hi-tech these days – interactive boards, laptops and online learning
plans proliferate, but has the curriculum actually changed or are
children simply learning the same thing on different devices?
argue that the education this generation of children is receiving is
little different from that their parents or even their grandparents had.
in a world where artificial intelligence and robots threaten jobs, the
skills that this generation of children need to learn are likely to be
radically different to the three Rs that have for so long been the
mainstay of education.
The BBC went along to the Bett conference in London in search of different ways of teaching and learning.
A stone’s throw from the Excel, where Bett is held, stands a new
school that is, according to its head Geoffrey Fowler, currently little
more than a Portakabin.
Despite this, the London Design and
Engineering university technical college – which caters for 14- to
19-year-olds – was massively oversubscribed when it opened its doors for
the first time in September.
The 180 pupils lucky enough to have
got a place have had a very different experience of the curriculum in
the 12 weeks since they joined.
One group have designed from
scratch a virtual reality environment that takes viewers on a journey
around an Ethiopian village as part of a project to highlight the work
of the charity Water Aid.
Another has spent the term teaching
Pepper – the school has two of SoftBank’s human-looking robots – how to
make a variety of moves, including the dab currently beloved of children
around the country.
A third group are heading off this weekend on an unusual skiing trip.
Travelling with them will be 11 Nao robots, which the pupils plan to
teach how to ski.
The school – which sets no homework, relying
instead on pupils wanting to get on with their projects in their own
time – is, according to Mr Fowler, “inspiring children to be part of a
new type of learning”.
While other schools may see the projects
listed above as fun “add-ons” to the core curriculum, Mr Fowler thinks
it has to be embedded within it.
Sixth-formers work on what is called an extended project qualification, which is the equivalent of half an A-level.
school works with a range of industry sponsors, including the
University of East London, Thames Water and Fujitsu, all of which offer
input into the types of skills they would like to see children learn to
equip them for the workplace as well as offering apprenticeships.
There are 48 university technical colleges (UTC) in England currently – and the scheme has proved controversial.
set up in East London in 2012 closed after just two years, having
failed to attract enough pupils, while another in Bedfordshire was
branded inadequate by Ofsted.
Some head teachers seem to be
resisting the idea of the vocational style of education, barring UTCs
from recruiting pupils from their schools.
But statistics suggest
that pupils attending UTCs have just as good results if not better than
those in more conventional schools.
It is something James Culley, head of computer science at the school, sees for himself every day.
“I have never seen students learn so quickly,” he told the BBC.
Lots of primary schools are now convinced of the importance of learning to code.
well as lessons devoted to it, after-school code clubs proliferate as
do DIY computers such as the BBC’s Micro Bit and the Raspberry Pi.
a company that has already brought its coding-through-games philosophy
to 60,000 schools in the US, recently launched a new project – teaching
coding through drone lessons.
Hundreds of schools in the US have taken up the idea and it is now preparing to launch in the UK.
typically buy between six and 12 drones via Tynker’s partnership with
drone maker Parrot and can then download Tynker’s free set of drone
Children learn to make drones do back-flips, as well as more complex idea such as drones working together as a team.
would take, you may think, a rather brave teacher to commit to flying
drones in the classroom, but Josie McKay, a Fourth Grade teacher at
Towne Meadow Elementary School in Indiana has no such qualms.
the last month, I have seen their confidence build as they went from
coding their drone to hover off of the floor to flying their drone
around the room without crashing into any obstacles,” she says.
week these students develop new and more challenging goals for
themselves, work together, and code their drone accordingly.
excitement on their faces when they achieve their goal, especially when
it is completed in a short amount of time, is infectious.”
The drones come with a range of safety features, including a “classroom mode” that means they take off extra slowly.
cannot take command of each other’s drones, and there is an automatic
stop button if inquisitive fingers come in proximity with the drone’s
Tynker founder and chief executive Krishna Vedati told the
BBC: “Our goal is not to create programmers but to offer coding as a
Picture a classroom where, instead of handouts or text books, all
pupils learn from their own headset – entering a virtual reality world
to learn about the French revolution, or interacting with a hologram of
the solar system to learn about space.
According to Lenovo’s global education specialist, Sam Morris, there are huge benefits from learning this way.
“We see AR and VR as the next frontier,” he says.
usage has suggested the devices engage pupils intently in tasks,
improve group interactions and the ability to adapt to multiple
Microsoft was at Bett showing off HoloLens – its recently released “mixed reality” headset.
has worked in conjunction with Case Western Reserve University to
develop a hologram of the human body that can be dissected and bones,
organs and veins viewed in detail.
It is also working with education provider Pearson to develop other educational resources for the device.
developer edition of HoloLens currently sells for £2,719 which makes
even buying one headset out of the reach for most cash-strapped schools.
“The declining cost of VR and AR devices will be critical to driving mass adoption in education,” says Mr Morris.
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