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Bett 2017: Knowing what edtech to invest in is a challenge for schools

Minster Rob Halfon has urged those building use cases for tech in schools to help others choose the right technology for use in the classroom

Knowing what technology to invest in for the classroom is one of the biggest challenges education providers face, according to minster for higher education, skills, apprenticeships and careers, Rob Halfon.

Speaking at the Bett 2017 education technology show, Halfon said there are lots of technologies available for schools to enhance the educational experience, but many do not know which to choose.

“There are so many excellent products and services available now, but leaders in education have told us they can find it difficult to navigate the market,” Halfon said.

Those already investigating workable use cases for education technology in the classroom should share their findings with schools who are struggling, and support schools and colleges to harness it properly.

The government’s job is not to interfere in this process, Halfon said, but to support education providers to take advantage of the opportunity that tech presents.

In 2014, the UK implemented a new computing curriculum which made it mandatory for all children between the ages of five and 16 to learn digital skills and computational thinking.

Halfon pointed to the government’s industrial strategy as an example of how the government is working towards giving more digital skills support to education providers.

The strategy green paper, which was released in January 2017, outlines a focus on digital skills through initiatives such as developing technology institutes to offer routes into employment designed to meet the need of relevant employers.

This should eliminate the common complaint of firms who struggle to fill technology roles due to students leaving higher education without the skills needed in the workplace.

Halfon claimed this reform of technology education was designed to match some of the best international strategies for technology education around the world.

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Around 10 million people in the UK lack the digital skills needed to participate in the modern workplace, and the government has launched initiatives to give as many people digital skills as possible.

Putting an emphasis on technology education for adults, Halfon said that digital skills are not just for the young.

“The UK government is determined that everyone in this country is able to obtain the sills they need,” he said. “We should be making sure that our people enter the jobs market with relevant skills.”

Putting the right infrastructure in place

But Halfon highlighted that to support the growing digital landscape in the UK, the government has to be committed to putting the right infrastructure in place.

The government’s industrial strategy also addressed this issue, confirming plans to invest in rural broadband rollout and 5G mobile infrastructure.

“We need to have the right cutting edge infrastructure in place,” he said. “No modern digital economy can survive without it.”

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