Headteacher Magazine, guide to services and products for UK Schools
By Ash Merchant, Education Director at Fujitsu UK & Ireland
Recently, London has been named the Artificial Intelligence (AI) growth capital of Europe. With so many opportunities facilitated by technology, there’s no question that businesses play a pivotal role in perpetuating its importance.
However, this wouldn’t be possible without a crucial element – schools, colleges and universities. Educational institutions that provide courses in AI and other cutting-edge technology are the very foundation of London’s growing tech cluster.
So far, 13 universities in the capital offer AI, machine learning and related undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.
But, knowing how much the careers of the next generation will be defined by digital; wouldn’t it be better to introduce children to emerging technologies earlier?
Introducing AI in classrooms has the potential to revolutionise how young people learn, how teachers and tutors conduct their classes, and ultimately – reshape how society approaches learning.
Perhaps the best way to help predict the future is to help in create it. Learning and innovation should go hand in hand.
The education sector is already rife with innovative new devices, which with time will lead to the emergence of a hyper-connected classroom. One can simply look at Fujitsu’s Innovation Hubs to get a taste of where we’re headed as 25 of these centres of excellence now exist across the UK helping prepare future generations for a digital economy.
These hubs, one of which is opened in South Devon College, are equipped with a range of the latest computing technology and are built to help develop STEM and digital skills.
But more can be done. Private and public sector players must work together to accelerate innovation in classrooms. Collaboration between education and industry can directly impact the future of UK businesses.
And it’s not just students who could benefit.
Recent data from the Department for Education has shown the UK has one of the largest average primary school class sizes amongst the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. Could AI-powered robots help teachers and practitioners to develop their understanding and skills needed to coach young people to be ready for an even more technologically advanced world?
From an educator’s perspective, bringing technology – including Artificial Intelligence-powered tech – into the learning experience will help provide teaching that is practical, while being relevant to the type of roles students will be competing for today and in the next 10 years.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
Over the past several years, the concept of immersive learning through VR and AR has been discussed as a product of the future. However, this is very much becoming reality.
What immersive learning does is take topics that are difficult to comprehend and make them engaging, by placing students in the real-world scenario where the subject matter can be applied.
At London Design Engineering UTC for example, students are able to take part in a project where they designed from scratch a virtual reality environment that takes viewers on a journey around an Ethiopian village, as part of a project to highlight the work of the charity Water Aid.
There’s a real opportunity to collaborate with industry leaders to help break down the fourth wall of the classroom, so students can play an active role in their own education.
The world belongs to the digital natives
Today’s generation of children are digital natives, with the devices they own and applications they use being key to how they live and experience the world. As such, they’re keen to see the same level of connectivity they experience at home in their place of learning.
Introducing more technology into the classroom will better prepare these children to the jobs of tomorrow.
The main challenge is to ensure the technology we introduce into the classroom, and the methods we use, are effective at delivering the concept we’re trying to teach.
Ultimately, educators have a mandate to ensure learning is challenging and practical.
That’s why the technology introduced must be completely reliable in the teaching and learning environment. It should be used as an enabler and an enhancing tool, helping create immersive learning experiences that are stimulating, emotive and relevant.
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