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The government’s plans to embrace technology in the classroom

16 June 2014

How can technology help British students to acquire the skills they need to succeed? This is the question that Matthew Hancock, Minister for Skills & Enterprise, addressed this morning at a Spectator forum on the importance of addressing Britain’s skills deficit. On the same day, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills released their response to a report they commissioned in a bid to embrace technological advances in further education.

Modern technology has the ability to break down so many educational barriers, as Molly Guinness discovered in her interview with the scientist Sugata Mitra in May, who used a computer installed in a public wall to develop the Sole method of learning, which he believes could revolutionise our classrooms. Other methods mentioned by Hancock in his speech include School of One, a customised maths programme currently used in the US, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which are now being used in Britain, in OCR’s Computing GCSE. Children are already learning through iPhones – as Hancock himself said: ‘When I was 7, maths meant workbooks, pencils and pocket calculators. For my 7-year-old daughter, maths means playing on my iPhone, where she loves the fantastic NIACE app Maths Everywhere’.

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But our school systems need to adopt these developments even more. In his speech, and in the DBIS report, Hancock highlights the changes being made, which include allocating funding to ensure all colleges have adequate internet connections, and working together with Ofqual to increase their use of e-assessments, which help teachers to pinpoint exactly where, and why, students are going wrong.

Of course technology is not the only area in which our education system should develop to ensure British children gain the skills they need. As Hancock later pointed out, only 1 in 5 girls who achieve an A* in GCSE Physics go on to study it at A-level, compared to almost half of boys who achieve the same result. Giving Britain the skills it needs isn’t simply about technology. The government has succeeded in ‘reversing the long-term depreciation of vocational education’, but STEM subjects are still less popular overall among young women than among men. Technology certainly has its part to play, but it’s not a catch-all solution.

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Show comments
  • SimonToo

    Why on earth did Hancock at the age of 7 use a calculator for maths? All that means is that the teacher had to set unnecessarily complicated sums in order to justify the use of a calculator, but that excessive complexity gets in the way of the underlying point to be learnt from the sum.

  • ClausewitzTheMunificent

    Bloody waste of resources. Give em pen, paper and a calculator. And sit on them to do their exercises.

  • The Masked Marvel

    A basic programming course should be required in all middle schools, and an A-level curriculum should be set up immediately. No need to spend ages re-inventing the wheel as there are plenty of examples out there to copy. See Wolfram and Raspberry Pi, for a start.

    As for the complaint about girls and physics, as well as the revelation that half of all co-ed state schools don’t have a single girl taking physics (as mentioned a hundred times in the Live Feed), what’s the figure for all-girls’ schools, state or otherwise?

  • Kitty MLB

    Indeed Technology does neeitst to be embraced in classrooms,
    Children are like little sponges and learn all this very quickly.
    You do make a very important point about girls studying physics
    and I suppose maths in general.
    I have also read elsewhere that childrens grammar improves
    with computers.
    Yet I have a little issue, I know children who rely on technology
    far too much, they use them to correct mistakes, find answers,
    learning to spell etc
    Technology is there to compliment the human brain not
    to replace it. With older children maybe its not such a worry
    but you are showing rather young children in photo.
    And yes I know, and I’m not a old fossel. The world of Technology
    is changing daily and its a case of our children keeping up
    or being left behind.

    • Smithersjones2013

      You forget Kitty that the less people think the easier a politician’s life is.

      And with technology the problem is that it is inevitable people will get left behind and the faster the rate of change the greater the number left behind at different points. Just wait in 20 years time they will be debating technology poverty and justifying raising everyone’s taxes to give everyone a free tablet or some such….

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