Q. What should schools, colleges and universities be focusing on for 2020?
Certainly, from our experience working with schools, they need to be supported more when it comes to training teachers to use technology. We find that teachers are usually keen on the idea of using new technologies in the classroom, but that implementation needs to be handled with greater care. Tech in UK classrooms often goes unused, which ultimately means that millions of pounds are potentially going to waste. Colleges and universities are making better progress on training teachers to use technology, so I’d like to see more improvement at school level.
You might also like: Edtech must ease teacher workload if it is to win over the staffroom
Q. What, if any, policy changes would you like to see in education this year?
It was encouraging to hear the government announce new measures to help boost the nation’s skills and transform technical education, such as providing up to £120m to establish up to eight more Institutes of Technology. However, many of the measures aimed at boosting the UK’s productivity and building a skilled workforce are targeted towards further education, so it would be great to see some more focus given to schools.
It would also be great to see some progress around the UK Youth Parliament’s campaign for A Curriculum for Life. Young people are calling for the education system to do more to prepare them for life after school and college – a critically important area that often flies under the radar – and it’s important that they are heard.
Q. If you could pinpoint one area of improvement for the education sector during 2020, what would it be?
If I had to choose one area, it would be improving the way we treat and support teachers, addressing serious problem areas such as excessive workloads and teacher retention.
There are many tools on the market that can help with onerous non-teaching tasks such as marking, assessment and lesson planning. The challenge is to ensure that schools are made aware of the best of these, so that they can spend their tight budgets wisely.
Schools are often tasked with helping reduce teacher workload and ensuring staff retention, but this can be difficult against a backdrop of increasing budget cuts and Ofsted pressures.
I believe edtech can play a role here. There are many tools on the market that can help with onerous non-teaching tasks such as marking, assessment and lesson planning. The challenge is to ensure that schools are made aware of the best of these, so that they can spend their tight budgets wisely.
Q. Is there a particular area within edtech that you think should be the main focus for 2020?
I think adaptive learning and targeted education are set to feature prominently in 2020 – there are many platforms out there making big strides, but there’s still a long way to go. The end goal is for classrooms to have adaptive learning platforms that retain the benefits of learning in a group (social skills, motivation, etc) and combine this with fully personalised instruction. We’re making progress towards this, but fully moving away from ‘one-size-fits-all’ learning, and inflexible learning pathways, will take time.
You might also like: Update: Learning analytics
How are data analytics improving education and how can you harness them most effectively? Hazel Davis reports
Separately, I’d also like to see more of a push towards technology being used at earlier ages in schools, so that comfort and familiarity with using tech amongst students and teachers is embedded early on. Nevertheless, no matter what technologies are introduced, we must bear in mind that not everyone is a technophile. For edtech adoption to take off, schools and universities must work to adjust internal cultures so that they are open to advancements.