Research

Background Information


  • Aims of research
  • Methodology: Primary research
  • Methodology: Secondary research

    To support the primary data, we carried out secondary research to gain a broader understanding of how the internet was currently being used in education. We viewed this as a critical facet in making concrete recommendations for the future. The secondary research involved creating case studies on educational and technological organisations as well as in depth research about individuals who are at the forefront of shaping the technological developments in education.

  • Ethics

    An important part of carrying out any research, be it for an academic or a commercial purpose, is to ensure that appropriate ethical standards are adhered to. Hence in the present project, it was ensured that all individuals taking part in any form of data collection provided informed consent.

    In the case of the online surveys, consent was recorded via an information tick box displayed on the webpage and those participants were aware that the information they provided was confidential, only to be used anonymously in the context of the report. It was also emphasized that no individual information would be fed back to any schools or educational organisations that the participants represented.

    For face-to-face interviews, written consent was obtained in advance and participants were aware that they could withdraw from the study at any time without penalty. They have been recognised formally in the report to support our research.

Why Education and the Internet


The following section shows why the concept of ‘Education and the Internet’ is an important and relevant subject to be researched by the IGGY Junior Commission. Below we aim to address the main benefits and challenges of having ‘open access’ to the internet.

This work was carried out before we began this research project and reflects our own initial thoughts and experiences as well as independent study regarding this topic. Our combined understanding, experience and vision for the future offered a starting point for our project and allowed us to recognise the opportunities and drawbacks that education, combined with the internet and other aspects of technology, might have.

  • Aateka
  • Anne
  • Beatrix
  • Danish
  • Gabriel
  • Jurgen
  • Kamo
  • Lindsey
  • Rachael
  • Sathyam

tab1

The internet is and can be a useful guide for school pupils helping to open many doors. This is especially evident when it comes to accessing information about higher education as it enables pupils to identify the best universities globally and to learn about different types of degrees and disciplines. At school level, pupils can use the internet for gathering information and learning about multimedia (e.g., auditory and visual imagery). The accessibility of the internet is another benefit as there are so many mediums through which the internet can be accessed (e.g., tablet, phone, laptop). Overall, the internet provides a continuous learning environment. As Cuban-born American musician, actor and television producer Desi Arnaz puts it:

“Good things do not come easy. The road is lined with pitfalls.” (Desi Arnaz. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com) (ref 11)

Access to the internet without restricting access in schools can be harmful. For example, staring at computer screens can affect pupil’s eyesight and includes symptoms such as fatigue, dry eyes, eye-strain and blurred eyes (ref 36). Furthermore, the overuse of computers could make pupils indolent and dull compared to those who are more physically active. A related concern is the link between playing computer games and child obesity which the World Health Organisation identifies as a major concern. In addition, complex topics that are not easily understandable by pupils because of adult content may lead to emotional and psychological problems and fear is that this could lead to ‘copy-cat’ acts of violence and/or anti-social behaviour viewed on media forums.

tab2

We are at the crossroads of two schools of thoughts: the supporters of internet in Education and its opponents. On one hand, the French educational system has controls in place to prevent cheating by confiscating items such as smartphones (some schools in the USA even go as far as using special software to detect plagiarism in homework

On the other hand, in 10% of Denmark’s high schools, students are allowed to use the internet for their baccalaureate. There is no right or wrong answer, only different stages of evolution. According to the American Department of Labour, 65% of students, after getting their diplomas, will have a job that has not been invented yet(ref 55). It is therefore logical and necessary to anticipate the advent of an electronic era and to assimilate it in our schools.

First of all, the abundance, diversity and relevance of the knowledge available on the internet enables a pupil to find information with different points of view. The internet could be compared to a giant library where pupils have to select pertinent over irrelevant information. Researching online means that pupils may develop different skills from previous generations. These skills include: an improvement in reading speed, the development of skim reading techniques, note taking and summarising, as well as the ability to compare and contrast the reliability of sources.

Secondly, communication and personalisation of the learning process is a clear opportunity provided by internet. Innovations such as school web-mail for pupils promotes exchange and contributes to the enrichment of teaching practices. In addition, learning groups can form outside the school meaning there are less geographical barriers to learning. Today even pupil-to-teacher exchanges can take place outside school, Conrad Wolfram, a researcher in Arithmetic and Computerised Calculations, comments on this and states that by introducing interactive methods, individual learning may be easier as pupils can keep their own rhythm. With a less linear process of learning, software can be built in order to support students’ abilities and thinking capacities. For example, Khan Academy is an online collection of educational videos, taking pupils from basic arithmetic to college level Calculus and Physics: the programme includes recording features that track the progress of each individual. Additionally, tutors can track their students’ progress.

Thirdly, the internet promotes self-expression. Pupils can easily have blogs or publish information. This completely changes the way in which pupils work because creating a site is an act of communication addressed to a larger public audience, not only to a teacher. The design of virtual pages allows the development of other skills such as formatting, being familiar with language and impacts of images as well as the awareness of copyright.

Finally, free access to the internet empowers individuals from all walks of life to reach a high-level of knowledge. It may do this by narrowing the gap between different social classes and provide opportunities to the inhabitants of developing countries by providing easier access to higher studies. For instance, it is far easier to have access to the internet than to build a library in a village. In a nutshell, access to the internet in schools could open many doors and give significant opportunities to students.

Tab 3

Nanyang Girls’ High School (NYGH), one of the top girls’ schools in Singapore, has been running a 1-1 tablet computer programme since January 2011 named the ‘Prototype 21st Century Class’. The school ordered the tablets as part of a pilot programme which provided the devices on a 1:1 pupil to tablet ratio. This example is a manifestation of the effects of the pilot programme, which allows pupils open access to the internet in school. Using this school as a case study, I will illustrate the opportunities and challenges of free internet use in school.

First, let’s look at the opportunities. According to NYGH’s website, lessons will be designed to tap into the world-wide web for real-life, authentic examples, and applications of knowledge learnt. Instead, free access to the internet could allow students to utilise a vast wealth of knowledge to enrich their understanding of a topic. A simple Google search produces a staggering amount of results in less than a second, which makes the use of the internet conducive for classroom discussion, compared to consulting textbooks, which is time-consuming and reliant on the availability of resources. The knowledge in a textbook is limited. Allowing pupils open access to the internet provides them with an opportunity to expand their knowledge beyond the standard curriculum. For example, popularity of open courseware has increased. More universities and institutes of higher education are prepared to invest in technology to enhance learning, so that pupils get the opportunity to access quality material for free.

Not only can pupils expand their knowledge, they retain it for a longer period of time. Video resources and apps facilitate learning in an interactive and visually engaging manner, ensuring that pupils absorb the knowledge through their various sensors. For instance, a Youtube video of a Physics experiment accompanied by an explanation by the teacher, demonstrates the theoretical principles behind what is being discussed. This may allow pupils to understand concepts more clearly and thus, remember them. Furthermore, many educational apps can be easily downloaded through open access internet in schools, allowing pupils to select combinations to create their own unique learning method.

Another opportunity pupils get from having open access to the internet is the chance for a higher quality of education. Related to this is the chance to improve learning habits. Collaborative features such as group scribbles and educational sites like Edmodo enable pupils to share ideas and provide feedback. Notes from lessons can also be collated and placed on such sites. Apart from training pupils to seek out information independently and take responsibility over their own learning, such collaboration will help build camaraderie among classmates. This increases the desire of the class to progress as one, which is a good attitude towards learning and could also reduce bullying the development of clichés.

Tab 4

With so many resources available online, the question arises:

“Should pupils have open access to the internet in schools?”

First we have online utilities: including online graphing services, online simulators (physics simulations and practical demonstrations), advanced calculators, translators and many more. They are innumerable and all of them are very useful, especially if the school does not have the specific lab facilities needed for simulations and experiments.

Next up we have cloud based services. Many schools now require projects to be based on Office Applications (such as “MS Office” itself or “iWork” on a Macintosh system) and the transfer of these files can be done through either physical means or through Cloud or other online storage and backup services. These are basically websites linked to a central server which has lots of data capacity to spare. This is where users with “accounts” can upload and secure/backup their files. Having access to an online account in school with services such as ‘DropBox’, ‘iCloud’ or even e-mail services which can offer online storage, will reduce the burden of having to carry around, worry about, and remember physical storage devices (i.e., USB drives, External Hard-Drives). This would make pupils’ lives much easier and hopefully prevent late assignments if they, for example, left their USB Drive home with their project was saved on it.

Lastly, we have online Forums where pupils can ask questions from professionals and many other teachers and in many cases quickly find an answer if the question you want to ask has already been inquired about. This is a great help if the teacher was not available to answer an urgent question. Other than that, pupils can easily exchange files for projects or school work using chat services and ‘send attachment’ options.

However, it is worth noting that some people may have more experience on the internet than the rest so while it may work for most pupils, others may be at a loss, when Google and Wikipedia fail to provide direct answers. In this case, pupils may end up getting lost in the huge jungle we call the internet. Another problem with manual search systems is that there is no benchmark for which sites are more credible than others. So if the pupils find the information they need, unless it is on a well-known site, it could be inaccurate which could lead to difficulties in the classroom and make for flaws in their knowledge.

Tab 5

An interesting and increasingly prominent way of using technology and the internet in education is gamification, which involves using many of the qualities and mechanics found in games to create a fully-or highly-automated learning system. Most gamification systems are based around providing pupils with a series of small, specific goals to complete, and rewarding successful completion (usually aesthetically with something like a video-game style achievement, but sometimes also with something more concrete like additional free time). It also emphasizes competition, often tracking students’ performance against their peers. Gamification primarily aims to reduce the workload of overburdened teachers and simplify administrative processes, while making learning faster, more fun and more engaging for students.

There are many problems with gamification. For instance, an automated system only responds to objective measures and it cannot understand the particular needs of a pupil. Another problem is an over-focus on competition. We don’t just learn from what we are taught, but how we are taught, and if students learn from a system that encourages competition over collaboration then pupils are likely to develop a preference for competing against others rather than working with them. Nonetheless, despite these concerns gamification is already becoming popular on educational websites and in some schools. Therefore it is possible that automated educational systems are likely to become widely adopted over the next decade. Such systems are very low maintenance, flexible, and to a certain extent adaptive to pupils.

Tab 6

I am an advocate of the internet being available in school; all schools should have access to the internet so pupils can develop their skill sets more quickly. If this happens we may see the internet change as a result, a new economic market will appear; new jobs will be created because of educational requirements. As a new style of education evolves, it is another step into the new digital age. School pupils may learn to handle problems efficiently at an earlier age, as well as supporting their social and communication development. The internet may also improve the social skills of young children by encouraging collaboration and creativity.

Crucially I am not suggesting that we should eliminate the current theoretical learning system but instead we should integrate the use of internet and technology more often. Open internet use is also a tool which can be used by school pupils to help improve homework and presentations providing them with a larger pool of information then they would have in a library. However, some schools and countries will face problems as they try to censor specific content and regulate internet usage. Similarly schools and countries will encounter financial problems to support the development of the technical age. In this case I think we need to turn to the government for support, they should consider having a budget in place to help schools with financial problems so these schools will not fall behind.

Tab 7

The accessibility of the internet has changed over the years, advanced by the improvement of technology. Its accessibility has improved and now the cheapest cell phone is available to those with the lowest income. Therefore, anyone can access the internet. But the internet has advantages and disadvantages especially where school pupils are concerned. The advantages are that, information can be accessed quicker rather than going to the library. The internet grants access to unlimited sources on one page for example when compared to using a number of different books. Requesting access to books may be expensive and time consuming. Accessing the internet may also boost pupils’ confidence by facilitating opportunities to meet and learn from others. On the other hand, the internet can be misused by pupils to access social media sites as opposed to engaging in educational activities. For this reason, websites such as IGGY offer a balance of activities with an underlying focus on education and learning.

Tab 8

Many educational systems have already begun making the transition towards a more technology-based environment by making the internet available to its pupils. However, in many cases access can be limited and controlled, and ultimately a form of censorship.

Allowing pupils open access to the internet enables a wealth of knowledge to be obtained but at the same time relinquishes a schools control over issues such as plagiarism and cheating, attentional interferences, and access to inappropriate material. Taking the first issue into consideration over the last few decades various studies have investigated the extent to which pupils cheat in schools and how the internet plays a role within this. For example in 2011 the Josephson Institute of Ethics released the results of a survey in which more than half of the 40,000 high school pupils (59%) surveyed stated they had cheated at least once in the past year. The survey also revealed that 1 in 3 students claimed to have used the internet to plagiarize an assignment.

The risk is that these behaviours at school level can be used to predict antisocial behaviour in adulthood; the Josephson Institute of Ethics (2009) showed that pupils who cheat in high school are twice as likely to lie to their boss than those who decide not to cheat and three times as likely to lie to a customer or inflate an insurance claim. Therefore correlations between the internet, academic dishonesty and society clearly exist.

Tab 9

I believe that having open access to the internet in schools would give pupils the opportunity to extend knowledge in different areas, separate from the classroom. For many pupils it can be challenging to focus when you are being taught in a classroom and therefore the internet provides them with the opportunity to be independent and learn in a way that suits them, at their own pace. However, the internet can also lead to pupils misusing their learning time by accessing sites such as Facebook, Skype or Tumblr.

