As technology continues to advance, it is becoming more and more integrated into how young people learn, create and discover themselves. To find out more about these developments, and their impact on education, in January some colleagues and I headed to Bett; the world’s biggest education technology event. Bett brings together educators, brands, media and anyone with an interest in the future of education under one (very large) roof at ExCel London. As the newest member of the Hopscotch team, I was excited to be given the opportunity to see what’s new and upcoming in the brave new world of digital innovation in education.
Creativity in the classroom
I planned my visit to the Bett show around a talk titled ‘The classroom’s your stage, give creativity a starring role’, which was led by Mala Sharma, Vice President & General Manager of Creative Cloud at Adobe. Sharma talked passionately about how creativity is an innately human skill – something that cannot be replicated by machines – and so careers with a creative element aren’t as vulnerable to automation. Adobe have conducted research in the US which showed 82% of college-educated professionals wish they had more exposure to creative thinking as students, with 78% of those surveyed saying creativity is very important to their career. Sharma called for educators to address this imbalance by infusing creativity into all learning, ensuring that young people know you don’t have to be an artist to be creative or use creative thinking at work. She also posed a powerful question; ‘Is creativity the superpower for the next generation?’
Sharma was joined on stage by Jacqui O’Hanlon (Director of Education, Royal Shakespeare Company), Sir Anthony Seldon (Vice-Chancellor, University of Buckingham) and Prakruti, a student from Alperton Community School.
Prakruti had some wonderful insights into how the skills she has learnt in art class have prepared her for the world of work, how it improved her ability to implement ideas, use her mistakes, and work through a task without placing all the value on an end product, or a ‘right’ answer. Thinking back to my own experience of creative subjects at Pakruti’s age, I could definitely identify with what she was saying! Creative subjects really do exercise a totally different part of your brain to those where you’re reliant on a text book, or answer sheet.
Virtual reality advances
My colleague Iona and I then explored the exhibition where we were shown through some major advancements in VR for the classroom by Lenovo which included some impressive examples of how students have used the open-source technology. How VR can be integrated more into the classroom emerged as a clear focus of several exhibitors, as it also took pride of place at other stands including Google and ClassVR. A leader in interactive education, Promethean, conducted research in 2018 that showed 18% of teachers surveyed saw VR being the biggest area grown for tech in education, up on 15% from the year before. The improved accessibility through advent of more affordable VR technology, such as Google Cardboard, could explain this jump. The same study showed teachers feel virtual learning environments are also seen to be on the rise.
What do we do with artificial intelligence (AI)?
Also on display from various exhibitors at the Bett show were a range of the possibilities that AI can provide education, more of which are constantly being explored, from chat bots to more sophisticated technologies. For instance, we now know the insights of big data may well enable algorithm-driven programs which could tell us more than we’ve ever known about how learning happens. Stavros Yiannouka, Chief Executive of the World Innovation Summit for Education, recently told Schools Week: “I believe the ultimate promise of AI for education is that it can make viable multiple pathways for success for more and more individuals.”
For example, in Australia a group of 163 schools spread over a land mass half the size of the USA are working with Microsoft to use AI-informed, personalised education to identify at-risk students early. Around the world, AI is predicting student success with 90 percent accuracy in the USA, transforming the education of deaf children in Pakistan, and measuring real-time student engagement in China. The Big Bang Fair have even developed an AI football coach, which is recommending tactics and player formations for Wingate & Finchley FC.
Back at the Bett show, we were impressed by the stand(s!) of Microsoft, a global leader in the use of these technologies in an educational setting. At Bett they were showcasing a host of different aspects of their education programs, including AI and machine learning, as well as STEM education resources and partnerships with brands including LEGO and the BBC and educator platforms. They also had an AI-run juice bar on their stand, which used attendees age, gender, mood and reaction to make them their ideal juice. This increased interest in personalised experiences stood out to us as an emerging trend across the exhibition, as well as the many other applications of artificial intelligence.
The variety of exhibits and technologies on show at Bett was incredibly impressive and an exciting taste of what we have to look forward to in education! There’s been emails flying around the Hopscotch office ever since, talking about what we heard, saw and learned, and discussing the new advancements and opportunities in the context of our clients and projects. The future of education seems bright indeed.