Walking into this year’s Bett Show was like stepping into another world. Dancing robots. Time-travelling VR. 3D printers whirring away. All surrounded by eager teachers, students, innovators and even politicians. It’s an experience quite unlike anything else!
All the glitz and glamour of shiny new tech got me thinking about the wider role of tech in education – beyond the show floor, can this impressive array of innovation really be used in beneficial ways? Below are some of the debates that Bett 2019 raised in my mind.
Is VR the future of the classroom?
It was certainly hard to avoid VR at this year’s show, with stand after stand transporting attendees to locations as distant as Mars! Yet with all the wonderfully creative ways in which VR is being used, is there a place for it in the classroom? And just as importantly, is it just a passing fad, or does it have longevity?
Those at the show were infectiously enthusiastic about its practicalities and feasibility. Lenovo spoke in depth about the unique way in which it can immerse students and engage them in class like never before, citing their recently-revealed Virtual Reality Classroom, which takes students on virtual field trips around the world.
And it’s not just tech giants who see the value of VR in enhancing education. Last year, the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth launched a VR experience for visiting primary school students, while Connect Training’s C-Live proposes that VR could even be used as a teacher training tool.
So, while VR may not find its way into the majority of schools in the near future, it does offer tremendous potential to make lessons more engaging!
Can EdTech can improve wellbeing?
Emotional wellbeing is not something that usually springs to mind when we think of EdTech, but perhaps it should! Microsoft spoke about the importance of positive mindsets in the classroom, suggesting that using tech to lessen stress on teachers and help students enjoy class more can impact society – and the economy – as a whole.
Meanwhile, SafeToNet showed off some truly remarkable AI that uses behavioural analytics to protect young people against threats of cyberbullying. Outside of the show, there are more ways than ever to help improve the mental wellbeing of children, with apps such as Mind Moose helping pupils to deal with negative feelings about school.
Can EdTech make learning more inclusive?
The Show also served as a positive reminder of just how far EdTech has come in terms of making education a more inclusive experience, with its ability to adapt to the needs of individuals and unite schools on a global scale. Skype Classroom showed the power of connecting classrooms from all over the world, including streaming live speakers and collaboration projects.
Advances are also being made in helping those with learning difficulties. Microsoft’s Immersive Reader will help those with ADHD, autism, dyslexia and visual impairments to focus while reading, while Chatta uses an app to help those with speech, memory and behavioural difficulties become better writers and communicators.
Beyond this, EdTech can provide personalised learning. Our very own Proxima algorithm focuses on a child’s strengths and weaknesses and creates work that is just the right level of challenge!
Is there such a thing as too much EdTech, too soon?
Although it can be argued we’re inspiring children to become ‘digital natives’ too young, I was deeply impressed by the passion of the young people who visited us on our stand, including a fifteen year old who had learned AI in three months in order to identify patterns in genomes that indicate an individual’s risk of developing cancer.
They were all enthusiastic about learning through technology – and one day soon, they’ll be the ones designing the products, managing the budgets and setting policies. EdTech can certainly introduce skills that will be very valuable in our increasingly tech-focused world.
Coding is being brought to life in wonderfully creative ways, for example, by Sphero Edu with their programmable transparent bots allowing children to see all the sensors inside!
Outside of all the computers and coding, EdTech can also promote other skills, such as creativity. A fascinating talk with Anthony Horowitz and Cressida Cowell discussed how tech can inspire creativity and, perhaps most importantly, #makewritingexciting!
Will tech replace teaching?
With such leaps and bounds being made in the EdTech world, it seems fitting to address a question I heard numerous times walking around the expo – will tech eventually replace teaching?
While EdTech is a fantastic supplement to teaching, enhancing students’ experiences and increasing engagement, never fear – here at TeamDoodle, we’re firm believers in the human element, meaning that tech should always supplement, rather than replace, teaching.