The conversation surrounding educational technology is rather crowded, and advances in school structures and technology mean that a whole new raft of ideas and methods are hailed as the ‘next wave’ of education.
How these technologies are adopted by schools and universities is sure to make a significant difference to the next generation. With many jobs now heavily reliant on IT skills, it is imperative that the UK has a curriculum that allows its pupils to pick up the necessary skills and expertise needed for moving into employment.
Two of the many themes that are currently being discussed in the sector are gamification and the idea of the ‘device mesh’. Below, we look at what these are, and the importance of ensuring schools are equipped to take advantage of them.
Fundamentally, gamification is applying game-like principles to education to drive students to perform better and see tangible targets to their learning. A basic example is setting up an online points system for maths tests that can be traded in for extra break time. As virtual and augmented reality and interactive aids such as smart whiteboards are brought into the conversation, there is no end to where gamification could lead.
Gamification gives students context to what they are learning. Scoring highly in an ICT test is all well and good, but what if results equalled points that could be used to purchase components for a Raspberry Pi system? Students would not just learn the skills they need, but also see them practically applied.
The most apparent issue with gamification is making sure its implementation is correct – if the gamification system becomes expensive or begins to detract from the process of learning then it will be swiftly rejected. It’s important to remember that gamification is an addition to the classroom – good teachers are still needed to drive it as a concept and ensure that it delivers results. Moreover, teachers must be equipped with the right skills to deliver such additions to the curriculum.
The device mesh is a term for the expanding ways in which people access applications and information. This also covers how we communicate with each other across the internet on both a personal and organisational level. In 2016, the conversation has moved on from smartphones to encompass wearables, school and university-based cloud systems and even online-enabled transport.
It is predicted that the interaction – or mesh – of these devices is set to become more and more interconnected as both the number and ability of these devices continues to expand. In modern technology there is a real emphasis on instant connectivity; an ability to access information as quick as needed and wherever you request it. Schools are one of the areas where the device mesh is taking hold through systems such as notebooks and iPads for students to work on, but it is still very much in its infancy.
The idea of this web of connected devices looks to allow students the ability to access their work on different platforms, both when at home and within the physical structure of their school, college or university. It is important to note that the device mesh will demand careful management as it moves forward to being a fully realised premise, with data accessibility and security key components to be managed. Data privacy must be built in to these devices, but for schools physical security must also be front and centre. You can have students working on tablets and laptops currently, but without secure storage, charging and cloud syncing being considered this could lead to many problems. The physical design of both school buildings and classrooms will need to accommodate this idea if it is to be successful for future establishments.
Making sure digital is practical
Gamification and the device mesh are just two examples of a raft of technology-based trends that are being considered in education, across the breadth of the industry. But the technology is only part of the journey: for it to be fully successful, we also need to make sure that these ideas are implemented correctly on a practical basis. It isn’t enough that people are now taking science lessons in virtual reality. Schools must also consider if the devices are secure enough for pupils to use; that they can be accommodated within the school and kept safe; and most importantly that this has a clear benefit to learning and is within the organisation’s means to support.
But as long as technology is carefully implemented, deployed and monitored in a method that enhances the expertise of skilled teachers and the curriculum, then a fully realised digital classroom could be closer than we think.
Lynsey Jenkins is Marketing Director at LapCabby