Technology in Schools: Exciting and Essential

According to this BBC report of a study commissioned by the Education Charity ‘Tablets for Schools’, over 70% of primary, and secondary schools, are using tablet computers. 9% of these schools provide one tablet per pupil. These statistics alone show the influence technology has on the way the UK teaches its curriculum. This article will take a look at what roles technology could have in our schools if implemented fully.  

Within the next decade we could see a dramatic change in the way children learn. As a 90’s baby, I already remember something entirely different to what we see in schools today. Whiteboards are becoming a thing of the past; it is now a more common occurrence for schools to have smart boards on the walls, and tablets in the classrooms.

Technology is forever changing and improving, and for those educators includingit into the curriculum, they must first and foremost understand it. In 2012 the UK government scrapped the old IT curriculum in exchange for something more ambitious and innovative, with the Royal Academy of Engineering, Microsoft, and Google helping to craft it. It is incredible that children from the age of 5 have already started to learn how to code. Due to these changes, teachers have had to undertake a new form of training to better equip themselves within the classroom.

In the near future we expect to see every child receive access to a tablet or laptop during school hours, and 3D printing opportunities in more than just the Design and Technology (DT) department.The BBC’s micro:bit will influence the learning of code, and we will likely even see the use of augmented reality within education.

Computers and Tablets

Almost every child in the UK has access to a computer or tablet on a weekly basis, whether in the home or technology equipped schools. 70% of schools provide these devices as a learning tool (with roughly 41% running on iOS, 26% Android, 16% Windows 8, and 5% Kindle Fire, based on Android). Computers and Tablets have the potential to allow students to complete preparation and projects online, meaning  no more ‘my dog ate my homework’ excuses for students. These devices also make it possible for students to create group feeds, providing access to questions and comments from any location. Teachers can post grades immediately, and host virtual classes – putting an unfortunate end to those delightful snow days. There are many benefits to every student having a tablet for school, not to mention no more heavy backpacks!

3D Printing

The 3D printer has already found its way into most Design and Technology classrooms, but what other subjects could make use of it? Mathematics is a great example. Not only would 3D printing let students see graphs and models, but it would also greatly improve their ability to grasp them (conceptually and physically). 3D printers could also make an appearance in cooking classes to create molds, utensils and much more, using the students’ imagination. In geography 3D printingprovides the possibility to create maps with demographics, or in architecture to showcase designs. Using 3D printers in the classroom will not only help in the educational aspect, but will also add an element of fun . All these elements contribute to learning, and could build a better foundation if a student continues on to further education in these subjects.

BBC micro:bit

The BBC micro:bit is available to year 7 students in England and Wales. The BBC helped introduce computers into schools in the 1980’s, and is now helping to introduce a new generation to coding. The micro:bit is a mini computer with a built-in Bluetooth chip, compass, micro USB connector, 25 individually programmable LEDs and much more. It allows Year 7 students to create something as simple as an LED sequence, the ability to switch to the next song on a smartphone, or instruct a smartphone to take a picture. The main aim of introducing this into schools is to encourage children to use their imagination and create something useful, and learning about how technology is a tool to help creativity. With the use of these digital resources we could kick-start a whole new generation of digital innovation. 

Augmented Reality

My personal favourite new tech is augmented reality (AR). AR offers an even closer relationship to a student than the tech we see everyday in schools. AR turns what could be difficult and abstract 2D concepts into a more tangible comprehensible 3D version mapped onto the real world. This method could help students engage with  their educational environment and subjects. For example, when introducing new words to students, visualisation and context can be key in vocabulary retention. AR has added a new aspect to this by allowing students to create word walls, whereby a student can scan a word on the wall and the definition pops up along with how and when to use it. Not only can it be used for learning language but can also offer great benefits within subjects such as history. History and AR could be particularly useful in captivating students on field trips, for example scanning historical monuments and creating virtual projects could really heighten a student’s interest. Taking inspiration from the already successful Pokemon Go app, Moscow residents can expect to see a historical edition, allowing individuals to ‘catch’ figures such as Napoleon.

The possibilities for technology in schools are potentially endless. Tablets and computers are in almost every school already. The micro:bit is slowly making its way into every year 7 classroom, and schools are experimenting with 3D printing and AR. All of this, and more, will hopefully help our children find it easy to integrate into the ever-evolving digital world. There are steep economic, political and social costs of falling on the wrong side of the digital divide. We owe it to the next generation to make sure they can understand, assess and use technology wisely, and have a say in shaping the future. Technology in schools and in the home, if it brings better understanding, more confidence and creativity, is not just exciting but essential.  

We were lucky enough to borrow a micro:bit for some experimentation. Click here to read about what we thought and how we got on.