Tab 10

On average, 65% of pupils are visual learners (Bradford, 2004) and in schools this is the main way in which pupils are taught. One benefit of accessing the internet in schools is being able to employ different ways of learning by using a combination of visual, kinaesthetic and auditory stimuli. There are countless numbers of educational websites designed to encourage pupils to learn in their own preferred way; for some examples please click on the following links:

GSCE SUBJECTS

Sams Learning

My Maths

LEARNING PLATFORMS

Seven free platforms for teachers

Simply Learn

Another benefit of open access to the internet is to improve the speed and ease at which teachers and pupils can communicate with each other. For example, if a pupil is struggling with their work, and needs to contact their teacher, they can easily converse via email or a secure instant messaging service. This reduces the amount of unproductive pupil time and is a more effective use of a teacher’s time and resources. It also minimises the likelihood of pupils becoming disengaged from their studies or worrying about their capabilities. Furthermore, it could increase the probability of pupils asking for help in the first place – after all sending a messaging to a number of recipients is much less daunting than approaching a teacher. On the other hand, this form of communication could lead to potential inappropriate conduct from both a pupil’s and teacher’s perspective. For example, pupils could use this medium to send abusive messages or harass teachers, and some teachers might use this platform to engage with pupils in an inappropriate manner.

The internet exposes pupils to current and topical news. This may encourage students to participate in wider reading and engage with topics outside of the school curriculum. Having such up-to-date information can aid academic success and may increase grades in many subjects. This said, there are numerous websites that are unreliable and should be used with caution. For example, Wikipedia is a website that members of the public can edit without validating the information provided. Therefore this can be a misleading resource and can result in pupils being misinformed.

As well as there being numerous opportunities as a result of open access to the internet in school, there are also many challenges. One problem is related to cyber-bullying. For instance, pupils can use chat websites, instant messaging services or forums to post offensive content about other pupils. Furthermore, whilst educational chat websites can be a good place for pupils to meet other like-minded individuals, these places can harbour child predators. Another concern is that allowing pupils to have open access can result in a lack of basic skills (e.g., literacy, numeracy) as it can be argued that the internet allows pupils to be idle. Instead of reading through articles and picking out the key points, pupils are able to copy and paste long lengths of information from any website. This leads to poor research skills and a lack of understanding about spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Research from Pupils


  • Introduction
  • Gender divide and skill development

    The first core theme is concerned with how the internet improves academic skills and learning in schools. In relation to this the following areas were investigated: grades, communication, motivation and independent learning. We identified these aspects as the main areas in which the internet could potentially have the greatest effect. Results for males and females were investigated separately to ascertain if the internet was having a different effect on education based on gender. Indeed, it is widely acknowledged, both in academic and educational literature that females and males typically learn in different ways and respond differently to environmental stimuli. See this link below for relevant web-links.

    Males: In terms of grades, 74% of male pupils stated that as a result of the internet their grades had either significantly increased or slightly increased. Interestingly, 2% reported a decline in their grades as a result of the internet (see Figure 1). For communication skills 62% of male pupils reported an improvement in presentation skills and interpersonal communication. Furthermore, in terms of motivation there was a 60% increase as a result of the internet with only 10% reporting a decline. Eighty-nine percent reported that the internet had increased their independent learning skills either slightly or significantly.

    FIGURE 1: internet and grade obtainment for male pupils.

    Females: Grades (see Figure 2) increased either slightly or significantly for 82% of female pupils with only 5% reporting a decline in grades whereas, communication improved for only 57%. Additionally, in terms of engagement 65% reported either a slight or significant increase in engagement and motivation but 13% reported a decline. Lastly, similar to male pupils (89%), female pupils reported an improvement of 88% in terms of how the internet helps the development of independent learning skills.

    FIGURE 2: internet and grade attainment for female pupils.

    The prediction that the internet would improve skill development contingent on gender was unfounded; numerically the numbers are very close and statistically there would be no difference between their responses (see Figure 3). This is a valuable finding in itself as it indicates that the role of the internet in education influences pupils in a very similar way – this has important implications for equality in learning. Primarily, the internet improves grades (74% and 82%, boys vs. girls respectively) and also independent learning irrespective of gender (boys 88% and girls 89%). In contrast, improvement for communication and engagement is less clear as the effects are smaller (ranging between 57-65% for male and female pupils). This indicates that digital technology and in particular the internet, is influencing certain areas of skill development more than others.

    Figure 3 – The level of improvement (slight/significant) for male and female pupils.

  • Primary schools and secondary schools

    As outlined in the introduction, the focus of this study was mainly concerned with secondary school pupils – however, some data was also collected from primary schools, which is briefly discussed here. In primary schools, 43% of pupils stated that they never used technology/internet in class with only 29% reporting to use it daily. This contrasts sharply with secondary schools with 47% stating that they use technology or the internet daily in class and only 12% stating they never use it (see Figures 4a and 4b). Related to this, secondary school pupils reported that they could not take the equipment home (71% said no and 29% were unsure). The difference in the availability of technological equipment between primary and secondary schools clearly illustrates a ‘digital divide’ between younger and older pupils and confirms that technology and the internet play a much stronger role in secondary education.

    FIGURE 4a: The use of technology in primary schools

    FIGURE 4b: The use of technology in secondary schools.

  • Availability of technological equipment
  • Homework and the internet
  • Teachers and the curriculum

    In order to be able to use technology effectively in the classrooms teachers need to be trained. Therefore a key question that we identified was whether pupils’ felt that teachers were confident when using technology to teach – just over 60% stated that their teachers were confident.

    Another key question is about the extent to which technology has been integrated into the mainstream curriculum; interestingly only 23% of pupils acknowledged changes to the curriculum (see Figure 6). Of course it might be that the pupils’ lack of understanding of the curriculum reflects this low percentage and does not necessarily reflect the absence of technology within the school curriculum. Introducing technology into the classroom also enables the teaching environment to be expanded as pupils have more versatile options when it comes to locations for learning, for example an electronic tablet can be used indoors and outdoors.

    Fifty-four percent of pupils believed that the government should fund technology in schools and 27% say that it should be funded by the schools themselves (i.e., from their allocated budgets); the rest of the pupils were either unsure (10%) or thought it should be funded by a third party or by a combination of school funds and government money. This diversity is likely to reflect pupils’ lack of knowledge about funding issues. Related to this just over 50% stated that there had been no resistance to the integration of technology in their school. However, for those who did state there had been some opposition (i.e., 14%) the following reasons were given:

    • A focus on old-fashioned academic techniques, e.g., chalk boards, pen and paper
    • The cost and maintenance of technological equipment
    • The risk of distraction and misuse by pupils
    • A lack of understanding on the part of teachers to effectively use technology.

    FIGURE 6: Curriculum and timetable changes as a consequence of technology.

    [1] 16 participants preferred not to state their gender.

Research from teachers


  • Introduction
  • Availability of technological equipment

    When teachers were asked about the type of technology available in schools, the most popular piece of equipment was computers (31%) followed closely by the internet (30%). These close percentages are likely to reflect the fact that having a computer without the internet nowadays is fairly redundant. The use of interactive whiteboards and iPads was 22% and 15%, respectively. Furthermore, only 3% listed technological equipment beyond this, which included items such as: digital cameras, 3D printers and voting pads. Interestingly, 27% of pupils are able to take equipment home and some teachers even commented that senior pupils have access to their own laptop. Again as pupils get older, note taking and document sharing becomes more important for their academic studies and such work is made easier with a laptop. Overall, similar to the pupil questionnaire these results reveal that whilst some pupils have access to high-tech equipment the main piece of technological equipment is computers – and access to technology increases as pupils’ progress through secondary school. In terms of the frequency pupils use technology in the classroom, 60% use equipment such as iPads, laptops and interactive whiteboards on a daily basis. Moreover, all pupils use some form of technology in their studies be it weekly or monthly (Figure 1).

    Figure 1: Usage frequency of technological equipment in the classroom

  • Skill development

    An important reason for using technology in education is to aid their skill development with the ultimate aim of improving pupil’s grades. Indeed, there are many people who argue that technology improves education, in particular the way in which teachers interact and teach pupils by providing non-linear platforms of support for personalised learning (ref 19, 33). The findings from our study show that 66% of teachers have seen an improvement in their pupil’s grades either significantly or slightly because of access to the internet during lessons. Similarly, the internet either slightly or significantly increased the engagement and motivation for 82% of pupils and increased independent learning skills by 83%. Communication skills, however, only increased by 36% (Figure 2). This is a relatively low percentage, similarly, the pupil responses (59%), demonstrating that communication is not strongly facilitated by access to the internet.

    Figure 2: Communication skills and the internet

    Individual differences. An important concept in education is that all pupils, irrespective of background, have an equal opportunity to learn and study. This said, however, it is evident that the needs of pupils do differ, and this raises the question as to whether some individuals benefit more from technological interventions in the classroom than others. We identified three groups of pupils for which technology might be having a different impact:

    • Pupils with learning difficulties
    • Pupils with high academic performance
    • Pupils from low-economic backgrounds – note by ‘low economic backgrounds’ we operationalized this in relation to the countries’ standard norms.

    Specifically, we asked teachers to rate the extent to which these groups of pupils benefited from technology (see Figure 3).

    Interestingly, the pupils who benefit the most in the teachers’ estimation were those with learning difficulties (54%). This is somewhat surprising, as we had anticipated that pupils from a low-economic background would benefit the greatest as in school they are accessing digital technology which may not be available in other settings (e.g., home). These pupils, however, were seen to benefit the least (16%) in comparison to the other groups. In a similar way, it was predicted that high achieving pupils would significantly benefit from technology, because they have a specialised skill set enabling them to use technological equipment to its full potential. These predictions were unfounded, and the fact that pupils with learning difficulties benefitted the most from technology based on the teachers’ estimations is an intriguing result. The reasons for this might be related to the different ways in which pupils with learning difficulties study and also the different types of assistance they need. In support of this, MacArthur (ref 41)suggests that computers are important for pupils with learning difficulties as it enables them to word process their work which helps them manage tasks they may otherwise struggle with, such as spelling and sentence generation, by utilising e.g., spell checker, software packages for speech synthesis and style checkers. Moreover, MacArthur (ref 41)argues that technology can also support cognitive processes related to planning and executive functioning through mapping software and multimedia applications, which is again relevant for pupils with learning difficulties. NCLD (ref 44) provides further information about pupils with learning difficulties.

    Therefore, based on our findings technology clearly plays a pivotal role in the development of students with learning difficulties and the pre-existing literature helps to identify some reasons for this. At a global level, the findings also point towards the idea that we should be ‘managing diversity’ as opposed to providing ‘equal opportunities’ which perhaps is an unrealistic way to view school pupils who are so diverse both in terms of the support they need and the skills they have (ref 20):

    learningandteaching.info

    It should also be noted that teachers did have the option to add in other information with regards to which pupils benefited the most from technology, and in response to this some teachers identified that in particular it benefitted bilingual students (as it increased their level of engagement), students with physical impairments (e.g., blindness) and students who are more visual learners and who have lower concentration spans. Again this links back to common features experienced by pupils who have learning difficulties, such as low concentration, and therefore fits in with the main finding that technology can help pupils with learning difficulties.

    Figure 3: Have particular groups of pupils benefitted from technology more than others?

  • Administration and Technology

    Assessing Homework. Marking homework takes up a large proportion of teachers’ times, with just over 30% of teachers in the UK spending 4-6 hours marking per week (ref 40). Furthermore, pupils’ using the internet to complete homework increases the risk of plagiarism, which is problematic for teachers. In our survey, 74% of teachers stated that they think use of the internet increases plagiarism and 81% think that pupils are over-reliant on the internet as a source of information, with 60% agreeing that it has replaced the use of books. This information fits within a framework in which teachers think that the quality of pupil’s homework either does not increase where they were unsure about whether it increased or decreased quality of homework as a result of pupils’ access to the internet (30% and 38%, respectively), with only 32% stating that the internet does definitely improve pupil’s homework. The reason for this low percentage might be misuses of the internet, e.g., plagiarism, copy-pasting without referencing. This is interesting, as it contrasts strongly with the pupils’ response, with 66% of pupils stating that they thought use of the internet increased the quality of their homework. This indicates that perhaps more guidance needs to be provided to pupils with regard to how to use the internet effectively when completing homework and/or assignments.

    Pupil Admission rates. Similar to improvement in homework, teachers again are relatively pessimistic about the extent to which technology increases the number of pupil admissions to their schools – with only 7% thinking it directly increases admissions, 56% unsure and 38% saying it does not. This low percentage of improvement might reflect that technology is not an important factor in admission rates. For example, it could be possible that schools on average are offering similar types of technology and thus there is a ceiling effect in which extra/new equipment is not a significant factor.

    Funding. Teachers stated that the biggest funder/provider of technology for schools were the schools themselves (61% identified schools as the primary provider- see Figure 4). Interestingly, pupils thought that funding should mainly come from the government (54%) when in reality for technology the schools themselves are funding these resources, as shown by the teacher’s responses. Related to this, 50% of teachers think the introduction of technology has altered the curriculum.

