What impact will EdTech and AI have on teaching and learning?
The great promise of both EdTech generally and AI, more specifically, is that it will offer pupils a more personalised learning experience and bring greater equity to education in the process. Many online platforms already offer adaptive learning environments, meaning the content changes to match the needs of each individual learner. And yet, in general, pupils still move through education in step with those who were born around the same time because there is a tension between the theoretical promise of EdTech and the more prosaic considerations involved in managing a school. In other words, if we don’t put children into classes with other children of the same age and move them through the curriculum at roughly the same pace, then what does school look like? It is this more fundamental question that is potentially holding EdTech back at the moment, meaning that technology in the classroom tends to provide marginal gains rather than the individualised learning experience that might be realised at the same point in the future.
In what ways will the classrooms of tomorrow differ from the classrooms of today?
If, as an adult, you walk into a classroom today, in many ways, it will look much the same as the classroom that you walked into as a child. And the classroom you walked into as a child was not all that dissimilar to the classroom your great-great-great-grandparents might have walked into at the end of the Victorian era. Yes, blackboards are now white, and there is undoubtedly more technology in classrooms today, but we still fundamentally operate an industrial model of education. If we want the next generation to be able to think critically and creatively when solving problems and to be resilient and resourceful when faced with challenges, that is, if we want to shift the outcome of the learning process, then we need to think about how we shift the process of learning itself, as well as making changes to the learning environment, to better equip children with the skills they will need to thrive in the world that awaits them.
What are the main challenges facing the independent sector?
Most opinion polls have Labour fifteen to twenty percentage points ahead of the Conservatives, meaning it is increasingly likely that Labour’s plan to add VAT to private school fees will become a reality in the next few years. Labour estimates that 5% of pupils will leave private education, but the Independent Schools Council puts the figure at 25%. The source of Labour’s 5% figure is a study that looked at a gradual increase in fees, not a one-off jump, suggesting that the 25% figure, from a report commissioned by the Independent Schools Council, might be closer to the truth. This matters because if a quarter of pupils leave independent education, then the impact will be felt not only on private schools but on state schools too. Firstly, all of the additional money Labour was anticipating having to spend disappears if a quarter of pupils move between independent to state schools because the money raised from the pupils remaining in private education will need to be used to cover the cost of those pupils joining state schools (around £7,000 per pupil). Secondly, if in the region of 125,000 pupils move between sectors in a short period of time, then there is obviously the risk of significant short-term disruption to the state schools.
What are the benefits of Outdoor Education?
There is much to be said for studying great leaders of the past, whether it be Lord Nelson or Nelson Mandela, Elizabeth I or Joan of Arc. But if we want children to become leaders themselves, then it is essential that we give them meaningful opportunities to lead. It is, of course, possible to do this in English lessons or Music lessons or any other lesson for that matter, but Outdoor Education offers unrivalled opportunities for children to take on leadership roles.
This might be in the form of equipping a child with a map and compass and asking them to lead a small group over a mountain pass, but of equal value would be providing much younger children with a bucket and piece of rope and asking them to devise a pulley system. Of course, it’s not just leadership skills that the outdoor environment excels in developing. Away from more formal classroom settings, children often have more opportunities for working collaboratively, developing their communication and problem-solving skills, and developing resilience when faced with challenges.
Outdoor Education also offers many more benefits, especially with regard to promoting positive physical and mental health and well-being. Some of these benefits are obvious, but others are potentially less so. For example, spending around 2 hours a day outdoors reduces the likelihood of children becoming myopic. And time spent outdoors helps to regulate our circadian rhythms, ensuring that children and adults alike get a good night’s sleep.
Finally, climate change presents an existential threat to the planet, and Outdoor Education helps to develop children’s appreciation of the natural world. If children do not understand and appreciate the natural world, they won’t value it, and they won’t understand the importance of protecting it.