Education: Bringing It All Together
Recently I had the privilege of being one of the participants interviewed by Hannah Jones, Founder and Director of Connecting Learning, at a UK Trade & Investment Education Webinar organized by the i2i Events Group. Others on the panel included Dominic Savage, Director General of the British Educational Suppliers Association, Karim Derrick, Development Director of TAG Assessment, and John Crick, CEO or Crick Software. Whilst we talked about the British education marketplace, for me, an international theme was how to support education in bringing it all together for educators and students, as well as those children not attending school today.
Teachers have always wanted to personalize the learning experience, but they’ve just not been able to. Technology is actually unlocking that potential for teachers to be able to do it. We talk a lot about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) and big data, but the truth is that you actually need to make it into small data, so that decisions can be made for that individual student. And that has to be big data presented in an intuitive way to both the learning and the educator. Technology can do that now. I think in the past it has been too complicated. We’ve learned to over time how to make that process intuitive.
One of the things we talk about is workflow. In other businesses you’d take someone’s workflow, and you apply technology to make that person more productive. You couldn’t talk like that in education terms, but actually that’s what we’re talking about. We’re looking at the learner’s workflow, and the teacher’s workflow. What if you called that ClassFlow, and just focus on education? We are now bringing all the bits and pieces together—learning content, with teaching content, with assessment content. Add to that front of classroom technologies, with 1:1 technologies—bringing it all together with the data, so educators can make good decisions is really the point we’ve reached.
What happens next—especially when 57 million children don’t go to school today—will require us all to take more active roles. We’re looking at mobile learning—M-Learning as UNESCO calls it. But we just don’t want to give students technology. We need to make that technology effective, in terms of bringing it all together for the learning experience. M-Learning is going to be a really big part of that. That, along with enabling assessment for feedback, so we know where students are in their learning will unlock that potential for personalisation.
When I started teaching, I taught six maths classes of 30 students each—180 students. How on earth could I know them individually without technology? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go back in time, and use what we have now? It’s so exciting.
Whilst more learning will happen outside of school, the classroom will be a learning place for a long time to come, but the role of the teacher will change as they manage learning rather than dictate the learning. Having said that, the bringing together of different technologies will bring change as well. If each child has his/her own technology—it isn’t just about them looking at a screen—they still need to collaborate. There will be a growth in software that can link technologies together, whether that’s front of class or distant. That brings the parent into that community, because it brings it all together, enabling, not just personalisation—“I’m doing my things”—but collaboration as well—as the crucial part of the learning process. These experiences will enable students to demonstrate what they know, through the technology. In the past you couldn’t get that done in a normal classroom situation, where you were one educator to thirty students—and in many other countries one to sixty students.
The biggest problem in making all this happen is the ability of the teacher in the classroom. All the things have to be in the right place. If the professional development isn’t right, and the technology isn’t focused—you can have all the tools in the world, but they won’t have an impact unless you sharpen them. Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is a crucial part. We need to continue to help countries develop CPD programs. It is so fundamental. What video and other similar solutions allow now—because we all learn in different ways—is to let educators dip in and out of professional development, in a “Just in Time” way, when they need to. Educators still need guidance, just as students need a learning guide. Teacher CPD has to mimic that as well, and we can do it now because of that “Just in Time” CPD approach.
Author’s Note: I’d like to thank Hannah Jones for her brilliant questions, UK Trade & Investment, the i21 Events Group, and my fellow education and business panelist for helping me to organize my thoughts for this post. Please watch the total video conversation. The panelists are a who’s who of education expertise and knowledge.
Jim Wynn is Chief Education Officer at Promethean and is responsible for the company’s education strategy. Jim has been head teacher of two secondary schools in the UK, in which he pioneered the use of ICT.