What do you think have been the key technological developments in the education sector this year?
For me it’s twofold, the first being the introduction of coding, which is obviously a massive change. A top-down, nationwide change like that impacts absolutely everyone. It has forced teachers and schools to learn about and implement coding classes much sooner than they would have done if it had been an optional subject. While this might cause some short-term difficulty, it’s certainly better for the next generation in the long-term.
For me though, the more exciting development has to be the increasing role of mobile. We’re seeing more and more schools introduce tablet programmes or allow their students to bring in their own mobile devices. At Gojimo, we’ve been producing mobile learning apps since 2009. Back then we were far too early. Students were hardly ready, let alone teachers and schools, but now things are changing and we’re seeing the adoption rate rapidly pick up.
Will security issues threaten the development of BYOD in schools?
Of course they will to an extent, but security issues can be overcome with proper governance and the implementation of certain technical safeguards. For instance, one way to ensure a certain level of security might be to insist all student devices are connected to a school wifi network, enabling the school to better control what they can connect to.
MOOC adoption has grown massively during 2014, do you think this type of learning is now more widely accepted as an educational tool?
Unlike a lot of other people, I’m not a big fan of MOOCs. They’re great for lifelong learners, but they solve few of the problems faced by today’s students as they simply replicate an offline experience in a digital ecosystem. In my mind, MOOCs are part of a short-term transition, helping to digitalise learning. However, I think whatever MOOCs evolve into (as their technology improves, and once they solve the accreditation problem), is what will be truly exciting. For now, they’re too tied to existing learning patterns. If I’m taking a MOOC, I don’t want to be on a weekly schedule. I should be able to binge-learn, just like I binge-watch Netflix!
Has the UK kept up with the rest of the world on 2014’s developments? Are there any key nations out in front?
Not at all. The US is much further ahead – just look at where all those MOOC companies are based! Many countries in Asia and the Middle East are also beginning to leap frog the UK by handing all their students tablets and forcing publishing companies to digitise their content. But the fact that the UK is (only slightly) behind, is not necessarily a bad thing! The countries who are leap frogging tend to be smaller, where the government has an easier time intervening. Trying to pull off similar policies in the UK would almost undoubtedly end badly – we’re better used to slow, measured change, rather than quick, overnight alterations – and I think that approach can actually benefit us in the long run. Being a little further back provides the benefit of being able to learn from others’ mistakes.
What have we learned about edtech in 2014 that will help us develop next year and beyond?
Preparedness is essential. Having spoken to many schools over the past 12 months, one of the things we’ve seen is that schools who dive into an edtech project unprepared (say, rolling out a 1:1 device scheme) encounter all sorts of problems. Those schools that take a fully researched and thought out approach tend to do much better. We’re seeing an incredible community of teachers evolve around some of these topics and they are all sharing best practices and learning from one another.