    Figure 4: Funding and technology in schools.

    Safety online. In terms of the online safety procedures in place for pupils in schools, teachers listed a number of safety measures including:

    • The blocking of websites, browser filters
    • Safeguarding policies
    • Pupil personal log-in codes –enabling sites accessed to be recorded
    • Pupil and parent awareness through posters, assemblies etc.

    Conversely, some teachers did say they were unsure about what procedures were in place and collectively 78% of teachers stated that pupils were made aware of the online dangers as part of the curriculum. Although, again similarly to the pupil survey (with only 66% stating online safety was a part of their curriculum) this still means a relatively large proportion of pupils are not receiving the correct information and that not all teachers are aware about what information pupils receive concerning online safety.

    Teachers and technology: On the one hand, 48% of teachers said that they did not feel they received appropriate training to use technology confidently when teaching however, on the other hand, 47% said they did receive appropriate training – with 6% unsure as to whether they did or did not. The integration of technology into education has been an ongoing process and perhaps there is a ‘lag-effect’; that is, technology is being introduced but the training to implement it effectively has not been fully or properly rolled out yet.

    [1] 3 participants preferred not to state their gender.

  • RESEARCH BY COUNTRY


    Following our primary research investigating how the internet and technology is used in educational systems globally, the next step is to look more closely at how the internet is being used locally; that is in individual countries. We each carried out research in our own countries and this involved piloting a range of methodologies (i.e., questionnaires, interviews, observations and case studies). Central to this research was identifying key themes important to the cultural, economic and political climate of each nation. This was particularly important in order to establish the relevance and significance of the questions being asked by us to associated bodies and individuals (e.g., teachers, pupils, parents, policy makers, schools) and ultimately to ensure we are asking the right questions. For example, some countries have access to the internet and technology, whereas in other countries there is a lack of access to the most basic of resources (e.g., water, shelter) and thus our research needs to be tailored to reflect these differences. To this end, each piece of primary research by country begins with a wider context section in order to explain the current situation about the use of the internet in each education system.

    Click on the map hotspots below to read the research on each country.

    Summary of Initiatives and case studies


    As part of our project we carried out research into organisations, learning tools, issues and initiatives around the theme of ‘Education and the Internet’.

    Below is a summary of the information we found useful with some background information, issues around implementation and the challenges facing each initiative or idea. We also recognised some of the following as having great potential for the future of education on a global scale.

    • The Flipped Classroom

      Background: The idea behind the flipped classroom is that the lesson happens at home, from an external site such as Khan Academy where pupils can watch online video lectures and get taught lessons in various subjects and then, what used to be referred to as homework, is carried out in class. The idea behind this is that pupils have their peers around them to naturally introduce a cooperative element and to gain a personalised approach from teachers who can interact with and assist individual pupils. It also naturally introduces discussion and collaboration on work topics and means that pupils are able to learn from, and support one another.

      Another positive element from this technique is that sometimes, a learner finds a lesson easy to understand, as it covers the basic concepts, but then has trouble or difficulty applying the concepts at home during their practice work. A prime example is mathematics. Something that may appear to be straight forward during a lesson may not seem so easy to understand at home. This may render the pupil frustrated which could in turn cause a lack of enthusiasm. However, if questions concerning such difficulties in understanding concepts are being asked in a class environment online, a teacher is available to assist and explain to individuals. Sometimes, a pupil can get more from practicing than from a lecture and in this way, this technique sets them up perfectly to be able to learn effectively.

      Implementation: Although it is true that the in-class lesson allows the teacher to tailor their lesson more to the academic level of the class than say, the online lesson, it is important to find a balance between the use of both. One suggestion is that schools assign online lessons to pupils for every topic to be covered in the curriculum and have a number of days during the week, where this technique is put into action. This could potentially provide the best of both worlds. For example, providing lessons in class for a portion of a week and assigning online content for the remainder would allow students to catch up or revise any topics that were not clear in class. Students could also read ahead, and use the rest of the week to solve questions in class. This would allow for the flipped classroom to transform into a group activity and encourage cooperative learning. The flipped classroom setup, or lesson structure would be different for each school and every grade level, and therefore all schools would operate at a different level to one another.

      It is important to highlight that every child has different strengths and weaknesses and the flipped classroom may allow for those struggling with a concept to repeat what they did not understand the first or second time round. It will also allow those with a better understanding of a subject to challenge themselves and move their own learning pace as well as being able to assist those who are experiencing problems grasping a subject. Both scenarios allow a level of freedom for the learner to explore at their own pace.

      Challenges:

      • Pupils may not be completely focused on work during the flipped classes and will need to have self- discipline and enthusiasm to do so
      • Pupils may use collaborative learning sessions as an excuse to socialise instead of learn
      • Some pupils may venture beyond their academic capabilities in such a way that they are confused about topics as they have yet to be taught them in class
      • Teachers would need to ensure a good grasp of the technology and skills needed in order to deliver such online lessons.
      Case study - Khan Academy Case study - American Council for Education Case study - Interhigh
    • Gamification

      Background: Gamification is a broad term and can range anywhere from simply adding game elements into lessons all the way up to learning with the use games. It has been used to engage users in problem solving, point scoring and encouraging competition, and has more recently been applied to learning. Now while the latter is a longer scale project, incorporation of elements of gamification into learning to create more incentive is something that can be done a more easily.

      Wikipedia defines gamification in the following words; “Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems. Gamification is used in applications and processes to improve user engagement, return on investment, data quality, timeliness, and learning.”

      Wired.com describes gamification in the following way;

      “Like the name suggests, selectively uses the mechanics that bring out peoples natural desires for competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism and closure when faced with a real-life situation in the form of a game”

      The ‘Natural desire for competition, achievement, and status’ element means that pupils can be provided with an incentive to work by introducing game elements into the classroom. The possibilities here are endless and really it depends on the age and academic level of a class to which it would be applied .Some examples include; hanging up a chart in the classroom every month for different subjects tabulating the results from tests in the form of ‘power points’ or ‘game points’. Once you have this information being displayed in the classroom it does a number of things:

      • Pupils who do well have their hard work recognised by everyone in the classroom and in this way are motivated to keep up their hard work. We could refer to this (informally) as ‘bragging rights’ and this creates the element of competition within the classroom to succeed
      • Pupils who do not do as well may be embarrassed to have their bad performance displayed in front of the whole classroom and thus tend to work harder to ensure that they don’t have the same fate the following month
      • The competition element encourages activity and enthusiasm. As Wired.com suggests, pupils automatically start taking more interest in the class tests and everything that would relate to game points.

      Regarding points, when performance levels have been achieved, these should be celebrated and encouraged by teachers - this is similar to a new unlock at the end of a game level i.e. an item to use in the rest of the game or a collectible. They may actually serve very little or no purpose to the game itself, but the sense of accomplishment is what makes gamification work as a motivational tool.

      In addition to this, gamification in terms of understanding and applying gaming to learning has been recognised as an opportunity for learners to not only learn from playing games but also to create value by allowing and encouraging young people to design their own games. By using gaming to learn and creating games in class, pupils may benefit by learning how to cooperate with people in a team, make independent choices, be creative, understand a design brief, follow instruction, improve time management skills and collaboration.

      Implementation: Creating a points system with regard to the competitive aspect of gamification is quite simple and may be implemented easily with the classroom. However, it would require the teacher to use real life situations and lessons in the form of a game, which would require creativity and the buy-in of pupils.

      Implementation with regard to the introduction of gamification to learn and encouraging pupils to create their own games is more difficult to implement. However, there are many initiatives and free online resources available to make it achievable, and it is potentially a low cost, high impact opportunity for pupils to develop academic and life skills whilst also enjoying learning with the added element of fun.

      Challenges:

      • Some pupils may still refuse to work harder regardless of the points system
      • Pupils’ reaction regarding a points system may be questionable as it may be negatively considered as geeky in some cultures
      • Teachers may be cautious about using games to teach in case they are criticised for their approach
      • Teachers may not have the appropriate funding, training or resources available to teach using gamification and therefore be discouraged from doing so.
      Case study - Institute of play Case study - Quest to Learn
    • MOOCS

      Background: MOOCs stand for ‘Massive Open Online Courses’. Platforms such as EdX, Coursera, Udacity, P2PU, and many others, together participated in the 21rst century educational revolutions of MOOCs. Some leading universities and institutions offer free educational courses designed by top academics and professors, with the aim of reaching a worldwide range of learners. While ‘xMoocs’ are created following a rather traditional model (lectures, assignments and tests), ‘cMoocs’ are based on ‘connectivism’, where students generate the information and knowledge, with self-evaluations and interaction between course members.

      MOOCs have several advantages which cannot be disregarded by the world’s current educational systems. With free, online accessible content, MOOCs are particularly well designed in order to welcome a large number of learners, connecting them for learning and social purposes. “From a pragmatic perspective, MOOCs provide access to large numbers of people who might otherwise be excluded for reasons ranging from time, to geographic location, to formal prerequisites, to financial hardship” (McAuley et al, 2010, p. 6). Based upon key concepts such as connectivism, openness, autonomy, diversity and interactivity, MOOCs are particularly beneficial thanks to their “increased option for accessibility, increased potential for student engagement, and expanded lifelong learning opportunities.”

      Implementation: Several changes would be required in order for MOOCs to be implemented in the current educational system. For example, it becomes necessary to separate the validation of knowledge from the way you learnt it: the self-taught man has to be as equally valued as those who have benefited from an institutional education.

      More importantly, the economy model has to adapt itself – this model already exists: baptised ‘freemium’(1), which is based on the theory that instead of paying for lessons, pupils could pay for examinations, or for receiving the verified certificates proving they have completed and passed the course. Therefore, platforms are offering free courses with the hypothesis that pupils will pay for passing the exam.

      The role of teachers also needs to be considered. As online courses will be integrated and valued by the entire educational system, new training for hybrid-role teachers will therefore be necessary, mixing education skills, technology innovation and new interactions between students and teachers.

      One of the best ways to implement MOOCs in the current educational systems may be by the concept of a ‘flipped classroom’ which has previously been supported by Bill Gates.(2) This theory refers to a new system of learning, where pupils could learn lessons prepared by teachers before class, at home and then train themselves and do the homework within the school, where they could ask questions to their ‘physically present’ teacher. This way, everyone could benefit from lessons by the world’s best teachers’: there by eliminating the competition for attendance at prized universities. (ref 1, 13, 39)

      Challenges:

      • Online learning implies complete autonomy of pupils: some pupils will need supervision in order to stimulate their motivation and make sure they complete assignments, meet deadlines and successfully finish their course
      • Lack of direct interaction between teachers and pupils might place pupils with difficulties in a more stressful situation, increasing the achievement gap and sense of solitude
      • Even if platforms such as Coursera already use plagiarism-detection software1, a non-negligible amount of cheating issues may arise. Copyright problems3 also need to be considered
      • Cost: even if courses are currently free, some institutions may spend some $250,000 per course4, with an additional $50,000 each time a course is offered and so funding sources for this need to be considered (Kolowich, 2013b).
      • If MOOCs seem like an appealing solution to pupils especially in the developing world, “faculty are raising questions about the influence of MOOCs on academic freedom, relevance to institutional mission, and instructional quality”1.
      Case study - Open University Case study - Khan Academy
    • Coding

      Background: Coding, in computer terms, is the process of writing, assembling, and compiling computer code. Code is simply the instructions for hardware and software. HTML is a kind of computer code or language that you can use to create your own web pages.

      In 2013, Code.org, the non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting computer science education, launched the ‘Hour of Code’ campaign, where more than 10 million students of all ages were introduced to computer science. Code.org’s vision is that every student in every school receives the opportunity to learn computer programming. Additionally, they believe that computer science should be part of the core curriculum in education. Supporters of this campaign comprise Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple. The Times of India (ref 43) reported that more schools were beginning to incorporate coding into the curriculum. From statistics taken from Code.org, since December 2013, 20,000 teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade have introduced coding lessons. Also, 30 school districts in the USA have agreed to add coding to the curriculum and policy makers in nine states have begun awarding the same credits for computer science as they do for basic math and science courses (ref 59), rather than treating them as electives. It seems that an increasing number of schools are recognizing the importance of teaching their students how to code, and the spread of coding instruction, while still in relative infancy, is "unprecedented there's never been a move this fast in education" according to Elliot Soloway, a professor of education and computer science at the University of Michigan.

      Coding has sparked interest throughout the world because computer science has become recognised and dubbed as “America’s Untapped Opportunity.”

      Computer science also provides many benefits for its students. It teaches computational and critical thinking skills and how to create and not just simply use new technologies. This fundamental knowledge will go far in preparing students to face the challenges of the 21st century, regardless of their future occupations.

      Implementation: Earlier this year, the British government mandated a coding curriculum in all primary and secondary schools. The UK Department of Education (ref 12) had been toying with the idea for a while since deciding to scrap its traditional ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) curriculum almost two years ago. In February 2014. the initiative was formalised as ‘Year of Code’.

