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Excel in East London is full of educators, vendors and resellers this week looking to extol their products and services at the BETT show.
Household names in the IT world like Microsoft, HP, Lenovo and Dell have been joined by more specialist vendors that are hoping to hold the attention from some of the thousands of people wandering the halls.
Softcat, Albion Computers, XMA and Stone were just a few of the channel names that also caught the eye, with a myriad of tools on offer ranging from network security to homework apps.
But there was also a sense that more needs to be done to unlock the true potential of the digital world that most of these suppliers are showcasing.
Research from Lenovo, in partnership with Cebr, Technology in Schools, surveying a couple of thousand teachers has found that many feel the current cirriculum is falling behind in the race to arm students with digital skills.
The overall conclusions are that more digital training needs to be provided for teachers to ensure they are in a position to best support pupils.
The part that will get the attention of educational focused resellers is the suggestion that there also needs to be more money spent on IT, particularly in new technologies, to make sure that students are given a chance to work with some of the tools, like AI and AR, that will become key in the future.
"Over the past twenty years, digital technologies have moved from the periphery to the core of the UK’s educational system, offering an array of benefits including a richer selection of learning materials, a streamlining of administrative tasks and a greater flexibility in tailoring content to the individual needs of students," the report stated.
"Funding and investment are inescapable components of upgrading schools’ technological provision. Many schools’ digital proficiency scores are held back by the limited amount of technology that students are provided with for use outside of regular school hours. While addressing this would be costly, it is also important in ensuring that all students have an equal access to the benefits that technology can offer on their path through the educational system," it added.
As it stands the Lenovo/Cebr report found that when they looked at the digital proficiency of schools 8% were inadequate and only 20% were excellent. There was an uneven picture across the country with Scotland emerging as the best place in the UK for digital proficiency.
One school IT director said that many teachers had to be hand-held through what was available in current systems and some of the features that they could be using in tools like Office 365 were passing them by.
"I have just had an Inset Day and got all the teachers together to tell them about PowerPoint Live to get them to use it in lessons. They all have access to it but they need to be told how to use it," he said.
The Lenovo report also backed up that anecdotal evidence and found that only a quarter of teachers received training more than once a year on technology.
In a keynote session looking at the skills employers would require in the future Beth Sizeland, who worked at the British Intelligence Agency, GCHQ, said that it was on the lookout for people who showed the potential to think creatively, rather than excelling in a standardised education system.
Gavin Horgan, headmaster at Millfield School, said that too many educational institutions were still producing people that had the skills that were required a decade ago but needed to invest in arming students with more relevant knowledge.
Actions to take
The Technology in Schools report has developed the following recommendations:
- There is a need to expand the provision of training to teachers, in order to maximise the effectiveness of new technologies.
- Continue to re-orient the curriculum towards developing digital skills for the future such as coding, web-design and technologies of the future.
- Encourage information sharing among teachers to improve and inspire usage of new technology and digital skills in classrooms.
- Expand funding opportunities for investment in new technologies to address the shortfall identified by teachers and unlock the gains associated with higher workforce productivity in the longer term.