Technology in UK schools.
Recent figures suggest that UK schools spend around £900 million on education technology every year. However, it seems that each school has been left to explore and decide what they need individually without knowing what really works. In addition, with so much pressure being on teacher workload, it is imperative that any technology introduced saves time for teachers and is not burdensome. In order to overcome some of these issues, the UK government in April 2019 published “Realising the potential of technology in education: A strategy for education providers and the technology industry”.
This strategy identifies some of the problems that technology in education needs to overcome such as reducing teacher workload, increasing efficiency, as well as improving student accessibility and inclusion. It also states that technology needs to support teaching and improve outcomes. It suggests what needs to happen such as improving internet connectivity, developing digital capability in the workforce, getting services for the right price and promoting digital safety.
It states that UK Education Technology will be engaging in collaborative processes to meet the needs of schools in specific ways and sets out 10 challenges that industry should overcome regarding technology in schools e.g. anti-cheating software for on-line exams, tailor made CPD for teachers.
How do we compare to other countries?
The USA has invested in technology so that by 2016, 1 in every 5 children had access to a computer in school.
In addition, they invested over 3 billion in digital content, making on-line teaching resources available to students in remote rural areas and have high speed internet access. A growing number of exams are taken on-line as opposed to pen and paper. The USA have developed specific qualitative technological initiatives such as personal learning so that each student will eventually have a “learner profile” that identifies his or her strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and goals to formulate an individualized learning path. Students follow a “competency-based progression” in an environment that is flexible and structured in ways that support their individual goals. Robots are being piloted in some areas that read pupils facial cues that are then utilised to adapt pace.
Since 2018, Finland who have the reputation of having one of the best education systems in the world, have been piloting the use of the robot “Elias” to teach languages and maths with pupils. The idea being that the robot can engage at any level with the student and it does not tire of repetition, supporting everyday teaching. The study is focusing on how students interact with the robot as well as their learning experience.
In Singapore in 2017, a 7-month pilot study looked at the use of robotic aides to teachers in two pre-schools. In 2018, “technology enabled toys” were rolled out to 160 nurseries as a support to teaching. The aim to encourage children to be more creative with technology at an age when their brains are vastly developing. It is also thought that the use of robots encouraged collaboration with other children.
Japan have been piloting the use of robots as teachers since 2009. Some of the rural areas in Japan means some children have limited access to technology as well as teachers; robots can teach in such areas whilst being remotely controlled. Recently in 2019, Japan has planned a pilot of 500 robots throughout its schools specifically to teach students English in anticipation of increased tourism. The use of robots or language apps enable students to become fluent quicker as it can enable one to one or small group learning whilst reducing student embarrassment of incorrect pronunciation.
However, there are few studies that have explored the impact of the use of technology in education on learning outcomes. Concern already exists regarding the amount of exposure of younger people and technology with an increased lack of human contact and optimisation of social interaction.