BESA in conversation with… ITSI

Gary Bryant, UK Country Manager at ITSI, discusses the importance of a personalised education and how neuroscience informs their decisions

ITSI originally comes from South Africa, how easy or difficult has it been to enter the UK market? 

There is a strong historical connection between the UK and South African education systems. Additionally, ITSI has strong existing relationships with UK-based publishers including Pearson, Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press, making it beneficial for us to extend that relationship beyond the borders of South Africa and establish our presence in the UK.  

How crucial is it to personalise learning for a child at school? 

Personalising education has always been a challenge for teachers; simply giving the same lesson to multiple learners in a single classroom is time consuming. The effort it takes to prepare multiple versions of materials and activities can really add up. Nonetheless, many teachers recognise that personalising content is the best way to make the lesson stick.

 One way to see the benefits of personalisation is through analytics. Our educator console provides visibility into the learner’s engagement with the content. Say that a student doesn’t perform well on a test, the teacher may assume this is due to a lack of studying, but analytics can tell the full story.

An edtech solution like ITSI’s gives teachers the ability to enhance the existing textbook material with multimedia resources to give complementary context to a subject. With the help of analytics, teachers can look at the statistics and determine where the learner may need additional help. They are able to personalise the same content to meet the needs of an individual student. 

You talk a lot about neuromyths, how much is ITSI’s work based on neuroscience? 

Across the organisation, mind, brain and education (MBE) informs all aspects of our work. MBE, while a relatively new term to some, has become the primary name used to describe the connection between laboratory research and educational practice. The research disciplines that inform MBE include educational psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science and education – among others. 

Gary Bryant

Due to the tremendous growth of the research base in recent years, there are now numerous books and articles written specifically for educators on how to implement the latest MBE research into their classroom. We consider these sources, as well as current scientific articles, in everything we do; from the approach we take to teacher development to future plans of developing the solution, it informs all of our decisions.

What do you think of 21st-century skills, have they not always been critical to success? Why are they more so now, and what does it mean for education?   

When we talk about 21st-century skills, we often think about the four Cs; these being Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking and Creativity. These skills have always been critical to success. In recent years, there has been an increased emphasis on these skills.

 Potentially what isn’t addressed is the idea that 21st-century skills can’t be obtained without foundational knowledge. Perhaps to explain better: if you don’t know anything about politics, you can’t add to the conversation or reason who will lead the country more effectively. You need knowledge on the various parties and the socio-political environment. An increased emphasis on this knowledge is leading some to be concerned that the basic facts that children should be taught are overshadowed. A good example of this is the notion that “if you can Google it, you don’t need to study it” which is explained by Dr Lieb.

Does edtech have a role to play in easing teacher workload? 

Essentially, edtech should enhance the learner and teacher experience, making sure that time spent planning and presenting lessons is more efficient. It should allow for quick and easy augmentation of the existing curriculum, and seamless sharing of content from teacher to student (and vice versa!). The technology should in no way alter a teacher’s underlying methodology or add to their workload. The pedagogy should always be put first, with technology simply aiding the pedagogy.

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