7 new trends in edtech

RM Education’s annual REAL event revealed some interesting new themes and trends in technology

RM Education’s annual ‘Rethinking Education and Learning’ technology summit brings together education professionals from across the country to share experiences and discuss the future of education; this year’s event, which took place at London’s Mermaid Theatre, revealed some interesting new themes and trends in technology – we explore some of the most popular topics.

#1: Creating bespoke text books online 

Abdul Chohan, Director of Essa Academy in Bolton, shared his experience of using iTunes U to curate content collaboratively and turn that content into text books for students to reference online, rather than buying in the physical books. The initiative is part of the academy’s drive to reduce costs by saving money on text books and gradually removing their reliance on printers and copiers to encourage students to deepen their learning beyond the classroom. Essa’s students use iPads and iTunesU as their core platform for learning, and Abdul’s innovative approach to curating bespoke content has encouraged students to create, develop and share resources in a collaborative way. 

#2: Taking students on virtual field trips 

Whilst field trips are an important part of any student’s education, running regular physical trips can be costly for schools and parents. Emma Fish, Partnerships Manager at Google for Education, explored how schools can expand their students’ minds with Google Expeditions. The app lets teachers take their classes on immersive journeys around the world as a guided experience, not only enabling them to explore places like the Great Barrier Reef on a geography lesson but allowing them to see what a classroom looks like in countries that aren’t familiar to them. 

#3: Using video to deliver online safety

Alex Holmes, Head of Anti-Bullying at The Princess Diana Trust, illustrated how a growing number of schools are using video to deliver online safety policies and workshops. Alex explained that students like to film themselves on apps like Snapchat, and making their own film automatically gets the attention of other students. Videos are infinitely more accessible to them than reams of A4, so students have been filming each other training their peers through 30-second presentations on bullying and e-safety policies, as well as practical tips like workshops on staying safe online, which are shown during school assemblies.

#4: Thinking big to get the right tech

Dave Beesley, Assistant Headteacher at St Julian’s School in Wales, explained how using ‘Moonshot Thinking’ had led to a breakthrough in the way his school used technology. The premise of this model is that rather than seeking a 10% gain, a moonshot aims for a 10x improvement over what currently exists. The school’s original goal had been to get devices into the hands of their students, which would mean a costly financial outlay. But when they applied their new model of thinking, the school realised it was the wrong discussion to have; instead, they focussed on which technology would help them meet their goals of building life skills like collaboration and resilience within their students. For St Julian’s, that technology was Google, and it has led to a remarkable change within the school; students use Google Sites to build their own websites, improving their written skills and increasing confidence, whilst collaboration is encouraged through twinning with foreign schools online using apps like Google Hangouts.                               

#5: Using data to make better decisions

Mike Dwan, Founding Sponsor of Bright Tribe and Adventure Learning Academy Trusts shared his successful experiences of using Microsoft productivity and data analytics tools to empower his team. This allows them to make data-driven decisions that are significantly improving not only the standards of education across the Trusts, but also the financial performance of every academy. 11 of the Trust’s 12 academies were running at a deficit, but using these tools, all operating deficits were eradicated. Mike believes that making use of the data created by a school and its students – and making that data accessible and interpretable to those involved with the academic planning and delivery of a school – will help them adopt a ‘commercial entrepreneur model’ which will allow schools of all sizes to remain economically viable and function at a sustainable level into the future. 

#6: Making students Online Anti-Bullying Ambassadors 

Whilst instances of cyberbullying are comparatively small compared to virtual bullying, playground drama can quickly escalate into digital drama. To help combat these issues, schools are increasingly involving students by making them Anti-Bullying Ambassadors, whose job it is to keep themselves and others save online, as well as in practical terms. Ambassadors map out hotspots in schools and take action on behalf of any students experiencing bullying. Online, digital ambassadors patrol different platforms – from Facebook and Twitter to Snapchat and Instagram – whilst in school, virtual compliment walls shown on big screens are helping to foster a school environment of positivity and happiness. 

#7: Becoming a server-less school 

Many schools attending REAL this year have already begun their journey towards becoming a server-less school. As financial pressures on schools increase, moving over to the cloud is becoming one of the fastest and most effective ways to reduce capital outlays by spreading costs through a friendlier revenue-model. Martin Pipe, Head of service Scope and Design at RM Education, illustrated how this approach means schools can choose more cost-effective and internet-optimised devices for teachers and students, improving accessibility, mitigating lost teaching time and extending learning beyond the classroom, and RM predict this will become a necessity over the coming years.

For more information about REAL, visit www.rm.com/real

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