Tech it or leave it: Joachim Horn

Fifth in a series of seven: Is teaching keeping up with edtech? With Joachim Horn, CEO and founder, SAM Labs

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

There’s no doubt that technology increasingly plays a major part in the classroom. However, there is considerable confusion about which strategies will have staying power. Teachers are being bombarded with new solutions for the classroom, and edtech companies must help teachers understand the true potential for learning and how they align with the curriculum. 

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?

The maze of online information is an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, all the information you need is, arguably, somewhere on the internet: but there’s so much of it that it is sometimes hard to make sense of how it fits together for a simple classroom solution. 

SAM Labs offers a solution for educators who are teaching computer science and computational thinking by providing in-classroom support for both the early adopter and the tech-hesitant teacher. This is done by offering fully integrated and curriculum-based lesson plans and hands-on educator support.

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

Through relevant training, and choosing education-focused solutions. One of the biggest obstacles to tech adoption is giving teachers the time to be trained to use it in the classroom. 

The benefits of kids learning to code are widely documented, but working out how to deliver coding into the school curriculum can prove challenging for teachers, especially at KS2. To really understand how to write code, alter lesson plans to include it and, most importantly, to teach children this discipline effectively, we need to first provide teachers with a decent knowledge of computing.

“There is a lack of useful resources to help teachers implement coding in schools. Like any other fundamental skill, coding should be applied across the entire curriculum.”

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

SAM Labs is running some fantastic, project-based pilot schemes in Helsinki. We have discovered that teaching and learning are more efficient when students directly interact with the knowledge, rather than merely memorising.

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

The EU has a lot of research grants focused on promoting education, coding, STEAM, and teacher training. Funding for these vital pieces of research will need to come from elsewhere.

Are schools and universities sufficiently equipped to help their students navigate the quickly-evolving world of social media?

The introduction of online safety lessons has had a positive effect. Primary school children are more aware of the dangers online. However, there’s still much to be done on the emotional side. The biggest risk comes when children move from primary to secondary school, as this is when social media becomes more prevalent. KS2 students, especially pupils in Years 6 & 7, should be taught about the “emotional side of social media”.

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

Progress has been made, but we need to ramp it up significantly. Last year it was reported that there will be an estimated one million more computing jobs than candidates to fill them by 2020. For example, there is a lack of useful resources to help teachers implement coding in schools. Like any other fundamental skill, coding should be applied across the entire curriculum. We should teach students a shared vocabulary, a set of tools and a set of skills that they can apply in different situations in the future.

For more on SAM Labs, click here.