      Many other countries are encouraging computer science lessons as part of the curriculum too. Israel was an early adopter, updating its high-school syllabus a decade ago; New Zealand and some German states recently did the same. Australia and Denmark are now following suit. How a country teaches computer science depends partly on what its economy needs. Estonia is short of programmers for its burgeoning tech industry. Hence, it puts great emphasis on programming, with some schools teaching it to pupils as young as six. Denmark devotes more time to topics such as the design of user interfaces, which interests its big firms, and the impact of digital technology on society.

      Challenges: There are three main issues with implementation;

      • Funding
      • Pedagogy
      • Knowledge gap

      Funding is an issue because with every teacher at primary level having to teach computing, there would need to be resources for staff development and training. This could incur not only a huge initial cost but a continuous cost to update training and technology with time.

      Pedagogy also presents a problem. When computer science was first taught in some American and European schools in the 1970s, classes focused on programming. But during the 1980s there was a shift to teaching “ICT” (information and communications technology): how to use computers for basic word-processing. Thus pupils left school with little idea how computers work. The subject is so young that teachers and curriculum designers have little pedagogical research to guide them. Even basic matters, such as striking the right balance between conceptual exercises like ‘the sorting game’ and actually writing programmes needs to be considered.

      Finally, teachers themselves might not be ready in terms of knowledge and understanding. Jonathan Furness, a primary school head teacher, admitted it that coding was "a big ask - we're very much up against it". Encouraging teachers to teach code means providing them with an understanding of what coding is, what it can achieve and enabling them to tackle any questions that may come up in the classroom, with confidence. Teachers may be worried that pupils have a greater understanding of coding than they do, so equipping them with sufficient confidence and knowledge is key.(ref 12, 21, 43, 59)

      Case study - Year of Code Case study - Code.org Case study - Raspberry Pi Case study - Scratch
    • Safety

      Background: While e-learning is currently practiced on a global scale, it is a known fact that all good things come with a price.

      With e-learning comes the danger of being online. While we encourage schools and other educational institutions to practice e-learning for a better future, it is also important to ensure that pupils, while learning from the internet via technology, are safe online.

      There are many potential safety risks involved in internet use, thus pupil safety is a key concern when learning online or implementing access to the internet in schools.

      Implementation: Safety online can be implemented in many ways, at the most secure level, schools can restrict all access to the internet. The next level is that sites that are deemed irrelevant or inappropriate for pupils are restricted. The most challenging level is to allow open access to the internet in schools and allow pupils to monitor and manage their own access. However, this comes with significant safety issues but would encourage pupils to become responsible for their own online activity.

      Regardless of the level of access available to the pupil, significant training of pupils is necessary so that they understand online safety and take responsibility for their own digital citizenship.

      The responsibility of pupils online safety would need to be considered, is it the pupil, the government, the headteacher, technology providers? Or perhaps a combination of both.

      Challenges:

      • If safety is to be implemented online, everybody using the internet should be taught how to understand the risks and safety issues of being online. This in turn would require extensive training
      • Different countries where online safety organisations e.g. FOSI, are not established will mean that there is no ‘one’ body to gain advice from
      • Young people would need to limit their access to different websites which are not safe; hence they will not be able to really ‘explore’ the internet and learn more about it the risks associated to it
      • Parents and teachers would need to be extremely active around young people and the internet while also giving pupils freedom to use and explore the internet
      • There needs to be an agreement in place as to who is responsible for pupil safety online in schools.
      Case study - Family Online Safety Institute
    • Digital badging

      Background: Digital Badges serve a very similar purpose to physical ones in that they indicate the achievement or completion of a skill or interest within a particular situation or setting (think of Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts)(Wikipedia, 2014). A UBC Infology article defines digital badges as;

      "A digital badge typically consists of both a graphical icon and metadata about who earned the badge, the criteria for earning the badge, when it was issued, and who issued it. Thus a digital badge can provide a visual record of a learner’s achievement and development combined with the required proof (ref 16)."

      Despite the extensive history associated with the physical counterpart, the concept of digital badges is still in its fledgling stages, and typically, digital badges are associated with MOOCs and the concept of gamification.

      Since the early 2000s, various interfaces such as the Huffington Post have used digital badges to reward users for completing various actions. However, this reward system became more common with the introduction of Xbox 360's Gamerscore system in 2005 (ref 14). However, research and development of this system to a more educational version is still emerging. In 2011, The Mozilla Foundation produced a joint paper with Peer 2 Peer University presenting the potential of using digital badges to learn - both inside and outside of the classroom.

      Mozilla Open Badge lays out a pathway detailing the use of what they call Open Badges. These require the learner to fulfil or complete a certain requirement or activity at the discretion of the 'issuer' (or the one handing out the digital badge) in order to earn a particular badge. After the verification of all requirements being met by a grantor, the issuer rewards the learner with said badge and maintains a record of completion along with metadata (essential facts such as the user's name, email, date of issuance, and date of expiration). The learner then has this badge in a digital 'backpack' and is free to share one's credential as deemed fit or necessary (ref 14, 16, 17).

      Essentially, digital badges serve the purpose of providing an incentive for continuing to learn beyond the classroom atmosphere in what is known as lifelong learning. Additionally, digital badges present a different approach to the concept of credentials and qualifications. Wikipedia organizes the functions of digital badges as follows:

      • 1. Motivation to Participate; used to highlight and recognise skills and activities based on personal achievement. This is used most often. Sites such as Khan Academy and IGGY use digital badges as awards linked to student participation on their sites
      • 2. Motivation to collaborate; used to "quantify the soft skills of teamwork that are pivotal to success in many professions today." (ref 14)
      • 3. Recognition and assessment; used to recognize quality or general approval. This can take shape in the form of online awards such as the Webby Awards or simple accreditation from an online payment method. The aforementioned idea of presenting one's credentials to the world plays most strongly here. Some argue that this is a much more precise way to communicate one's skill-set and achievements
      • 4. Alternative credentials: Due to the fact that digital badges have somewhat moved beyond the formal classroom structure, the idea of using them as alternative credentials seems to run contrary to traditional, standardized assessment and credentialing. This is not necessarily the case as digital badges have presented themselves as a viable alternative for defining certain skillsets. For example, the American Council for Education, the HASTAC initiative and MacArthur Foundation have programmes in place that serve as a means for U.S. Army Veterans to obtain digital badges that allow them to indicate their military training and experience (ref 14, 16, 17, 58).

      Digital badging is a different approach to credentials - one that places the power in the hands of the learner; allowing for a more individualised learning experience. In certain scenarios, these badges can be earned simply from garnering real-life experience - which can prove to be beneficial in increasing one's involvement in and interactions with the world. Due to the variety and diversity of digital badges, and the learner's control over who sees them, an array or accumulation of these badges could then be used to build a profile or portfolio best detailing the learner's experiences, interests, education and other hidden or difficult to define talents or skillsets (ref 20).

      Implementation: Digital Badging does not necessarily require a fundamental restructuring of the present system in order to be effective. The badges can simply be used to both motivate and quantify a student's learning without necessarily making significant changes i.e. they can be supplementary rather than fundamental. With an internet connection and little bit of technological know-how, one can put together a reasonably functioning digital badging programme.

      Additionally, as mentioned before, it can also be used to facilitate a lifelong, personalized learning experience; serving as motivation for one to continue to develop skills and foster new experiences throughout one's life. Interestingly, digital badging could be used to further motivate educators to continue to develop and teach certain skills acquired through professional development. (ref 16)

      Challenges:

      • Some question the validity of digital badges as a method of measuring and indicating credentials
      • The verification of prerequisites needed for badges may not be accountable (i.e. some argue that it may be difficult to account for cheating, or a lazily done job)
      • Some claim the system belongs to the issuer - that the learner attempts to achieve the goals of an extrinsic source; causing intrinsic motivation to suffer and diminish; which can be problematic
      • If the reward loses its desirability, it could actually lead to decreased motivation
      • It may be argued that badges are not very substantial due to the fact that they may provide rewards for meaningless or menial tasks.
      Case study - IGGY Case study - Smithsonian Case study - MacArthur Foundation
    • Blended learning

      Background: Blended learning is a mix of traditional and virtual learning. It can be described as "the practice of using both online and in-person learning experiences" 7

      Entering the Top Ten Trends of the knowledge delivering industry in 2003, ‘blended learning’ refers to a subtle mix of traditional and virtual learning. It is the perfect way to combine the necessary presence of the teacher, who guides the pupil through the curriculum, and the “unlimited up-to-date resources available” on internet2.

      This method brings various benefits to those using it. First of all, it allows more flexibility in the learning process, as students are allowed to learn at their own pace. By delivering instant, constructive and personalised feedback, it follows the idea of an adapted-for-each-individual style of learning. This method enables a smaller group to work together which means pupils benefit from more one-to-one teacher-to-pupil interactions. Pupils therefore receive “more frequent feedback from their instructor”. Computers also provide language translation, read-aloud or non-verbal learning. This assists pupils with difficulties or disabilities in following the school’s curriculum.

      Some schools using blended learning have certified that it “accelerat[ed] pupil learning, increas[ed] graduation rates, advanc[ed] the lowest performing schools, and creat[ed] lifelong learners”. Indeed, studies have shown that “Students often develop or enhance skills in time management, critical thinking, and problem solving”.

      Implementation: There are two ways to implement blended learning within the educational system. The first possibility is by applying the idea of the ‘flipped classroom’ where pupils learn online content at home, and would be trained through web-based or traditional assignments in class, with a physically present teacher to help them and support them if they encounter difficulties.

      The second possibility, already implemented in various schools such as Randle Highlands Elementary School, is the ‘rotation system’, where the first ten minutes of class is designed to set expectations and the learning objectives of the lesson. The teacher can therefore do a mini-lesson to the whole group before starting the second phase. This consists of three 30 minute rotations where three groups are created, two where teachers work in small groups with six or seven pupils and one where pupils work on computers with personalised exercises. The last five minutes are to conclude the lesson. The teacher revisits goals and analyses the progression of pupils by checking their understanding of the subject. This new type of classroom management typically balances a face-to-face learning environment and a computer-mediated learning environment.

      Challenges:

      • One study showed that “students enrolled in blended courses can sometimes have unrealistic expectations. The students in those studies assumed that fewer classes meant less work, had inadequate time management skills, and experienced problems with accepting responsibility for personal learning.” Lack of awareness might be the cause of such results
      • Another study underlines the potential feeling of isolation “due to the reduced opportunities for social interaction” compared with a traditional classroom environment
      • Technology in itself may be a potential barrier: lack of connectivity “has been reported to inhibit students’ ability to engage in online discussion”6 and “creates considerable frustration”
      • According to another study8, “the first challenge for implementation of blended learning for universities is time commitment, estimates that planning and developing a large-enrolment, blended learning course usually takes two to three times the amount of time required to develop a similar course in a traditional format.” (ref 3, 7, 8, 9)

      Case studies:

      Randle Highlands Elementary School Clayton Christensen Institute Ecole du Berceau, Elancourt
    • Big data

      Background: Big data can be broadly defined as the collection of data on a scale that is so large it is difficult to process. While such data is sometimes generated in natural science experiments, it is generally used to refer to data deriving from business, governmental, or academic research. Its main purposes are to capture overarching trends on an extremely large scale, or to create and maintain an extremely large number of individual profiles on members of a population.

      Most big data is incidentally generated: i.e. it is created not within a controlled environment, but from the day-to-day actions of a very large population. Some examples of this are the data created in the process of web browsing (which pages are visited, what links are clicked, how long a user stays on a page, etc.) and gps data collected from some mobile devices or satnavs. The nature of these datasets is such that many are unaware that data is being collected and stored as a result of their actions, or unaware of the extent to which data is being collected on them, sometimes causing privacy problems.

      Implementation: Within education, big data is primarily generated within virtual learning environments, as it is very easy to monitor the actions of students within such environments. Once this data has been generated and collected, it can be used for primarily two purposes: one, for automated systems to use the data gathered to reconfigure the learning environment to better suit the user; two, for researchers to analyse. Big data is commonly used within search engines and online shopping websites. Here the data is mostly used to return answers to search queries (or serve up advertisements) that are more likely to be of interest to a user. This often provides the user with more relevant information (or products) but in the context of political or scientific issues can often lead to the biasing of results to a user’s pre-existing viewpoints; which is, of course, often problematic.

      Challenges: By definition, big data can be difficult to effectively analyse due to its incredible size. Unsurprisingly, big data takes up large amounts of storage space, sometimes making it difficult to store for any substantive amount of time. Big data about people is often collected without their knowledge, or without their full understanding of its scale resulting in complex privacy issues. Big data can give individual bodies (such as government agencies or corporations) very large amounts of data in incredible detail; it has been theorised this could lead to the creation of a ‘data elite’. When used in certain ways within search engines, big data can lead to the amplification of confirmation bias.

    • Social educational networks

      Background: Social education networks are very similar to social networks such as Facebook and Instagram with the main difference being that they are used primarily for education. Classroom 2.0, Edutopia, Edudemic, Google + and IGGY are examples of social educational networks. For example, IGGY offers members the opportunity to interact with other young people from all over the world and gives them the opportunity to broaden and strengthen their education at the same time. Such networks are based on the structure of normal social networks that students know and love but with an educational element included.

