I’ve been having some conversations recently around how do we use technology to encourage innovation? Some of the conversations have been rich, rewarding and inspiring while others have just gone over old ground and centered on putting kit into classrooms rather than actually thinking about what types of technology can support innovation.
STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math’s) Education is a big thing for me and also needs to be a big thing for Scotland (and the rest of the UK) if we are actually serious about being competitive in a future knowledge economy.
Putting children in front of computers or tablets doesn’t in itself encourage innovation. Recently I have been advising schools to think differently about how they spend their precious ICT budget a little more creatively when it comes to a hardware re-fresh. This advice runs parallel to the advice that I always give schools about needing to make education fresh and exciting.
Let me explain… When I was at Primary School I loved going to school because there were things there that we didn’t have at home. They had a big colour television (in the TV room!), A BBC Micro Computer (that each class had a day a week with), a small swimming pool and our own nature reserve (with a bird hide). All of these things (and more) combined with good teaching and seeing my friends every day made school an exciting place to be.
I was speaking to a group of headteachers (over video conference) last week and I asked them what was exciting about going to their schools? What was it that the children would look forward to the most that made them rush towards the school gates desperate to get to school in the mornings?
For some it was a surprising difficult question and for others although the answers came quickly - on refection many of the things they listed weren’t that exciting at all. In all cases the technology experiences that children have at home are far more rich, challenging and free than those that exist within the school walls.
Over the next series of post I’ll list a few tools that have got real potential in STEM Education and actually aren’t that expensive and could attract some one-off funding from a school local authority or a parent council. Also the next time you do a re-fresh consider swapping out a couple of laptops or desktops for some other hardware that isn’t a Windows PC or a Mac. You can always make up your hardware shortfall by introducing ideas such as BYOD (bring your own device).
In particular I’ll be talking about Robots, 3D Printing and Game Making. All the sorts of things that aren’t commonly done in home (although they could be) and have the potential not only to make a real impact in terms of STEM Education but also help make schools fun, exciting and desirable places to be.