Tech it or leave it: Jesse Lozano

Sixth in a series of seven: Is teaching keeping up with edtech? With Jesse Lozano, CEO and Co-founder, pi-top

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

No, but I think the transition to technology-infused lessons and learning culture is now underway. Technology has traditionally been easier to integrate into scientific/engineering-based subjects, largely due to the application of calculation, computation, and systems building. But at pi-top, we’re helping teachers to integrate a new way of thinking – learning by making (instead of instructing) across the STEAM spectrum, extending coding, mathematics, scientific experimentation, design and even creative applications to ensure that students can pursue their desired courses, whilst maintaining a basis in fundamental future-proof skills which will prove critical in their adult lives.

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?

At present, yes. However, that’s another thing we’re working to change. pi-top recognises that the lack of constructionist technology in the classroom is in large part due to teachers’ perceived fears that they don’t know enough about modern technology tools to teach with them. So we’ve designed our solutions to be open and accessible to teachers and students, with supporting materials that can guide the lesson, without an expert coder being on-site. We’re working to transform the classroom environment into one where teachers and students collaborate closely on learning, rather than the traditional model where teachers act as gatekeepers to knowledge.

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“Since the last industrial revolution, schools and, to some extent, universities have been churning out workers that know how to complete pre-defined tasks with clear boundaries and little room for experimentation and innovation.” 

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

Gamification is key to what we do. Kids love to have fun, and play has an important role in personal and social development. It’s so integral to our strategy that we’ve built one of our core software offerings around it – CEEDuniverse, a beautiful, interactive space-exploration adventure where learners use code to progress through the various challenges and advance along a rich storyline. By combining entertainment with achievement, we believe gamified platforms can offer a new level of enhanced education with better outputs and retention rates.

At pi-top we see VLEs as an integral part of teacher and student support – so we’ve built our own online, cloud-based classroom management platform (pi-topCLASSROOM) to facilitate easier analysis and assessment and ensure that every student receives the optimal level of support on their learning journey.

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

No, and we started pi-top to solve this very problem. Since the last industrial revolution, schools and, to some extent, universities have been churning out workers that know how to complete pre-defined tasks with clear boundaries and little room for experimentation and innovation. This does not align with the current job market. Soon, technology will largely remove the need for manual labour, leaving humans to take up creative and highly-skilled professions which draw upon the unique capabilities of the human brain.

For more on pi-top, see here.

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