      These networks have had very high success rates so far in helping students to connect with educators and peers.

      Implementation: Any kind of social network, whether it be educational or recreational isn’t particularly easy to implement into a school environment. This is because:

      • The school firstly needs to find a network that suits their particular needs and requirements and they must ensure that the network is safe, appropriate and accessible
      • Pupils need to be taught how to use the network, whatever it may be, so that they can get the most out of their education as possible. This requires an input of time and training
      • Before pupils are taught, teachers need to be trained in how to use the network effectively
      • It can take a lot of time and effort to actually get networks set up on school computers.

      Challenges:

      • Like any social network, social education networks still have dangers such as bullying and inappropriate content. However, this can be avoided by proper care, safety precautions and site moderation
      • Not all pupils may be able to access social education networks at home for out-of-school communication and online activity
      • Safety issues - it is difficult to control what students do or say when using social networks.
      Case study - IGGY
    • Teacher training

      Background: Teacher training can be split into two different types, depending on what career stage a teacher has reached. The first type of teacher training is the essential training that is given to all people wishing to enter the profession in order for them to become a teacher. This is usually given to graduates or postgraduates who have completed a degree. The training can be done in a variety of ways, such as university-led training and school-led training. Alternative ways to become a teacher and receive this training, i.e. if the person does not have a traditional degree, is to become a non-certified teacher and gain experience.

      The second type of teacher training is given to existing teachers in order to improve their skills, methods and knowledge of a particular area of specialism. For example, an ICT teacher may need annual training to keep up to date with developments in the field of technology and education, but won’t need training for Physical Education.

      This is very beneficial to education, as it means that teachers are fully equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to be able to teach effectively. However, with technology becoming more and more necessary in schools to teach any subject, all teachers will need to be regularly trained in how to use technology and implement it into the classroom.

      Implementation: Implementation of training teachers to use technology and internet-led initiatives incurs costs to the school or government. These costs are in the form of supply training, paying for courses or creating a network of facilities for teachers to gain access to online, in order to benefit their teaching.

      In order to ensure that all teachers receive the same level of training into technology achieve a high standard of teaching, teacher training could be made compulsory for all teachers at a regular time in their careers and an online infrastructure of sharing information and good practice could be utilised via the internet.

      Challenges:

      • A high cost of training teachers to use technology and the internet may discourage schools or governments from implementing this training
      • The lack of willingness of teachers to participate in teacher training may be high due to lack of confidence in their abilities on how to use the internet or technology of any kind
      • Teachers feeling that they are not actually gaining skills/knowledge that can be used in the classroom
      • Ever changing technology and internet-led learning initiatives may mean that teachers are constantly being trained leaving less time to implement and assess new teaching methods that are technology led.

      Case Studies:

      TSL Education Edutopia Oppia
    • Internet provision

      Background: While the internet has revolutionised nearly every industry imaginable and in many cases has changed the entire way of life. As of today only 35% to 40% of people worldwide have internet access, in light of this information, there are two main areas to consider.

      Firstly, The internet has achieved and changed so much worldwide, despite the above percentage of the world’s population having access to the Web. Therefore, there is a great potential for even greater change and increased access in the future.

      However, secondly and more importantly, to ensure that the internet is a truly global entity, and one that everyone has access to, a great deal of work has to be done. Also to make sure that the internet can be a medium for people in areas without means of dispensing formal education that can give them an alternative by providing a wide range of educational resources, is feasible.

      This disparity is mainly due to the cost of bringing the internet to areas that aren’t connected yet. The cost of the infrastructure that has to be set up is expensive, especially in locations which are either remote, hard to access, or with harsh environmental conditions.

      This problem is made worse in cases where they aren’t enough people in these areas who can afford such services in order for companies to recover the cost of infrastructure setup, and then be profitable enough to sustain their services.

      In some cases, people may not be literate enough to know what the internet actually is or be able to use it, and hence, don’t opt for being able to access it even if it is available. This goes on to affect not only them, but generations to come and it basically traps them in a vicious cycle that is tough to break free from.

      There are some solutions however. There are two ways to think about them:

      • Make the same infrastructure cheaper to set up (with cell towers, cables, etc)
      • Change the method of internet delivery altogether, in a way that it’s less costly overall.

      Both of these reduce the cost of actual internet broadcast and provision services, which in turn make it cheaper for people to be able to opt in and get benefits from. Finally, all this makes the running of internet Service Providers, or ISPs feasible to set up and sustain.

      Implementation: As time goes by and as technology gets cheaper, the standard setup required to provide data to people through cell towers, becomes cheaper, and at the same time, so do the devices that people use to actually access the internet. However, there is an initiative set up that uses different methods to get the same end result faster. Facebook has started something called ‘Internet.org’ that has plans to drastically cut down on costs for infrastructure set up, and make using the traditional methods of internet provision more feasible in unconnected areas.

      Focusing more on the second option of creating a new form of internet access, is a more radical idea and one that is also being worked on today. Both Facebook and Google are at the forefront of this technological change; Facebook with its ‘Connectivity Lab’ and Google through ‘Project Loon’. Both technological giants have been recently acquiring smaller companies to be able to work on this. A common point of both initiatives is using high endurance drones to set up internet access, but they both go deeper than that and this is discussed in their respective case studies.

      Challenges:

      • All covered initiatives have a great deal of problems to overcome before they can be rolled out for use in the real world
      • The problem of illiteracy still remains as, even if such people have access and means to get connected. They are still not aware of the merits and benefits if being able to do so. They have to be educated before they are able to take full advantage of what technology can help them with
      • The flight paths of the Balloons and drones would have to be approved by different countries to ensure they don't fly over any secure area or violate any ‘no – fly’ zones.

      Case Studies:

      Google Internet.org Connectivity Lab

    Visionary interview summary


    During our project, we identified a group of people who we considered to be influential in the field of education and technology. We created a list of questions for those people, who we will refer to as ‘visionaries’, and created a summary of the answers that we received to compare their viewpoints in order to support our research. We are very grateful for the support and enthusiasm offered by the visionaries who appear in the following summary. Their opinions and expertise have assisted us with our research into Education and the Internet.

    Please click on each question below to reveal the answers that we received.

    • How does technology play a role within your organisation?
    • The way in which technology is used is rapidly changing, it now has a large communication function for both social and professional purposes. Furthermore, it is apparent that some companies use candidates’ social and professional network profiles to obtain additional information about them. What are your views on this and how do think it will affect school leavers seeking jobs or further education?

      Some schools in the USA teach students how to optimize social media, by first recognising the dangers of it, reported Joe Schafer of The Brilliant Club, saying: “there’s a few programs at the highschool level in different academies, say for example in The United States, that teach students in a class the specific social dangers of social media, and how to protect themselves with privacy, but also how to protect your transparency and the skills that you exhibit…. the goal is to teach them how to optimise social media by first recognising the dangers of it, and I think that those schools that are teaching those classes are extremely successful, and I think that one thing that’s sort of lagging is a first initial awareness of the dangers that social media causes, so they can then take advantage of that media.” Michelle Selinger, CEO of ConsultEDU, has the similar opinion that: “We do not do enough in schools to prepare learners for these environments.”

      In spite of this, there is a consensus that when you post anything online, it all becomes part of your digital footprint, will be near permanent and then may count against you in the future because it is in the public domain. Amos Blanton of MIT Media Lab stated that: “the information that you share in an online community like Scratch or LinkedIn or any of the other places where people might be spending time, or Facebook is maybe the best example, where information can persist for a very long time.” Thus, everyone needs to better understand their use of personal data, a recommendation by Lord Jim Knight, Managing Director for TSL Education. Lord Knight stated that: “We all, including school leavers, need to understand the use of our personal data better and I would like to see more transparency about that.” Social media necessitates an incredible amount of attention or responsibility for one’s writing. A lot of young people make their online profiles public which can be easily seen by everyone including future employers. Quoting Mairi Walker, also of The Brilliant Club, “I set everything private, whereas I know a lot of young people do not and it does make them a bit vulnerable I think for potential employers.” It seems that young people do not put much thought into what they put online. There might be inappropriate things such as embarrassing photos or offensive posts that they would not want employers to have access to. It is important to educate students about the possible consequences of their use or misuse of technologies or online data. Tom Wilks, Midlands Regional Director of The Brilliant Club said: “I think there is an increasing awareness among school leavers, but mainly amongst university undergraduates that employers are going to look at their Facebook page if they can do, are going to look at their Linkedin profile and try and gather as much information as possible.” He has also observed that companies’ use of online profiles includes the potential for savvy school leavers to showcase their profile and strong points to possible employers, although students who aren’t aware of the benefits are disadvantaged. “To the kids who aren’t aware that that’s happening, they could be putting themselves at a disadvantage and actually I think companies need to be aware that people who are savvy can get around and say the right things, and people who aren’t won’t be and that’s not necessarily a good way of narrowing down who you want to work for you.”

      Creators of online communities may want to consider the design of social networks to communicate to the user what is old and outdated, as information now persists for a long time. For example, it may be unfair to judge a 26-year-old for what he posted 10 years ago. Amos Blanton said: “I hope that employers, when they are reviewing someone that they’re considering for a job, that they’ll, you know, if they see something that happened when they were 16, or what have you, that they will take it with a grain of salt. You know, these people were kids, it was a long time ago, and you have to just sort of relax about it in my opinion.” Mrs Adheela Arshad Ayaz, Professor at Concordia University in Canada mentioned that: “Other negative impacts may include screening and possible rejection based on racial, ethnic, religious and other types of profiling.” Turning yourself into an appealing product may not be desirable, because social media is a representation of you which doesn’t have anything to do with work but sadly is impinged on by the work environment.

      At the same time, social networks can open up new opportunities because they allow the user to get involved in new networks. Information can be found out about the organisations and therefore this can work in favour for future interviews. In this respect, Mairi Walker from The Brilliant Club says: “I have started to use it more now that I have realised there are quite a lot of organisations that I am interested in that are using it.…If you are that way inclined you can follow Twitter feeds that you are interested in.”

      Interview responses show that companies should be very aware that there are limitations in how honest people are online and how useful that is in outlining what that person is going to be like in the job that they’re applying for. It is difficult to garner information about a candidate from looking at what they said on Facebook the other day, or what their tweets say. What Dr Ashley Tan from The Centre for e-learning, Singapore said she would do is: “ask for something like an e-portfolio; can you actually show me –if you are a graphic artist, show me stuff that you can do, don’t tell me what you can claim to do. So I want to see the photographs, see the videos, see the evolution of what is it they do. They must show me how they went from simple to complex or how they changed the way they designed things visually or if they’re structural designers, how they sequence instruction.” This is a good example of using the internet in a positive and beneficial way.

      Social media however, can still be used for purposes other than self-promotion. Jean-Michel Fourgous of the National Assembly of France commented “Social networks should contribute in school learning. They should be promoted to allow collaborative work: it is when sharing then one is able to learn.” Much work has been done by organizations such as the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), whose CEO, Keith Krueger, stated “CoSN has done a lot of work helping educational leaders understand the value of social media for learning and why policies in many school systems must be updated.”

    • What possible risks and benefits are there with the internet for school students?

      The most common theme that emerges throughout these answers is that the degree to which the internet can benefit students, or put them at risk, varies greatly depending upon the way they use it. Dr Adeela Arshad Ayaz, Professor at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, describes the internet as a ‘tool’, and goes as far as to say that internet literacy should become as essential as reading, writing, or arithmetic:

      “Just as a knife can be used for cutting vegetables to prepare food it can also be used for killing someone. Therefore, it is important to remember that it can be used either ways and hence only a responsible person should handle a knife…. Students need to be educated in civic and responsible behaviours to take maximum educational advantage of the internet. Scholars have argued that we need specific type of literacy for this to happen. In addition to the usual three foundational R’s of education (reading, writing, and arithmetic) students need ‘critical digital literacies’ to benefit from the internet.”

      Amos Blanton from MIT Media Lab, suggests that the internet is in fact less dangerous than is generally believed, but adds the caveat that this is dependent upon how experienced any given user. He says:

      “Well, the risks I think have been somewhat overstated. There’s a lot of fear about the kind of connection and conversation that’s been going on, on the internet. Recently there was a book written, or released by, a researcher named Dana Boyd, who really, I think one of her main points was that the risks of the internet have been exaggerated and it’s actually not as dangerous as a place that many people, especially adults who aren’t as familiar with it, tend to think that it is.”

