As the great and the good from the world of education technology last week gathered at BETT, the world's leading education technology trade fair, it was clear that despite all the latest innovations on show there is some way to go before education technology is embraced across our schools.
To coincide with BETT we surveyed a thousand teenagers (16-18 years old) to get their views on the role of technology in their education and future. The results showed that pupils are very positive about the role technology will play in future, with over two thirds (68%) optimistic that new inventions and technology will help solve the big problems faced by the world, such as global warming, hunger and major diseases. They we were also clear about the effect technology will have on their own lives, overwhelmingly (96%) expecting it to change the jobs that will be available to them in ten years' time. Yet the research also showed that young people felt their experiences in the classroom were failing to prepare them for this changing world, with only one in eight (13%) agreeing that their school has prepared them for the jobs of the future.
That nearly two-thirds of pupils (64%) believe that their schools are being left behind by new technology may help explain their lack of confidence in how schools are preparing them for the future. A large majority (85%) of pupils stated that they knew more about how to use education technology than their teachers, but perhaps more worryingly 73% felt frustrated at the inability of their teachers to use the technology available to them. Let's be clear what that means. That's almost four in every five children in a classroom not fully focused on learning or able to achieve their full potential because their teacher hasn't been given enough time, training or support to be able to use the new tools at their disposal in the classroom.
30 years ago, if four out of five children were able to read and write better than those teaching them, it would rightly have been a national scandal. Today's teenagers have grown up using the latest devices and gadgets from an incredibly young age. They are used to their world being transformed repeatedly by technological developments. This is reflected by our polling which showed that nine in ten (90%) of the pupils had learnt more about how to use technology at home than at school. This is their reality. Teachers and teaching must respond to these changes. While this is a daunting prospect for many, any supposed choice about whether to adopt and implement technology in the classroom is a false choice. Technology has the potential to transform education, and it will do so sooner or later. Currently too many schools remain behind the curve.
The potential benefits to both teacher and pupil of new technology are huge. Personalised learning, where each child has their own plan, and teachers can track progress in real time and be taught as if they are the only child in the classroom, is already becoming a reality. As the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, who was also at BETT last week said, innovative technologies simply must be at the heart of the next stage of education reform. But there is a very real danger that the focus on the technology itself distracts us from what really matters: improving the learning experience and ultimately raising standards for all pupils.
Those about to leave school and enter the world of work are clear about what technology will mean for them and their futures. But unless those delivering education do more to embrace technology, and are given more support to use what is available to them now, we are doing them a disservice. Technology is here to stay. Let's open up teaching to its possibilities, and develop an education system fit for the digital age.