As advocates for better access to digital skills training across the country, we were delighted to catch up recently with Casey Farquharson, the founder of IDEAS Bus – an interactive educational platform (on wheels!) designed to help educators discover the latest cutting-edge learning technology and students to get hands on coding, tech and digital media experience. We asked him how he thinks education needs to change to give children the skills they need for the future.
The current lack of digital skills
In 2017 a report by the Royal Society pointed out that more than half of England’s schools are still not offering computer science as a GCSE subject. The proportion of children who actually sat the exam was a poultry 11%. To make matters worse, only 20% of that figure were girls.
Furthermore, according to an article in the Guardian UK, over 67% of primary and secondary school teachers believe they cannot teach coding because of a lack of ‘skills and teaching tools’. We have certainly experienced this many occasions when visiting schools with The I.D.E.A.S. Bus.
There is an urgent need for the government to invest more money in the education sector: to train teachers to code so that they can effectively teach their pupils; to attract more individuals to learn and teach coding; and to equip schools with the necessary hardware
Understanding Learning Styles
Beyond this we also need to understand that each child will have his/her own learning style, and technology needs to be utilised appropriately to optimise the learning experience of each of the seven learning styles. Here’s how:
- Visual learners – individuals that learn more effectively with pictures and imagery. Tablets and virtual reality technology can be utilized to optimize their learning experience.
- Aural Listeners – individuals that respond primarily to sound. Technology can be utilized to effectively engage with such individuals via the use of podcasts and audio teaching tools.
- Verbal listeners – individuals who absorb information more effectively via verbal instruction. Innovative technology such as Siri, Cortana and Ok Google can be utilized to teach such individuals.
- Physical learners – individuals who respond to words that incite feeling and activity. They like to understand what it feels like to go through the motions of what they are learning. Virtual reality technology can be utilized to optimize their learning experience.
- Logical learners – individuals with logical and organized minds. Mind mapping technology can be effectively utilized to improve their learning experience.
- Social learners – Individuals that respond to teachers who are inquisitive and ask what they are thinking and feeling about key topics and concepts. Search engines such Google, Google assistant and Siri can be utilised to maximise their learning experience.
- Solitary listeners – individuals that are more comfortable sorting out problems on their own. Videos, online tutorials and audio learning can be utilized to optimize their learning experience.
The power of technology to support learning
Technology has the potential to be an effective enabler of specific and overall learning experiences. Again, the key to its sustained effectiveness when it comes to education lies in being utilised in a supportive capacity as against a leading one.
Psychologist and childhood learning campaigner, Richard House, aptly hit the nail on the head when he said, “the more that young children are exposed to technologies of learning which substitute for and short-circuit their sequential problem-solving and learning experiences, the more these latter abilities will be compromised, quite possibly in a damaging way. It’s qualities such as creativity that businesses want from their future employees – and these are the skills that should be most fiercely protected.”
There is absolutely no doubt that tech skills such as keyboarding, coding, and utilising the Internet to gather information are excellent data gathering, analysis, and computational thinking skills. However, they must never ever be a substitute for character, creativity, and social skills. If one was to analyse the key components of successful people throughout the ages, one would find that those three attributes – character, creativity, and social skills loom large in all of them.
Jim Taylor, author of Raising Generation Tech: Prepare Your Children For A Media Fueled World, puts it this way;
“What will make children successful in their careers is their ability to think originally, creatively, and expansively.”
Developing skills such as coding and keyboarding enables children to cultivate computational thinking and problem-solving mindsets; and as such it is vitally important that time and resources are invested into empowering more teachers with the knowledge and understanding to teach children how to code. Furthermore, there’s a need for a lot more hardware in schools across the country.
However, for our children to acquire and develop the skills they need for the future – character, creativity and social skills – technology must play a ‘supportive’ and ‘enabling’ role as against being the foundation.
Changing the school curriculum
It is imperative that the relevant bodies sit down in order to have a re-think about the nature of our education system; and chief amongst the topics must be the notion of revisiting the curriculum in order to achieve the following;
- More focused learning in schools
- Sharing a central repository with best practice lessons
- Increase schools’ computer science and technology budgets so as to be adequately equipped as well as empower teachers with the necessary knowledge and skills to teach effectively
- Provision of more technology to enable our growing population to educate youngsters remotely
- Empower students to help teachers
Finally, there is a crucial area of education technology that we can no longer ignore; the emotional and psychological effects of technology – particularly in the area of social media.
The education sector can no longer continue to ignore what is fast becoming an epidemic of monstrous proportions. The statistics of online bullying, violence and pornography have become too alarming for us to continue to pretend that everything is okay. According to the results of a survey conducted by the NSPCC, many live streaming sites had particularly dangerous and harmful content, such as suicide (18%), self-harm (31%), and bullying (46%).
If we want our children to succeed in the future, then we must protect their emotional and psychological wellbeing. It is time for both schools and the government to take responsibility by educating children, not only on the distinct dangers of the digital world but also on the importance of the true foundations of positive self-esteem. In order for our children to prosper in the future it is absolutely vital that we improve and preserve their emotional well-being – and appropriate technology training and learning scenarios can help to do that.
About our guest blogger:
Casey Farquharson is the founder of IDEAS Bus, an interactive educational platform designed to help educators discover the latest cutting-edge learning technology and students to get hands on coding, tech and digital media experience. The big yellow bus visits schools, taking both the technology and the experts direct to the teachers and students. Teachers can discover the latest innovations in Edtech, helping them to deliver lessons that will inspire and inform. Students can attend a series of practical lessons facilitated by the IDEAS Bus technology experts and using the cutting-edge tech in the bus
The IDEAS Bus aims to help enhance the link between education and technology, enabling teachers to provide the tools and information their students will need in order compete in the global jobs market, and to close the gap between the demands of industry and the ability of future employees.