      He also praises the way that the internet allows learners to create their own educational experiences, saying:

      “It enables people to really take charge of their own interests in education and let that guide how they spend some of the time, and how they learn things.” Very few people talked about changing the internet itself in order to improve the benefits it holds for students. Indeed, some visionaries specifically rejected this idea. Stephen Balkam from The Family Online Safety Institute, suggested that regulating the internet as a whole is either undesirable or a lost cause and I think this makes sense; perhaps the internet is just too massive and constantly fluctuating to have any significantly greater degree of control than we do now, at least without majorly violating civil liberties. Additionally, of all the people we interviewed, only Stephen Balkam made mention of using filters on a domestic level, though this may simply be because this kind of domestic household filtering was outside the areas of the other interviewees’ expertise. Stephen Balkam, talking about his work with the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) told us:

      “I think we’re in the consciousness-raising business, I think we’re trying to raise people’s awareness. First of the issues but also ways to counter the difficulties and move people from a place of ignorance and fear to one of knowledge and empowerment so they can go, ‘Oh ok, this isn’t as scary as I thought and maybe I can set some rules for my kids.’ And, rules by the way have nothing to do with filters, they can simply be ‘At 11 O’clock you have to hand in your phone before you go to bed’ or at 9 O’clock at night, based on whatever the age of the child may be. That’s pretty much our approach.”

      While he is talking about parents rather than children, his point is fundamentally similar how one is taught to use the internet that determines one’s safety on it, regardless of whether it is children being taught directly or parents being taught to safeguard their children. Also on the subject of online safety, Emily Graslie from the Field Museum in Chicago highlights the importance of keeping control over sensitive information on the internet, especially for children:

      “I believe individuals need to take the responsibility upon themselves to ensure inappropriate information is not being uploaded onto the internet, it is a public space …I’m always surprised, like, this person’s 14 and they’re posting pictures of themselves smoking weed on the internet. Somebody’s going to find that.”

      Some of these choices to publicise personal information are obvious, and indeed, as she points out, many seem stunningly willing to openly share incredibly sensitive information about themselves, in the misbelief that it will remain anonymous, but others are much more subtle. Kenneth Cukier, Data Editor from The Economist, talks about how people are currently often completely unaware of the massive amounts of data people create every day in often passive actions:

      “People are generally unaware of the amount of data they are generating and how it’s used. Everything we do gives off information… we’re unaware of the information that’s around us that’s potentially being collected and how it can be used against us and even on very basic things from using a Nectar Card or traveling on the subways in London, you can see that people don’t realise what’s being generated and what’s being used.” Emily Graslie also elaborates on this subject, pointing out that the more we invest our everyday lives in the internet, the more vulnerable the information we generate online becomes:

      “I think laziness is a huge danger. I think people need to take the onus on themselves to draw the line with themselves personally on how we are using it, and this is the danger of having grown up on the internet, my entire life is on the internet! Like, my whole life, and that can be a huge personal security problem.”

      When asked what benefits the internet brings, by far the most common response was the wealth of knowledge it makes available. Tom Wilks, from The Brilliant Club, goes so far as to say:

      “You have potentially all of human knowledge, or a large segment of it, at your command, and you can find out anything at the touch of a button.” While Lord Jim Knight puts it succinctly: “knowledge is in our hands.”

      Emily Graslie also points out that the internet is a ‘democratising platform’ that allows creators to become more popular more quickly than was ever before possible:

      “I think the internet is a democratising platform. Everybody’s equal when you come to the internet, everyone has an equal voice. You know, some of the sources can be a little less reliable than others, but that’s not to say you can’t start from the bottom and quickly rise to the top. You can gain traction, and gain awareness for your cause, and I think people are hungry for that sort of thing.”

      Joe Shafer, from The Brilliant Club, makes a similar point, though where Emily Graslie is talking about individual creators and sources, he is talking about wide-ranging social mechanics;

      “The biggest benefit is the knowledge divide. Then the knowledge divide is equivalent to the social divide, and therefore it’s the tool for equality and liberating the individual, because theoretically they have full access to all knowledge. So if the knowledge gap can be broken by giving someone the internet, then the social divide is also broken down, and they have the same knowledge that perhaps those privileged had previously…One of the clear risks and dangers is if you tell people that technology is a liberator, with open access technology. For they may fall victim to some of the entrapments that the more wealthy schools are aware of, and are able to avoid with these alternative investments. Simply put, the environments that best use technology teach its risks, but, secondly, have the money to invest then in resisting those risks.”

      However, Tom Wilks from The Brilliant Club takes a more apprehensive view of this aspect of the internet. He points out the danger that half-truths and pure opinion can easily be misconstrued as fact:

      “I think the risks and the benefits are really the same thing. So the benefit is you have potentially all of human knowledge, or a large segment of it at your command and you can find out anything at the touch of a button, which is an incredibly valuable thing, because you can’t always memorise everything and it is very easy to get an introduction to the subject that you’re interested in. So, for pupils who have the skills to mind map information and make the most of it, it’s an incredibly valuable resource. The problem is that it shouldn’t be taken for granted that people have that ability to mine that information effectively. Just going on the internet and Googling something is not the same as actually understanding it, for example, and not the same as being able to use that information in a structured argument, or see how it fits in with the big picture. You can go on any internet forum and you can see people who have clearly not understood the big picture, because they read one article on the internet and think they understand the whole story. So there’s a bit of a tension there and I think there is a tendency amongst people who are keen on using technology in education to sort of gloss over that problem and the thing you need to do is equip pupils first and foremost with the ability to use that information and understand it, and then you can sort of let them loose on the internet at large. I think it is very, very important to build that into the curriculum as a specific topic.”

      Junior Commission Advisor Doug Brown sums this up by saying:

      “If students do not learn to research effectively, then there is a real danger that 'truth' becomes the most popular version of events.” Another point, brought up by Stephen Balkam, is that as social networks and content creation platforms are becoming more popular, there is an increasing incidence of children themselves creating the kinds of content we want to safeguard them from. He argues that the best way to deal with this problem is to educate the children who are creating these kinds of content; “I think the most important thing we’re trying to do is we’re trying to change the conversation from fear to empowerment and we’re trying to start a conversation in every household. The most important parental control that’s available out there is talking with the kids. If you keep up this dialogue it doesn’t matter what filters you’re using, what tools you’re using. Obviously those are important but so is keeping line of conversation going between the parents and the children.”

      The most striking thing about these answers is how much common ground they share. While there are many points that are only covered in a single answer, there are an equal number of points of agreement and almost no points could be found where respondents’ answers disagreed, implicitly or explicitly. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that many of the people we talked to were educationalists, the most emphasis was put on educating children on how to use the internet effectively and safely; as Stephen Balkam put it

      “changing the conversation from fear to empowerment.”

    • Do you think that there is any way, considering the technological advancements that occur every day, that the internet won’t be relied on heavily in the future of education?

      All of the visionaries who answered this question had similar opinions. This was, in general, that the internet will still be heavily relied on in the future, and there is no chance that the internet will be phased out. The respondents gave both personal opinions and viewpoints of what they want to happen, as well as giving answers according to what they think will happen, considering the current technological advancements, and also those in the future in the field of education and technology. For example, Amos Blanton, from MIT Media Lab, explicitly said that he “hopes not” in response to the question. He also said that he would “find it hard to believe that everyone will just say, Oh, never mind, the internet was just a bad idea; we’ll stop using it for education.”

      Nevertheless, Mairi Walker of The Brilliant Club mentioned that for the internet to not be heavily relied on, “it must be replaced by something better.” This highlights a very important point about the future of education and the internet, that improvements are being made and that improvements to the internet itself, and the amount of resources it contains, are slowly phasing out traditional methods of teaching and learning. Jean-Michel Fourgous, Mayor of Elancourt, France, suggests that we are “moving from the paper era to the networks era” which shows that reliance on the internet is ever-increasing. In addition to just thinking that the internet will still be heavily used in the future, Tom Wilks from The Brilliant Club went on to say that it would be “unwise if the internet wasn’t used in some capacity” the main reason for this being that he felt the internet was transformative. The internet allows many resources and ideas to be utilised and Tom Wilks said that it meant “teachers aren’t isolated anymore” in the sense that they have a wealth of resources at their fingertips. Therefore, using these reasons as evidence, it is fair to say that the internet will still be heavily relied on for education in the future.

      As well as the reliance on the internet in education, Amos Blanton from MIT Media Lab, and Adeela Arshad Ayaz Assistant Professor at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, highlighted the importance of technological advancements and how they play a big role. Amos simply said that the internet “is always growing.” To add to this, Adeela Arshad Ayaz said: “As educators we have to accept the fact that technological advancements are taking place at an exceptionally swift pace.” This shows that the rate at which technological advancements occur can impact education. Carrying on from this, she also said that “research shows that the younger generation is rapidly adapting to the changing technologies and is very comfortable using various technologies.” As the younger generation are becoming technologically savvy, it can be expected that, coupled with rapid technological advancements, the internet will still be heavily relied on in the future.

      Keith Krueger, Head of CoSN, quoted President Barack Obama as an example to explain his answer: “President Obama has called on the US to ensure that 99% of classrooms have broadband connectivity within five years.” This proves that a reliance on the internet will most likely increase, as more people become connected and Internet access increases.

      This target suggests a belief amongst the visionaries that the internet is a useful tool in education, as there is an aim for the majority of schools to be connected in order for students to utilise the internet for learning. Hence, reliance will increase. In contrast to many of the opinions of the visionaries, Joe Shafer from The Brilliant Club says: “I think, and I hope that there will be a time when there is a sort of a relapse in how technology is being invested in and being used…hopefully there’s now a tendency to reflect on what exactly is happening, which is very hard to do, because there is such an investment in trend, and an inexplicit push to get the technology into schools. So I think, naturally, people will start to think about how this is happening, once that technology that they’re just now investing in, once it gets into the school, teachers will need, for the first time, to evaluate what they are going to do, and I think those moments of reflection will cause technological integration to slow down, because they’re going to need to process it. So I’m guessing at some point technology won’t be implemented as quickly, but, again, that’s probably optimistic thinking as well, but I would say there should be moments of relapse.”

      Similarly to this statement addressing whether or not the internet actually benefits students, Adeela Arshad Ayaz said that “what remains to be seen is the actual educational impact of various technologies on the learning of the students.” She highlighted that there is “evidence on both sides.” This shows that even though there is a common perception that the internet benefits students’ learning, there are also disadvantages to its use in education. She also mentions that there is a need for more research to be undertaken so that there is an understanding as to how to maximize the benefits of technology for educational achievement of all students. This shows that she recognises there are drawbacks, but if there is more research being devoted to maximising the advantages, the quality of education via the use of the internet will increase. From this, it can be gathered that Dr Arshad feels that there won’t be less reliance on the internet in the future, as benefit maximisation can occur, as well as diminishing the drawbacks.

      Contrary to these comments, which have recognised both arguments for and against technology use in education, Camilla Gagliolo, Instructional Technology Director of Jamestown Elementary School was in favour of the integration of technology in education. In her school, they have chosen to make iPads the centre of the learning experience. When asked about this and the benefits of this approach for the pupils, she replied “it brings them a range of new ways of learning, anything from finding materials that are auditory or tactile or in different ways...it allows them to create personalised expressions of what they know.” Within the school, the choice to integrate iPads has shown that the reliance on the internet and technology is increasing in education.

      Lord Jim Knight, Managing Director for online learning at TSL education, and Doug Brown, Junior Commission advisor, both offered a different perspective to the question. Whereas many of the visionaries gave their answers about the future of the internet and how it will impact education, Lord JIm Knight and Doug Brown commented on the future of the learning and teaching process, and how the internet will be integrated into that. Lord Knight starts by saying that “education in the future is about knowledge creation not knowledge recall.” He then went on to say “teaching in the future will be about coaching learning and not content delivery. Learning will then rely on the internet for content to illustrate creative thinking and knowledge creation.” Doug Brown also mentions that “the internet in its present form will definitely evolve.” Here, they are predicting that education will change, then the role of the internet will be adapted to suit this new style of education. This is in contrast to the other responses, as many of them have suggested that the ever-advancing internet will be the cause of changes in education. This also shows how Lord Knight believes that the role of the teacher will change, which will allow more time using the internet for students, and hence more reliance on the internet to learn.

    • How do you think technology actually helps a student’s education? For example, skills development?

      In order to answer this question, Amos Blanton, MIT Media Lab, pointed out the importance of pupils being able to gain access to the right kind of technology to aid their education and develop their skills. This is so that they not only learn but retain valuable skills for the future. He talks about “seeing the computer as more of a tool the child uses to express themselves creatively and to follow interests that are inspiring or are fascinating to them in some way… we want to make tools that kids can use to make things that we actually, as the tool maker, may never have imagined. Because we think that that creative process is really key to the kind of powerful learning that we want to see in the world.”

      He suggests that there are many skills to be gained through the use of technology in the classroom. Therefore, he is suggesting that technology, used in the classroom can allow pupils to develop skills which are transferable later in life, and are therefore valuable skills to their future development.

      Amos Blanton also points out how important it is for children to have access to the right kind of technology and information sources. He suggests that young people should be wary not to just rely on the first article that they see online, he wants them to analyse and criticise while reading in order to decide whether it is useful information, he believes that creativity is important rather than just being spoon fed information that may not be interesting:

      ‘’We think a creative process is really key to the kind of powerful learning that we want to see in the world. I’m a lot less excited by a lot of educational technology products or educational initiatives on the internet where the idea is that you just sit back and listen and watch a bunch of boring lectures that maybe aren’t even related to something that you care about. That to me seems like a waste of time and really the wrong way of thinking about technology and learning.’’

