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Dave Kenworthy, Director of Digital Services at CoSector – University of London, takes another look at the Education Secretary’s EdTech revolution and the current state of the education sector.

Last year, the Education Secretary Damian Hinds, called on the tech industry to inspire an ‘education revolution’ challenging them to provide a solution to the current burden on teachers, and to create a more efficient administration process.

The role of VR and AI in education

He discussed how exciting new technologies could change the learning experience, claiming that he’d “been fortunate enough to see technology being used in revolutionary ways,” and that “students are able to explore the rainforest, steer virtual ships or program robots from their classroom”. 

There’s no denying how fascinating these new technologies are, but virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) could still be a long way off being adopted on a widespread scale by the education sector. It remains to be seen if these will have long term value or if they are perhaps a novelty in the current climate. 

Bringing Damian’s comments to life

It’s clear that what we should be doing is paying closer attention to the latter part of what Damian had to say. Hinds referred to the key areas where tech could provide innovative solutions to alleviate burden. For example, providing better teaching practices, more effective assessment processes and an increased focus around training and development. 

In January this year, during the opening of BETT, Damian further discussed his aims for technology to help take the pressure off teachers and save time during assessment processes, saying: “I want to see what technology companies can come forward with to help to cut the time that teachers spend on preparing and marking homework and in class assessments… I want to see what we can do through technology to cut the time doing that by two hours a week or more”.

We need to be looking at each of these and the part they play in the learner’s journey as a whole. We urgently need to improve the automation around these less interesting but crucial administration processes in order to free up resources, enabling a better standard of teaching and an enhanced learner journey. 
 

So, what would this look like?

It will be as simple as teachers being able to access records across a secure shared site, a system that can recognise and flag irregularities such as a student whose attendance has dropped, assessment processes that are more secure and easier to audit and the creation of online teacher training programmes that will allow them to qualify remotely, so they don’t have to spend two days away on a course. 

Implementing new systems for the future

But as vast as an educational institute can be, it’s unlikely that they will have the infrastructure or full IT team in place to support this amount of change in such a short space of time. To achieve this, educational organisations need to ensure they are working with the right managed IT suppliers to guarantee a validating strategy. Not only supplying the software or equipment needed, but also supporting post roll-out to ensure a smooth transition process and that users are fully trained. 

Furthermore, establishments need to be partnered with suppliers who will enable and manage this process long-term, ensuring that the infrastructure capability is there when the latest new technology is ready to be implemented, advising on upgrades down the line to future-proof the investment.

Hinds concluded that home grown start-ups were in much the same position as the industry heavyweights, such as Apple and Google. Acknowledging that they might actually have something more important to bring to the EdTech table, perhaps a deeper understanding of the problems faced by educational facilities. 

So, it seems, it may be the Silicon Valley giants that will be the main providers of the exciting VR and AI tech that will peak the interest of students, but in terms of setting up the background mechanics to tackle the more pressing issues first, it’s down to the industry experts who are close to the institutions and understand their practices to make these ideas come into fruition. 
 

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