Later this month I shall be making a presentation to a contingent of 200 Swedish politicians and educators about leadership in education. My presentation is one of a range of talks and seminars in this Apple sponsored event in a week-long series culminating in the appearance of the keynote speaker, Sir Ken Robinson, the internationally renowned expert on creativity in education. The focus of the London event is the potential impact of technology on pedagogy. Most specifically, will issuing a lap top to every student inSweden improve the learning experience in the classroom? And more broadly how do school leaders manage the pedagogical challenges created by this interface with the digital world?
My invitation to this event is related to the digital profile of our school. Last September every student in the senior school was issued with an iPad a year after the teachers had themselves been equipped with the device. As an independent school we have the luxury of making our own decisions without reference to the latest government hobby horse and it was blindingly obvious to us that a school disconnected from the digital revolution was failing to educate its pupil for the world we live in. A digital world.
It is a truism that technology should not be used for its own sake. This is clearly the concern of our Swedish guests. Yet it is also clear that there is a world of possibilities. I am fascinated by digital innovation and how it can transform the learning Eco system. Only today I was reading a blog about “The Internet of Things” written by Steve Wheeler@timbuckteeth. In this world every object is connected to the Web. “The announcement of a new technology called Touché has the potential to change forever the way we interact with everyday objects…. Touché uses a Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing technique to make just about any everyday object ‘aware’ that users are touching it. From door handles to sofas, once connected, objects will be context aware, and respond to our natural gestures.” Indeed not just learning but our life styles could be disrupted by such technology.
Augmented reality is another development with potential to transform our world view. AR is a medium through which the known world fuses with current technology to create a uniquely blended interactive experience. NASA has used AR to illustrate the Mars Curiosity Rover expedition.
The potential for changing the conventional landscape within our schools is huge.
And it is all about the potential. Arguably the pace of innovation is far outstripping the capacity for educators in schools to harness it to transform the learning experience of students in a meaningful way. The fear of disruption outweighs any perceived benefits. After all, the focus of schools is to ensure students successfully engage with a broad and stimulating curriculum; and leave with a clutch of qualifications facilitating progression to the next stage of their lives.
Yet this is the critical point. Our young people are growing up in a world where it is a cliché that the pace of change is exponential. Failing to engage with the digital world is ignoring the world which shapes their lives. If schools are to enjoy the opportunities offered by the digital revolution a key change has to happen. Teachers, our greatest resource, must not only be encouraged to be active learners themselves, schools must place innovative pedagogy at the heart of what they do. It is no longer the case that a teacher emerges from Higher Education fully formed. In the dynamic world in which we live the most effective teacher is one who is on their own learning journey, unafraid of change, within an environment which supports their professional development. A school today should truly be a community of learners.