      Emily Graslie from the Field Museum in Chicago also agrees that students should search, analyse and think critically, she sa

      ys:

      “Access to an inconceivable amount of information will require our students to be better critical thinkers, and to creatively approach topics due to the broad number of ways in which information can be interpreted and aggregated.”

      Thanks to the method Mairi Walker describes, students will only be able to absorb and read useful information for school and their assignments, she told us; ‘’Pupils can access lots of information, advice and guidance on all sorts of things if they want to. There are more and more websites that are specifically designed like you can give pupils a specific web address and they can go to websites and find out lots of appropriate and reliable things that might help them.’’

      While we were in America we had the opportunity to speak to Ryan Hill from ARTLAB+ who told us what skills students who attend ARTLAB+ get taught. ‘’On one level, there are the digital skills, that I pointed out there, that are really part of what it means to be living in the 21st century. The most valuable skill is that we want teens to not consume without questioning the media that they consume. And second, we want them to not only do that, but to produce media, to be creators and not consumers.’’ This is just one of the skills we should teach to young people if we want to encourage them to be independent digital citizens. To get young people comfortable with using technology we need to guide and teach them. This means having teachers who are up to date with technology themselves. Pupils will learn more effectively by practicing as suggested by Tom Wilks from The Brilliant Club. He suggests that; “Many pupils have no idea how to send an email that will be acceptable to someone if you were applying for a job, for example. And it’s just developing that kind of general tone and the words you use, that’s very useful, it’s only since people use technology, it’s the only way you can do it, it’s by getting them to use it themselves.’’

      Lord Jim Knight, Managing Director of TSL Education, talks about the importance of technology in order to assist young people in their future roles. He states that every job requires an understanding of Technology. Therefore we should make sure that all tools within schools are used properly in order to do so. “Technology helps education by reflecting the world of work. I cannot think of a well-paid job that does not need confidence in using technology. Even middle and lower levels of skill need confidence in using computers; call centre work for example or till operators. Learning must be relevant or meaningful and enjoyable.’’

      Keith Krueger, Head of CoSN told us that technology is a very powerful tool but if not used in the right way it will probably do more harm than good. Because “it’s not technology versus teachers but rather how can we help enable teachers and students to be more critical thinkers, more creative and more collaborative.” Comments by both Lord Jim Knight and Tom Wilks discuss the importance of young people being able to communicate and present themselves well in order to apply for jobs, the relevance on being able to use technology and the importance of having access to the right kind of information online. Schools need to be able to provide all of this so that young people can benefit in the long run.

      Technology can be used in all kinds of ways but it is important to ensure that teachers use the right kind within the classroom. A relatively new example of using technology within schools is using games within a classroom. Maria Saridaki, researcher into serious games, is carrying out research on games for learning, she told us her thoughts on this subject;

      “I have seen other constructive games that they use right now in the classrooms in order to build things and something very important as well that generally for mentioning is that there is amazing value not only in playing games but in designing games as well… imagine how many things you can understand if you can design a game, first of all you’d learn how to cooperate with people, in a team you have to create a product right? And then you have to be creative but you need to know your limits, you have to manage your time and your assets and then you have to know how to develop, how to design.” Maria explains the value of ‘gamification’ in the classroom in order to allow learners to develop their soft skills for the future, such as teamwork, creativity and time management for example and she sees these as very valuable life skills;

      “Games are a great example of technology adding skills towards a student’s education. They create conversation threads and improve their social skills.”

      Cathy Sandeen, President of the American Council for Education, says that technological skills are becoming more and more valuable for a modern-day job. ‘’I think in terms of students, they adapt to the technology, so actually teaching them new skills to use technology… so that’s on one level. There are new skills embedded in all jobs…I think skills that are interpersonal, counselling, helping, that are not technological, are also going to be increasingly important, so we don’t want to forget those too.’’

      Quite a few of our visionaries recognised that it is necessary to know how to use technology for today’s job market. All of these people live in totally different areas of the globe yet share the same opinion. In November 2013, we visited Jamestown Elementary School in the USA and we saw true examples of what technology adds towards a child’s education especially to those who have learning disabilities. We saw a little boy who was blind but thanks to technology providing audio programmes and Braille keyboards, he could still learn and study in a normal way. This way these children will not fall behind in society and will be able to live a normal life. Camilla Gagliolo, Instructional Technology Coordinator at Jamestown Elementary School said;

      ‘’I think it benefits them on several levels. I think it allows them to personalise their learning. I think it really helps student’s access information, and then learn how to do that. I think it really helps them connect and collaborate and produce materials that could be of use to others, and themselves.’’

      When looking at the results of our interviews that we conducted with several experts on the area of technology and education we can conclude that there are many useful life skills to be gained from use of technology and the internet in education.

    • Although the idea of having technology within education is good, some schools won’t be able to afford it. Are there any ways to remove this financial barrier?

      A recurring theme in many of our interviews was that technology is getting cheaper to purchase, install and maintain as time goes on, and that the financial situation for students in disadvantaged countries has been improving. This change may be occurring because the rest of the world is becoming more aware of the need to improve the situation for students in these disadvantaged countries, or because the technology has in fact become more affordable for everyone. Regardless of the reason for the change, both of these factors have been of huge help for disadvantaged students. Michelle Selinger, the owner of ConsultEdu, thinks this situation is only going to improve even more in the future as she stated that “it will not be long before all students will have access to some tablet or smartphone they can learn with.” We believe that it is a goal that can be achieved. Doug Brown, Junior Commissioner Advisor, also believes that “There are tools which enable cheap access, whether this be small cheap projectors that allow class access through one computer, or ways in which personal devices that students already have can be used effectively in the classroom. Cost will not be a barrier in the future - just in the transition period.”

      One cheap technology initiative ‘Raspberry Pi’ was explained by Amos Blanton, Project Manager of Scratch Online Community at MIT Media Lab. “Raspberry Pi is a computer that was manufactured especially for education and it’s about this big [approximate size of fiction novel] and it costs about 35 US dollars. And so it’s very cheap and the idea there was let’s give a lot of these computers to everyone at very low cost, and let them do whatever they want and learn from that process of tinkering and playing with things and interacting with the machine.” This initiative allows anyone to create their own websites and is easily and affordably maintained.

      Lord Jim Knight, Managing Director for TSL Education believes that “If you also move to a more paperless school you cut the cost of photocopiers, textbooks, and other bureaucracy. There is evidence of this working in the richer countries of the world but it is a bigger challenge in poorer economies. However in some of those humidity means that paper does not last very long and so digital becomes more cost effective.” This is an interesting idea, and when considered in more depth, it is an idea that is logical and could certainly save money in the long term.

      Keith Krueger, Head of CoSN, explained E-RATE, a public policy in the US that requires a portion of telecommunication bills to go towards subsidizing the internet in schools and libraries. He said that “We are currently updating that programme to not pay simply for basic telecommunications in schools, but broadband connections and wifi.” Keith also mentioned a report recently written on how Portugal has undertaken a one-to-one programme which can be read here. This programme has provided every single student in the country of Portugal with a device, as well as school and home connectivity. Keith Krueger said that “The funding of it has been very innovative, approximately one third paid by telecommunications companies, one third by government and one third by parents, depending on family income.” This programme proves that through creating partnerships, the financial barriers can be overcome; it is just a matter of planning, funding and then actually doing it. Tom Wilks, from The Brilliant Club agrees that partnership with the government is the best way to overcome this barrier stating that: “Money is always going to be an issue as long as money exists.” Mr Fourgous, Mayor of Elancourt, France, also agrees with this statement saying in his interview that “The financial aspect must remain a political decision, a city financial project among many others.”

      It is a common belief that technology can work well in any kind of school, if it is well- planned and the ongoing need of maintenance and updating of that technology can be achieved. This point is particularly important, as although a disadvantaged school may be able to receive the funds necessary for the initial purchase and installation of technology from the government or through fundraising, it is another matter to be able to look after it beyond the initial installation as technology does cost money to keep using, maintaining and updating as needed.

      It was fascinating to see that through interviewing a number of organisations and people from all over the world, who play a different role within education, that their responses were so similar. Amos Blanton from MIT Media Lab mentioned, however, that technology might not necessarily be a good thing for education, but said afterwards that it really does just depend on how it is used and used to maximum effect. Every single interview we conducted mentioned that technology is important and that technology simply needs to be available for use by every school student in the world.

      Joe Shafer also comments; “I think there are ways to avoid the financial barrier: by not spending the money is one way to avoid spending the money. I know that almost every establishment does invest, however, because it’s law that they have to invest a certain amount of infrastructure to resist certain avenues of open-access, and schools have to do it even more so, teachers have to do it perhaps the most.” He also mentions a school in Silicon Valley, USA which is attended by children of the top techies in the world but where they do not use any technology in the school;

      “It’s really in the method where they can still teach technological skills and an awareness to use technology for technology, but don’t invest in technology. And so, once you see the top schools in the country, who have the money but are not over investing in technology, while producing top students, I think you can see how other schools who don’t have the money don’t have to spend it either. There's still a wealth of education to obtain from changing how we work with each other and think critically, and that’s probably the best way to avoid spending the money.”

      We found that one of the most important things that needs to be achieved in order for every student, no matter where they live or who they are, to be able to use technology and the internet, is global commitment and dedication. There needs to be worldwide recognition of the importance of education, and a commitment to allowing every student the opportunity to integrate technology into their education, because through education all barriers can be overcome.

    • What do you think has been the biggest technological advancement in schools in the 21st century and what has been its impact?

      Lord Jim Knight, previously the Minister of Education in the United Kingdom and now the Managing Director of Online Learning at TSL Education, stated that: “the internet is the biggest technological advancement for education since the investment of printing. It is revolutionizing our world and is having as big an impact in democratising learning.” In the interviews we carried out, technology implemented in schools was often mentioned, as well as the impact it had on the teaching method and the learning outcome.

      Four major impacts were identified. But before talking about the impacts, it is important to have an overview of the biggest technological advancements in the opinion of our visionaries. However, the answer may be a bit more specific: Keith Krueger, Head of CoSN, refers to mobile learning as a whole (from digital access to online content) and Junior Commission Advisor, Doug Brown talks about “personal access to learning devices”, Joe Shafer, from The Brilliant Club, suggested that the arrival of computers with digital projectors revolutionized education, “Projecting the teacher’s computer screen would probably have to be number one. When they moved away from projectors with transparencies, towards a digital projector, and hooked it up to the internet, it was probably the most invaluable, technological tribute to the classroom.”

      Both Camilla Gagliolo, from Jamestown Elementary School, USA and Jean-Michel Fourgous, Mayor of Elancourt in France, agreed that digital tablets were the biggest technological advancement in the 21st Century. Michelle Selinger, owner of ConsultEdu suggested that communication technology was the biggest invention, with IM technology, Voice over IP and Video Conferencing. Finally, Tom Wilks, from The Brilliant Club addressed the significant “development of online communities” which he feels has revolutionised learning.

      Each of our visionaries identified the major impacts of these inventions. First of all, almost all our visionaries mentioned that the great advantage of technology was to offer a more personalised approach to learning. For Cathy Sandeen, CEO of The American Council on Education, Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) were a real revolution. She said: “A recent research report indicated that at least one third of (the 18 million college or university students), or six million, have taken at least one online course": these include "older students who already know how to learn, and are motivated. They might be doing a masters in Computer Science for job-related purposes". But MOOCS are also for "adults who have some college completed, but haven’t finished a degree". Overall, "these are people who need flexibility, and using technology is one way we can do it". These courses enable students, seeking additional degrees, experience and knowledge, to follow classes from teachers at the other side of the globe when they like, how they like, at their own pace. The response from Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), was that MOOCs and other online educational websites will help the shift towards a flipped classroom system, where “lessons and lectures happen at home, through videos like Khan Academy and the homework happens in school,” allowing students to work at their own rhythm, where time is a variable value, and the master of the course content is a fixed value. We visited The iSchool based in New York in November 2013 and discovered that students had the ability to watch a video of their lesson after it had happened. According to the Principal, Isora Bailey “being able to watch or hear an explanation of something multiple times or being able to pause it and think about it helps our students to learn but does slow down the curriculum.”

      Camilla Gagliolo, Instructional Technology Coordinator from Jamestown Elementary School, USA decided to integrate iPads in the learning process: this technology, overall, has allowed a personalised learning where students are easily able to access information, connect and collaborate as well as create materials “that could be of use to others and themselves.” For Jean-Michael Fourgous, Mayor of Elancourt, France, the “arrival of digital tablets is undoubtedly the most important change that occurred” allowing a “mixed education at school and at home” where the student “can learn where he wants and when he wants,” enabling a personalized framework. Furthermore, Camilla Gagliolo decided to integrate iPads in the learning process in opposition to a traditional way of learning. She said that they bring students new possibilities of learning, as they “can find a lot of media that they can use for their own learning, as well as allowing them to really create personalised expressions of what they know”.

