Virtual reality in the classroom

Government calls on industry to bring cutting-edge tech into teaching

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The Education Secretary Damian Hinds has asked technology companies to support an “education revolution” by bringing new technologies into classrooms.

Hinds – who was appointed Education Secretary in January – said that cutting-edge technology, including robotics and artificial intelligence, could enrich learning while also cutting the amount of time teachers are forced to spend on administrative tasks.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to see technology being used in revolutionary ways. Students are able to explore the rainforest, steer virtual ships or programme robots from their classroom, while teachers are able to access training, share best practice with colleagues and update their parents on a pupil’s progress without being taken away from their main focus, teaching,” said Hinds in a statement.

According to the Department for Education, there is some evidence that some schools are using cutting-edge technology to enhance learning, although the number of these schools is small. Hinds said that extra support – from the private sector – would be necessary to make these technologies accessible to all schools.

He has called on tech companies both in the UK and abroad – including industry giants such as Apple – to support schools by bringing twenty-first century technology into the classroom. The Department for Education suggested that this could include developing software to support pupils with special needs, or to automate administrative tasks weighing down teachers.

“Schools, colleges and universities have the power to choose the tech tools which are best for them and their budgets. But they cannot do this alone. It’s only by forging a strong partnership between government, technology innovators and the education sector that there will be sustainable, focused solutions which will ultimately support and inspire the learners of today and tomorrow,” Hinds said.

The Department for Education has laid out five major opportunities to create technological change in education: more inclusive and accessible teaching practices, assessment, teacher training, administration and lifelong learning.

“Used well, technology can have a positive effect on pupils’ learning. It can help inspire, engage and broaden children’s horizons,” Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, told the Press Association. “However, there is little evidence to suggest that it offers some sort of educational panacea.”

“Whilst it may not seem particularly exciting or revolutionary, the best way to raise educational standards is to invest in developing highly effective teachers. As the Secretary of State himself pointed out at our conference, when people recall their own school days they remember teachers, not computers or smartboards; there are no great schools without great teachers and leaders.”

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