How has COVID 19 changed the future for education sector?
It has changed it immeasurably, in ways. Older Teachers who could probably have seen out their careers without applying themselves to newer technologies have had to up upskill. At neck breaking pace. That has led to an explosion in innovation and creativity in the EdTech sector. Investment in these companies has surged, up to over $18.7bn in 2019, so it will be interesting to see who the big winners are in the sector or if a company can emerge who will take a monopoly of the market in certain areas such as the anglophone market, for example.
Students have had to get to grips with being more self-directed and attempt to overcome the huge advantage of working with both peers and their teachers to overcome barriers to learning.
What has been the biggest challenge for this sector in these times of crisis?
I believe the main challenge is that Education is one of the last major industries across the globe to have had a “techoration” in that it has remained more or less the same on the past century. Another challenge is if you look at personal behaviour, we update our personal phones once every 2-3 years. However, in schools, we are still in upwards of five-year cycles to replace devices. Schools, governments and tech companies need to find a financial solution that ensures a faster upcycle or greater maintenance of devices.
Another challenge for schools, governments and EdTech companies to overcome is that training of staff is still well below the necessary level to consistently achieve the lofty vision set out when putting a device or app into the hands of teachers and students. In the UK, the use of interactive whiteboards was a famous example of how not to roll out new technology; by putting one in each classroom without showing anyone what they could actually do with them. That gap remains with 50-60% of teachers in the UK saying they do not have enough training in technology.
How is your College making sure there is an uninterrupted flow of education and the students can access it via remote education?
I believe this one is very much down to the person you are talking to. In an academic sense, our students continued to make the expected level required as per the UK National Curriculum in both remote-only learning and a blended method in the Autumn Term.
We have a blend of synchronous and asynchronous approaches. However, we found that asynchronous was more successful in enabling families to be more flexible in completing their schoolwork and in terms of providing an outstanding lesson where the children could follow at their own, uninterrupted pace. We continued to provide a variety of learning experiences for the children so that their interest was maintained in the day-to-day life of school, including written work, iPad-based work including some slick animation work in Year 4 and even home experiments in Science.
However, others rightly argue that receiving an education is worth so much more than just academic achievement and the social and emotional results of the pandemic may not be seen until the long term. Using live sessions and theme Zoom or Teams calls and group projects can help to bridge that gap to a certain extent; but there is simply no way to level the playing field with being physically present with a full class of peers.
According to you which area of education sector will witness maximum use of emerging technology in the next 5 years?
I can see it going several ways really; I think, traditionally, Primary have been given much more leeway to be creative with their approaches to the curriculum given the lack of major, life-changing exams to go through (for the most part).
That said, in the UAE, I have to say that some of the best practitioners of EdTech have come from Secondary. Likewise, the use of AI in certain apps has made revision for exams much easier from a pupils’ point of view. With mounting research and evidence on boosting exam grades then secondary may become a favourite area.
As the crisis imposes immense setback for teachers to impart knowledge, how do you think their concerns and wellbeing can be addressed?
I believe teachers have performed remarkably well where they have been given the tools to do so. There has been a groundswell of positivity in the UAE towards teachers given the challenges posed by Covid and the standard of lessons provided. In the UK, the teachers seem to have been hung out to dry by certain aspects of the media who blame them for schools closing.
I believe wellbeing is just a token phrase most employers like to throw around without much actual meaning behind it. Ordering cupcakes or pizza is a nice gesture but is not linked to wellbeing. Wellbeing is giving teachers more time to plan effective lessons and allowing them to lead a life outside their work so that they can perform to the very best of their abilities in the classroom. Teaching, after all, is performative. An exhausted premiership footballer gets rested while a teacher is forced to slug it out for the rest of term.
How do you think attendees will benefit from Distance Education & E- Learning Summit?
I hope that attendees will benefit greatly from the summit. In learning ways to set out a vision for integrating different technologies and by learning to create a culture of continuous professional development in order to make a positive contribution to the education of children all over the globe.
I always find that these summits also lends itself brilliantly in allowing teachers and companies to network and foster positive, successful relationships.