      Secondly, technology has allowed enhanced accessibility of knowledge. Keith Krueger, Head of CoSN, states that “internet fundamentally changed education from scarcity of knowledge to abundance of knowledge.” When before it was about finding, now it’s more about “making sense of too much information.” Similarly, for Ryan Hill from ARTLAB+, technology especially made available “to open extremely specific subjects to people” especially to people living in monocultural communities, therefore enables social change. Furthermore, According to Adeela Arshad Ayaz, Assistant Professor at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada: “Students are...taking advantage of many free online resources including online study halls, tuition centres such as Khan Academy, educational information on Youtube” and many other educational websites.

      Thirdly, technology also enables young people to acquire several 21st century skills. When Cathy Sandeen, President of the American Council on Education talks about the “Sputnik moment”, it means the educational system has reached a crucial moment where technology may “help our citizens to get better jobs that earn enough money to support a whole family.” With technology, new skills can be taught such as quantitative skills that become embedded in all jobs and according to Ryan Hill from ARTLAB+, these 21st century skills are more than essential to teach creative skills and digital skills. While visiting the Smithsonian Institute, the staff there explicitly wished to teach students to acquire college and career readiness, essential to step into the job-market. For Maria Saridaki, researcher in the field of serious games, giving the opportunity to children to create and design games would be a stimulating way to teach them “how to learn with people, in a team” where “you have to create a product.” Creativity, leadership, team management, time and assets management as well as technical skills such as designing and developing a game would be therefore taught in a different way, more attractive to the student. Moreover, for Camilla Gagliolo, using iPads in the school had an impact on the learning outcome of the students, as “some real gains in reading comprehension, in decoding for early readers” were observed, as well as “high levels of interest” in reading and writing. Creativity was enhanced, and during our visit to Jamestown Elementary School, USA, we witnessed first-hand how early learners are already learning to create and produce their own work using an iPad, this includes digital skills such as publishing online and sharing their work, therefore adding more and more knowledge to the internet which in turn is accessible to others to broaden their knowledge.

      Finally, one could add ‘sharing’ to the list, such as multiplying connection and promoting diverse viewpoints in an interactive space where “mutual interdependence” is recognised, according to Adeela Arshad Ayaz. Mairi Walker from The Brilliant Club agreed that there was “so much more than only academic work” on the internet, it can get pupils talking to other pupils”. Maria Saridaki, underlines that “serious games” in education might help disabled children especially students with difficulties open up to others and become more communicative, talking and communicating online, with “worlds like World of Warcraft” for example.

      As a conclusion, it is interesting that several of our visionaries suggest that the impact of such technology is not yet visible. For example, Michelle Selinger suggests that the impact of communication technology was “minimal, because teachers do not share beyond the classroom” teachers adapted these technologies but did not really change the way of teaching, continuing a rather solo activity where classrooms and “schools are islands.” Furthermore, Amos Blanton from MIT Media Lab underlined that “to some extent, the benefits have been a little limited” because teachers were not using technology to its full potential, He said: “I’ve also heard a lot of stories about schools teaching students computer science and really what they mean by computer science is Microsoft Word.” He concludes with “we’ll see,” suggesting we need to take a little more distance in order to make conclusions.

    • E-learning refers to the use of media, information and communication in an electronic format. Examples include web-based learning and animation. Do you think schools should be adopting e-learning?

      Winston (1930) stated that “Where my reason, imagination or interests were not engaged, I would not or I could not learn." (ref 57)

      E-learning has been proved to aid students not only to understand but really learn something new every day with their imagination, interests and reasons combined with the power of technology. Lord Jim Knight, Former Minister of Education in the UK and current Managing Director of Online Learning at TSL Education Ltd, would like schools to adopt e-learning and he encourages including various other domains in e-learning such as “Media, animation and web-based content” he states that “these are the engineering skills of the present and the future.”

      In addition to this, Mr Jean-Michel Fourgous, Mayor of the city of Elancourt, France highlights a number of vital strategies that schools should include to bring about the best results for example, he suggests that we “transform documentation centres into e-learning centres to provide all the resources and digital media in a single place dedicated to informal learning” and “promote the creation of e-learning studios or ‘creative spaces’ in schools and educational institutions to develop students' creativity”. Whichever one of the above strategies may be used, they would assist schools in being more productive while using technological tools and bringing out the creative side of students.

      However, students should be aware of the many digital literacies before using such “Productive Methods” as Mrs Adeela Arshad Ayaz, Assistant Professor at Concordia University, Canada who clearly highlights her point that “this does require the students to be well-versed in critical digital literacies first.”

      Here, she also brings to light the change from e-learning to m-learning (mobile learning) which many institutions now incorporate into learning saying “m-learning as a concept implies learning anytime, anywhere assisted by mobile devices… can be useful as long as the knowledge to mediate and interpret the digital text is present.” This is a similar concept to e-learning.

      As we move forward, a critical matter is revealed by Amos Blanton from MIT Media Lab, he recognises that it is very important for a student to be interested in e-learning and he states that the results can be different depending on the approach: “is it something where the student’s interests are driving the use of these technologies or is it something where they’re just being asked to stare at something that’s not really relevant to what they care about. So it really depends a lot on that kind of approach. I think that when the use of these technologies is driven by the student’s interests it can be really positive.”

      Mr Joe Shafer from The Brilliant Club also considers something essential, which may affect the future. He says;

      “I think they should adopt e-learning, but I think the key question, rather, is what way should schools adopt e-learning… the role of the school is continually minimalized. As e-learning is maximised, the school is minimalized. So, as long as there’s a school that is using e-learning, then there’s a relationship there that I think should certainly continue by improving both.” Joe Shafer’s concerns are linked to the e-learning environment which may affect the effectiveness of learning and which should also be considered;

      “Usually only privileged students have an environment where they can self-educate themselves at home, even if everyone had the internet. Some students don't study on their own when left alone with the internet, and some students can focus on their own, and some students want to do both but live in a very hostile environment for self-learning, or for electricity. So e-learning often forgets about, or ignores, a learning environment, which a school is meant to protect. So, I think that e-learning should only strengthen with schools, and the relationship to a sense of school.”

      The ‘environment’ here is referred to as the school, meaning that the flipped classroom may reduce the actual physical role of the school. Mairi Walker, also from The Brilliant Club tells us that it would be good if e-learning were accepted at schools however she highlights that teachers are there for a reason suggesting that learning with technology all the time would not give a ‘real’ feeling. She sees e-learning “as a supplement to teaching rather than as a replacement” also stating that she doesn’t feel that “e-learning gives you such a full education as if you are actually being taught by a real person all the time.”

      Keith Krueger from CoSN supports the idea of ‘Blended Learning’ and would like to see flipped classrooms initiated. He said: “I think that school systems should be thinking about blended learning which takes traditional schools and adds online dimensions so that classes and school work can be done from home or outside of school, but you come to school for collaboration and support.”

      Moving on, Tom Wilks, from The Brilliant Club says that e-learning should be adopted at schools only if the schools think they are able to teach with it in a way that brings out the best of students while learning and not just as a formality. Tom Wilks believes that teachers should engage their students;

      “What I always encourage our tutors to do is to really think about how they’re going to engage their pupils, and if they are showing them a video or if they’re using online resources, to really think about is this achieving the learning outcome that I want to achieve, or am I just putting it in because it’s a video and I think that I need to include lots of different media in my tutorials? because that’s not necessarily a better thing to do.”

      Furthermore, Doug Brown, from Step-A International, states that schools are already adopting e-learning and that “education does not stop at the school gates, so e-learning will continue beyond the school and thus schools should adapt to ensure the most effective tools for learning are available to all their learners.”

      Also, Principal Isora Bailey, from the NY ischool, addresses an important point about disabled students and e-learning. She says that if schools are to adopt e-learning then we should ask ourselves if it is helping them or really just making learning more difficult for them. She says it is obviously aiding them at her school as those pupils use it for different purposes. “They have a problem communicating with the teachers, however technology helps in doing that. They are able to email the teachers and are able to use Google Docs.”

      Many of the visionaries interviewed pointed out different advantages and disadvantages that e-learning may bring if adopted at schools but ultimately, each of them agrees that schools should adopt e-learning. They are keen however, for people to consider the consequences it can bring.

    • In your view are technology skills as important as other skills? Is it possible that technology is now more important?

      What was most common in all the responses received from our visionaries was that while technology is incredibly important, literacy and numeracy are on a par with technological skills. Michelle Selinger from ConsultEdu, puts this same idea across by stating “to be digitally literate you need to have numeracy and literacy skills,” while Doug Brown from Step-A International similarly states that “Technology skills rely on a good foundation of literacy and numeracy.” This is probably the most common response from all of the interviews we conducted.

      What is evident is how a lot of our visionaries link technological skills with numeracy and literacy skills, pitting them on par and in some cases the logical next step. Or in many cases also emphasising the need for numeracy and literacy skills improvement. Michelle Selinger who speaks in favour of this says;

      “Technology can help develop these [basic skills] but without them the internet cannot be accessed.”

      Skills are mentioned, specifically 21st Century Skills, or the three “c” 21st Century Skills. This is the other end of the spectrum and Keith Krueger, Head of CoSN, disagrees with the basic literacy skills being more important and states that “you still have to know the basics of Reading, Writing and Maths, but those are insufficient. Increasingly, employers want employees to have the 21stCentury Cs: Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity and Communication. Technology can enable all of these new skills”. Doug Brown, from Step-A International, while taking a more balanced approach to the question, still said that “technology will be a part of the future for all our citizens and without this skill as well as others, students will be disadvantaged in their future lives.” We can detect its immense importance from here.

      Even the polar opposite where people don’t agree that technology is on the same level as basic literacy, they still accept that it is a good supplement for students. As Mairi Walker from The Brilliant Club noted;

      “I would not say technology skills are more important at all. I think that you would need other skills to be able to develop your technology skills. I mean how can you use (technology) effectively if you cannot read or write?”

      Lord Jim Knight, Managing Director of Online Learning at TSL Education Ltd, says that not everyone studying coding for example, will become a programmer or an engineer, but rather: “I stress that becoming comfortable with basic coding is not so we can all be coders. Not all of us are engineers. However engineers need designers, bankers, financiers, entrepreneurs, HR, lawyers etc. with a good enough understanding of what they do to work with them.”

      This is backed up by Amos Blanton from MIT Media Lab who says “learn(ing) the basics about how a computer works, doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to become a programmer. However, more and more of what we experience, what the students today are experiencing throughout their lives, is mediated through technology.” This confirms how important these skills will be in the future.

      Another angle is based around the importance of creativity, if you had a medium to work and create in, it won’t be much use if you don’t have the creativity to power the creations themselves. Literacy and numeracy build the foundation and base for such creative thinking. As said by Mairi Walker from The Brilliant Club “If you were just to diminish those skills and work on technology skills, then you would have button pushers, and no one that is doing the innovating.”

      With this last comment, we hit middle ground: perhaps finding the perfect blend of the two and why they support one another. We learn about technology because it will have an impact every day of our lives for the foreseeable future as well as the medium we will be dependent upon. As Tom Wilks, from The Brilliant Club puts it;

      “We have to be the master of technology rather that it being the master of you.”

      Additionally, we need other skills such as basic literacy to build up enough creativity and adeptness to actually create, innovate, and revolutionise whatever the future may hold for us with the help of powerful technological tools.

      Moving more to the actual usage of technology itself within the classroom, Mr Fourgous, Mayor of Elancourt, France, explains that the child today is born with technology and as they grow older, they share a special bond with it;

      “Young people are born with digital tools in hand. As a teenager, they develop a relationship of complicity with these tools, they are benevolent objects, comforting, essential...The school cannot be left out of these new uses exploding on its border and can help motivate young in their learning.” Perhaps we should be able to use this to our advantage by bringing technology into the classroom.

      He also says that “Digital tools are powerful levers for change traditional teaching practices.” One way to bring this into the class is through serious games, basically linking back to the idea of ‘gamification.’

      Maria Sadaki, Serious Games researcher, talks about the importance of games in education“You can take a fun game and add other elements to it, either educational or not. There is not a single game out there that doesn’t have an educational value. It might be about learning skills, it might be about testing your knowledge or your soft skills with people, or your strengths, I truly believe that we can take a good example of a game and add these elements in a clever or playful way and I can use it informal or in formal education.”

      Tom Wilks tells us; “I think that one of the other things about the knowledge divide is that those who are able to make the use again of technology the most are those who have instilled other skills of writing, and thinking critically and communicating and listening and creativity and the arts.”

      We discussed why technology should not become a necessary part of education in the way that the children are not able to do much without it, task-wise and with critical thinking and how we could bring the technology to the classroom, which is backed up by Jean Michel Fourgous who talks about how using the objects closest of pupils can help bring some positive change in the classroom dynamic.

      We've seen how in the end, neither of these skills are better than one another mainly because of the way the world is changing, and as our dependence on computers and all things digital increases. There should be familiarity with the medium that we'll use in most parts of our life. Technology should help improve the skills that increase employability and these include critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication.

      At the other end of the spectrum, creative skills are just as important. This is because the medium technology provides to channel creativity and ‘create’ is useless without the skills required to be creative and literal enough to put it to good use. Both types of skills can complement each other.