Computer Science for the Digital Age.

This is an article about the general impressions about our attendance at the annual education technology show, the BETT Show but also about the implications of the technologies and fundamentals (i.e. mandatory Computer Science learning) that we need to be thinking about in order to arrive at a complete understanding of how education technology can enhance learning outcomes.

Railroad

Back when I was at school, I remember a history lesson on the Industrial Revolution. It was about the implementation of the railway across the country in the UK. We looked at the arguments from the different stakeholders (e.g. farmers vs industrialists). The farmers were against the construction of the railways in the countryside because they argued that their cows would get scared, run to edge of the cliffs, fall-over and die. As you can see, from the perspective of my modern-life, I found the image of terrified cows jumping off cliffs quite preposterous… and really it is. But, that was a serious argument at the time.

suicidal_cows

And yet, at every point in the development of new methods of production, products and creation of new markets, the same type of debate ensues. Some arguments against certain types of progress are fueled by either the lack of information (normal)  or, the fear of the unknown (perhaps a tad more dangerous).  Our current paradigm shift is the technology that comes with the internet. Books or tablets? Digital or physical tools? How good are these mobile apps anyway..?

Education is one of the latest new industries that is in the process of this technological disruption. At present there is little research to assess the success of the mobile apps, tablets, interactive whiteboard projectors, 3D visualisation tools and content that is attempting to replace the current textbooks. At the BETT Show there were a huge variety of  companies; from start-ups to established companies who are now creating new digital offerings.

I noticed that there were quite a few confused yet curious teachers wondering around. Solely via observation, I would split the teachers into three groups: those who are the early adopters and buy the digital tools themselves to test and implement in the classroom, those who are curious and are waiting for data that will affirm what works and what doesn’t and, those who are not considering any usage of education technology in the classroom.

Whilst trawling the stands, I bumped into Terry Freedman who is Founder and Writer at ICT in Education . He volunteered some of his impressions of the show and about Education Technology in general. His views could be of particular interest for those who are sitting on the fence on the ability of education technologies such as mobile apps and other learning tools. Freedman considers that education technologies expand the offerings that are available in schools. Not all schools are the same and some are biased to certain subjects (due to the teachers in the school or the mission of the school). Moreover, there is a shortage of teachers which means that our children need more resources at their finger-tips.

Moreover, Freedman considers that “not all technologies need to be used in the same way. They can be open-ended and the great thing about that is that students will enhance their creative skills and produce completely different types of outcomes. This breaks-down traditional barriers in teaching because, if harnessed well, it can mean that the pupil also has the ability to take control of his/her learning”. This goes to show that not all teaaching and didactic tools need to have the same learning outcomes. Things like makewav.es  can act as catalysts for creation. In addition, the mobile tools and tech resources on offer (such as statistical analysis tools and digital platforms that have all the content prepared for teaching) mean that teachers can actually concentrate on teaching and mentoring the students rather than being tied to time-consuming preparation phases of content.

In my opinion, if we are to go beyond the “suicidal-cow arguments” there are a number of things that we must do in order to get to a full understanding of how digital technologies will  enhance learning outcomes. One of the priorities must be to have proper ICT learning and Computer Science skills in the classroom. If this is the world that our children our going to inherit, then they also need to know how to create, fix and run the technologies in it  – otherwise, we will just become useless and subjugated to the digitally literate.

– Yolanda HB Halston  is Marketing Manager at the Educational App Store. If you would like to write for the blog do email her at [email protected]

2 Comments

  1. I agree with your ideas regarding three groups of teachers. I was also at BETT and regularly trial new technologies for use in the classroom. It is important that there are teachers who are willing to try new ideas and that companies offer individual teachers the chance to do this. Too often I come across new pieces of software that are only available as a school licence restricting the individual teacher from improving the learning in their classroom.

    I find that if I can prove a new piece of hardware or software in my classroom then it is far easier to persuade the other two groups of teachers into using it as they can see for themselves the benefits it brings to both the pupils and the teachers themselves.

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