Tech it or leave it: Ian Fordham

Last in a series of seven: Is teaching keeping up with edtech? With Ian Fordham, Director of Education, Microsoft UK

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

Things are moving very fast and classroom teachers and senior leaders need to understand what edtech products are effective, and access up-to-date, 

relevant training and support. We have a hugely active Microsoft Educator Community (MEC) where thousands of teachers every day access free bite-sized courses, get badges to show their skills and then progress to globally certified professional programmes.

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

Social media channels such as Twitter, local teach meets and professional communities run by Jisc and ALT are all vital means to enable educators from all sectors to stay on top of new developments and ensure they are prepared for the future. We’ve seen some incredibly dynamic five- and 10-year digital strategies across the sector and we’d encourage leaders to navigate digital transformation using this long-term view. 

Developments in AI, mixed reality and quantum computing are all coming to education, and we are excited about the potential to change the learning experience for educators and young people. But there is also a major component here concerning cultural change – and how organisations work with people through that journey. 

We are also pushing the boundaries of learning, with scientists at CERN recently teaming up with UK students to recreate the Large Hadron Collider in Minecraft in a bid to encourage them to learn more about the famous experiment.

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

We’ve worked with a number of UK institutions pioneering innovation through technology. For example, Shireland Collegiate Academy continues to harness the potential of digital tools to tackle teacher workload and narrow the achievement gap. It has created a ‘flipped classroom’ model which reverses traditional approaches to classwork and homework. The school has achieved incredible results and is now providing training for local schools and even civil servants in the use of their technology! 

Elsewhere, Staffordshire University is adopting a fully cloud-based approach to learning, taking all of their core infrastructure and data into Azure – using a range of our cloud services to drive transformation. 

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

Gamification is already built into our core technologies – ranging from our teacher professional development, where educators share their progress through badges and certifications, to Minecraft: Education Edition, which allows students to create, explore and learn including how to code using the gaming engine of Minecraft. 

We are also pushing the boundaries of learning, with scientists at CERN recently teaming up with UK students to recreate the Large Hadron Collider in Minecraft in a bid to encourage them to learn more about the famous experiment. With over two million users, across 115 countries, the platform appeals to today’s digitally native students, allowing teachers to provide students with collaborative, democratic content which leads to engaging learning experiences. 

Ffi: Microsoft in Education

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