In 2011 I was just starting my P.G.C.E. in physics and as much as I wanted to say I was sure I was making the right decision, I wasn’t.
I come from a large state school that had its fair share of problems, and I knew just how bad it can be in the UK. Furthermore, I was surrounded by enough peers that would stare at me in disbelief when I admitted I was considering going into education. Popular responses were “You’re crazy” or “I could never do that”. I’m not ashamed to admit that at this time, I questioned my decision.
Luckily, a few months prior to starting the P.G.C.E., a man named Salman Khan had recently been recorded at a TED conference in the hugely popular video “Let’s use Video to Reinvent Education“. As I watched this video, now almost 4 years old, Khan talked about a type of education that was completely alien to me.
One of my key memories from school was getting really good at an activity that was done at the start of every lesson and an activity that, wanting to cement my reputation as top student, I would happily volunteer for every lesson. That activity was handing out the text books. Since then, technology had come on a long way and it blew my mind to be opened up to the idea of just how useful those advances can be to education. I was utterly inspired and reassured that I was entering a sector in which exciting things were happening, and in which I could someday really make a difference.
It’s not four years later and since then I’ve successfully completed my P.G.C.E. and NQT year, lead numerous workshops on teaching and learning (Usually with a focus on mainstream ICT skills) and held a Tech Ed position at both schools in which I’ve worked. It’s safe to say that I’ve maintained my original focus.
It’s not four years later and I find myself listening to Sal Khan again, in an interview carried out by BBC Radio 4’s “The Educators“. Here Khan spends a length of the interview repeating the key benefits to video based instruction. But what stood out for me was that Khan then moved his focus onto gamification, and I think that gamification is exactly the right focus. My department is currently in a position where we have achieved a paperless environment, we’ve implemented a successful Bring Your Own Device policy and we’ve incorporated key ICT skills for research, creation and collaboration. What we need now is a system that motivates students to move through this system at a pace that challenges them. Or as Khan put it, Mastery based, self paced, peer to peer learning. We think we’ve found the right tool, but I need some real time to work with it. Watch this space.
Ultimately, I think that the behemoth that is education is slowly lumbering it’s way towards this holy grail. This promised land that anyone involved in Tech Ed can see in the distance but not quite make out the details of. We can’t say exactly what it’s going to look like, but we can feel a sense of it in our bones.
To my mind, the real turning point would be the unification of tools, and the unification of providers. “Gamification” and “Flipped learning” are both hot topics in education at the minute and the biggest frustration is trying to patch together numerous apps or websites that do different jobs for different parts of the process, and for the students I speak to it’s finding the right courses for the right programs. What we need is a single platform on which all “quanta” of knowledge is placed and laid out. That would certainly give us a big enough playing field for game or quest based learning. But this mammoth task will only happen when educators are working on a single platform, and each resource for each “quanta” (Or learning objective) is voted in or out of the system by it’s users, the students.