What do you think will be the main things we'll be seeing in ed tech in 2018?
Well, we’ll see a lot more of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Robotics with a little AI beginning to emerge and of course a plethora of interactive surfaces. These, in most cases replace existing technologies that do the same things or have the potential to transport young people to new and unimaginable places. These are still nice to haves and should not be at the bottom of the tree. These can be big investments and we still need more evidence on their potential impact on learning. In areas like SEND, we are seeing these technologies having a positive impact and giving young people the tools to communicate and engage in new ways.
The main trends right now are a mass move towards cloud services and collaboration tools accessible from any location and any device, with Microsoft and Google dominating this space. We’ll also see lots more decisions around devices being swayed towards Chromebooks as schools give up on tablets, largely down to poor setup and a lack of good training. The iPad is still a revolutionary and transformational tool, yet so many schools have written them off as a bad experience. Wrong. Lastly, this might be the year where traditional software bids farewell, pushed out by Software As A Service and annual subscriptions.
What do you think will be the main ed tech challenges in 2018?
The main edtech challenges in 2018 will not be too dissimilar from those of 10 years ago. For me, the challenge has always been around how we improve teacher confidence and measure the impact of edtech in the classroom. With rapid growth in sectors like Robotics, VR, AR and AI I am still baffled that in many schools, decisions around devices still dominate discussions. The pace is a quick one and for lots of teachers work-life balance, overload and stress is commonplace. A new piece of edtech can either push them further away or engage them in new ways. The latter is the goal and blended training approaches are the key. Spongy Elephant, our new school training platform built by teachers for teachers, makes it easy for teachers to learn new things quickly in a manner that is gamified, social and above all, engaging. Hour long training sessions after school on a Monday are the problem. Annual INSET days are the problem. When new ideas and learning is compressed into a “block” and mandated at a specific time, the impact is always going to be low. The lunch is more memorable! When it is flipped, it has the potential to transform.