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3 tech tools changing education and STEM in 2016

In our digital world, technology should be a core part of the learning experience in order to meet the needs of pupils and their future employers.

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In our digital age, digital skills are needed to sustain and foster innovation. Despite this, a lack of expertise in science, technology, engineering, and maths is one of the biggest threats facing UK business today – and with girls, in particular, failing to take on STEM subjects – clearly something has to be done.

“72% of large companies and 49% of SMEs are suffering tech skill gaps.” UK Government, 2016

Initiatives are underway to reduce the deficit, with the government, educators, and employers all playing their part. However, to inspire more interest in STEM subjects, and promote the benefits of working in technology-related fields, a change in learning style is essential.

How technology is changing the face of education

When it comes to the future of technology in education, it’s not about one specific device. Today’s children have grown up surrounded by technology, at home and in the classroom. Yet despite this, the impact on student performance is mixed at best; with no significant improvements in reading, mathematics, or science.

Could it be that despite advancements in technology – and an increase in its access and use – 20th-century teaching methods haven’t quite caught up?

Are outdated education practices responsible for STEM career skills gaps?

Of course, a growing number of teachers are digital natives, and these teachers are using technology in education to inspire, engage, and innovate not only their pupils, but also their colleagues. For those digital champions that are passionate about technology in the classroom, here’s a quick snapshot of how technology is changing education in 2016.

3D Printers

Safe enough for even young children to use, 3D printing brings designs to life, offering a level of engagement that’s almost impossible to recreate from a textbook.

Combining problem-solving skills with creativity and innovation, 3D printing is helping to inspire a new generation of engineers, architects, and designers.

Suitable for use across a variety of subjects including maths, geography, history, art, and science, a DfE study found that: “3D printers have significant potential as a teaching resource and can have a positive impact on pupil engagement and learning.”

Maths teachers, in particular, are using 3D printing to create a more hands-on, active learning environment.

Integrating a 3D printer into the classroom is also affordable, despite increasingly squeezed academic budgets. Often coming in cheaper than laptops and computers.

Apps in the classroom

There are lots of apps out there to help teachers and pupils succeed – not all of them very good. However, with a little research it’s easy to uncover the apps that will work for you.

Apps4primaryschools.co.uk is a great place to start if you want to discover some sound educational applications.

Allowing teachers to provide instant online feedback on a child’s conduct for everyone, including parents, to see, Class Dojo is helping schools in the UK to decrease the time spent on behaviour management, creating a more positive learning environment.

Other apps let teachers send SMS messages to individuals or groups, reminding them of upcoming dates, while others use a smartphone to scan and score tests.

By taking advantage of educational apps, teachers aren’t just making their jobs easier, they’re also using technology in a new way. Focusing on how it can improve learning, both in and out of the classroom.

Coding and robotics

With developments in technology moving forward at a tremendous pace, coding is now vital to mastering the tools and technology of tomorrow.

Educational robotics such as Sphero and Lego Mindstorms, don’t just teach children how to code, they also make learning fun. Dash and Dot, by Wonder Workshop are also opening pupils’ eyes to the world around them, with these fun robots guiding young children through the world of coding and robotics by turning ideas into adventures.

But this doesn’t mean that robots will replace the role of the teacher. Instead, digitally savvy teachers are using these tools to make coding more accessible.

Coding is no longer something done by a solitary individual on a computer screen. Instead, it’s a multi-sensory activity, which requires hands-on innovation, communication, and collaboration. In the bid to win hearts and minds for STEM, this approach is crucial.

The future of technology in education?

Augmented and virtual reality are science fact. Creating multi-sensory, immersive experiences with the potential to change the world of learning forever. Just imagine being able to see the battle of Waterloo taking place from the comfort of the classroom.

Helping pupils to understand complex subjects and theories, as well as enriching and complementing current teaching methods, it’s vital that digital champions within schools understand the educational potential of tech such as wearables, VR, gamification, etc.

By making technology a core part of the learning experience, and adopting collaborative and flipped learning, and technology-enabled lessons using platforms such as ClassFlow, teachers can inspire engagement, creativity, and critical thinking, ultimately helping to meet the needs of pupils and employers.

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