next five years will see the death of the red pen. What this means is that instead of marking hundreds of pages of printed coursework, teachers will be marking online using cloud services. As a result they will be able to grade work more easily. Furthermore, it enables us to provide students with more timely feedback – key to developing their skills and knowledge as soon as possible.
Bridging the skills gap means giving access to technology to the whole of the next generation, and educators can succeed in this by working with industry.
Taking this a step further, technology has incredible potential for enhancing education by enabling immersive learning. Immersive learning allows students to place their knowledge within the real-world context in which the subject matter can be applied. Take our work with the London Design and Engineering UTC for example; students at this new school were able to take part in a project where they designed a virtual reality environment that takes viewers on a journey around an Ethiopian village, as part of a project to highlight the work of the charity Water Aid.
While not every school will afford an Oculus Rift (yet!), the likes of Google cardboards and the provisioning of real world scenarios by industry leaders is helping break down the fourth wall of the classroom. With technologies such as this, education can become something that isn’t passively passed on but rather something to be interacted with.
Breaking down barriers
Where schools struggle is in being able to access the technology that will give students the experience of the technology that will define their future.
Education is going digital, and the announcement of the Government’s investment in T-Level qualifications in this year’s budget is a reflection of that new focus. However, a report by the National Audit Office in December predicted a possible £3bn cut in school budgets, meaning schools must reduce spending by 8% per pupil by 2020. This coupled with a widening skills gap begs concern for public school leavers who are at risk of not having enough opportunities to interact with the technology that will help them build the digital skills that are becoming so crucial to the UK economy.
Bridging the skills gap means giving access to technology to the whole of the next generation, and educators can succeed in this by working with industry. In February we saw Theresa May announce her new proactive industrial strategy in which she signalled her willingness to work in partnership with the private sector. However, those who will soon crave these skills have a responsibility too. Last month, for example, we announced our endorsement of OCR’s Cambridge Technicals in IT, for which we were able to contribute a project designed by students on a placement year with Fujitsu based on their real world experience.
Taking responsibility as an industry to bring technology into the classroom will support students to fulfil the digital future we’ve created for them. With this we can make the hyper-connected classroom a reality.