Future Of Technology In Education Under Scrutiny From The Education Foundation

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Children Are Storming Ahead Of Their Teachers In Technology, Some Claim
Children Are Storming Ahead Of Their Teachers In Technology, Some Claim

"Computer science is the new Latin", the creator of the Lara Croft franchise announced last week, shortly before technology giant Apple declared their intent to revolutionise the classroom.

The comment from Ian Livingstone, life-president of gaming empire Eidos, was made at a conference held by think tank The Education Foundation to discuss the future of technology in education which came hot on the heels of Michael Gove's announcement about scrapping ICT lessons.

The foundation, co-founded by Ian Fordham and Ty Goddard, was launched last December by schools commissioner Dr Elizabeth Sidwell. It has now developed "The Learning Lab", a space for staff to develop their technology and computing skills and aims to support them in pushing the boundaries to find new and innovative ways of teaching.

Industry experts and teachers alike gathered at the event, which saw the prime minister's senior policy advisor stand alongside the creator of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as the saviour of Bletchley Park, to deliver their thoughts on why schools should be focusing on technology in the classroom.

Livingstone said the skills shortage in the gaming industry is "ludicrous in a massive worldwide games market".

"There is such a misconception of ICT. Children need to learn hard skills but instead spend a year learning how to use PowerPoint and Excel.

"The ICT which is currently taught in schools is worthless to anyone who wants to work in the digital industry. Computer coding is the engine for industry. Most people don't realise how instrumental the UK is to the film industry, which is a hugely lucrative sector."

But one teacher said he was "fed up" with being blamed for the out-of-date ICT syllabus and refuted claims most pupils know more than their educators.

"I'm really anxious that a national perception of ICT teachers (like me) is we've been useless, if this room's views are anything to go by."

He added the problem was with funding, and the difficulties faced trying to encourage schools to invest in the right technology.

Speaking to Huffington Post UK, head of development and research Joe Hallgarten reiterated the issues raised by the teacher.

"Personally, I don't think a lack of technology in schools is because of lack of funding. It seems to me schools don't know what they should be investing in and need guidance."

Dr Sue Black, the woman credited with bringing Alan Turing's work to Bletchley Park, said the UK needs to "value computing rather than seeing it as geeky or remote".

"We need to make people aware of all the computing they don't see: cash machines, cars, 'invisible' technology."

The issue of making technology "cool" is an issue many seemed to be concerned with. Yes, the internet and social media form the make-up of the lives of most young people but computing itself still seems to be relegated to the "nerdy" pile.

"Little Britain's 'Computer Says No' sketch really does sum up what people think computing is about," Black continued.

Another speaker from the floor added "technology is not the only thing we need in education, but a change of attitude too".

The admission from Rohan Silva, senior policy advisor to the prime minister, that the government consisted of a "cabinet of geeks" probably does not help the cause.

"George Osborne cycles to work with a Mozilla Firefox t-shirt, David Cameron walks around playing Fruit Ninja," he said.

But one listener made an embarrassing point: "As soon as the government starts championing technology, then it ceases to be cool. The best thing for the sector would be for the government to leave well alone."

Describing the foundation as a "great petri dish" for advancing the use of technology in teaching, Silva added: "The only thing holding us back in technology in education is our imagination."

So although the presence of David Cameron at the Learning Lab on Thursday was a clear endorsement of the work going on there, it may not do much for the computing industry's "street cred".


Cameron visiting The Learning Lab in Westminster

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