The impact of digital in education

The Digital Brew: Episode 10. We chat to Matt Britland, director of digital strategy at Alleyn’s School, about the impact of digital technology within education.

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For episode 10 of The Digital Brew, I went back to the classroom.

To be more specific, I was chatting to Matt Britland,  Director of IT and Digital Strategy at the impressive Alleyn’s School, about the impact that digital technology has had in education. Digital technology has changed all our lives but I was interested to explore how education has evolved during the digital revolution.

I really enjoyed chatting to Matt and we clearly failed to hit our target of 20-25mins for our chat, but there was still a lot that I was hoping to discuss that we didn’t find time for.

Grab a brew, turn up the volume, sit back and enjoy Matt’s words of wisdom:

The Impact of Digital in Education

View video transcript

Joe: Hello and a very warm welcome to another edition of the Digital Brew. Today I’m here are the Alleyn’s School with Matt Britland and we’ll be talking about the role of digital in education.

Matt, thanks a lot for having me on this Autumnal day!

Matt: Yeah it’s lovely.

Joe: It’s half term so it’s nice and quiet. 

Matt: Yes, absolutely. 

Joe: I came across you actually from one of your – through one of the pieces of content you’ve written but can you give us a quick introduction to yourself and perhaps your role here at Alleyn’s?

Matt: Yes, so I’m Director of IT and Digital Strategy here at Alleyn’s, I’m a writer on education technology, I’ve written for the Guardian, Disney, TES… a number of different outlets and spoken at a number of events on the subject. 

Joe: Yes, so both teacher and a…

Matt: Yes, yeah so I’ve been teaching for about 13 years and this role is slightly different. I work in a school but my focus is on… predominantly on teaching and learning and I’m not actually working in a classroom. 

Joe: Not at all?

Matt: No so I… my role has developed now so, now I’ve got a lot of experience teaching and learning in a classroom, I can now sort of move on and have a sort of whole school sort of role here. 

Joe: Interesting role.

Matt: Yeah, yeah.

Joe: And I think, sort of, the digital… I mean it’s interesting doing these Digital Brew series, it touches on all our lives but I think education for me is very interesting. Partly from having two children, and one of the other episodes we did was actually about the shortage of digital talent within the UK.

Matt: Ok.

Joe: So I think there’s sort of two aspects I’d like to focus on if that’s ok? One is the impact of technology, you know digital technology in the classroom environment and implications on school life. And then the second half is the – I guess the curricular considerations, you know? What’s kind of happening in that space and just, sort of, explore that a little bit. 

Matt: Yes, sounds good.

Joe: But you know starting with the kind of digital technology. I haven’t been in a classroom for some time other than my kids’ parent teaching evenings and there’s no chalk, you know, there’s no blackboard here – well one whiteboard, a normal whiteboard and when you explain to me what this thing does (points to screen) it’s pretty impressive. 

Matt: Yes.

Joe: As with most things in life I imagine there’s probably positives and negatives…

Matt: Yeah.

Joe: …it’s a very difficult challenge to try and condense but in terms of the positive impact of technology what’ve you seen and witnessed in your career to date?

Matt: Yeah I think digital technology in a classroom gives you freedom. So it gives you freedom to teach in a different way, deliver content in a different way. Erm, it kind of extends the classroom so if you’re in the classroom and there’s technology in the classroom students can access resources – they don’t have to print all these resources out. In terms of planning lessons, you can have a whole bank of resources in additional formats so then you don’t have to print them all off and give them to the student, they have got access to all of this content whenever you decide they want it. 

So, when I was at school often you would maybe run out of stuff to do, but that doesn’t have to be the case now. And also, you can be more of an exploratory learner as well. So you’re learning about something in a classroom, if you’ve got access to the internet you’ve got access to a breadth of knowledge that perhaps wouldn’t normally be readily available. 

Joe: Yes.

Matt: It also opens up a kind of collaboration as well. Things like Google Docs, Office 365… the students are able to work in groups more effectively. 

Joe: Yep.

Matt: So… when I first started teaching, if you were working on a presentation for instance, each student would work on a separate slide, you’d have to email that slide to one person and they’d have to put it all together. And now you can just work on one document for everybody. And it kind of makes things far smoother and more productive.

Joe: Yeah it’s interesting actually, I mean – certainly in my day – we didn’t even email things around I’m that old! But I think collaboration and even things like distance learning, obviously not relevant to all forms of education but if you were ill for example or you were away doing, I don’t know, sports tours… whatever it may be, the technology would enable a distance learning…

Matt: …Well I think this is it as well, for things such like for homework or for research projects or for anything you want to do, the student doesn’t necessarily have to bring loads of books home with them. If they’ve got technology at home, if they’ve got an ipad or a tablet or a smartphone, anything like that, they can access resources, digital textbooks if the school offers digital textbooks…

Joe: And do you find some teachers… I guess they kind of worry about losing control. I mean you’re right if you’ve got access to the internet you’ve got a whole world – I mean you’ve got the biggest library ever conceived. But that – I mean plagiarism must be an issue. You know, they can find stuff and copy it pretty easily.

Matt: There is – lots of digital platforms have sort of plagiarism tools so when you upload something it checks it all works out and then compares it all against a breadth of information and can come back… but it is, it’s a change of working. You know, if you’re not use to using digital technology all the time it is intimidating.

Joe: Yes.

Matt: Teachers are busy people as well. You know, we’re very, very busy and having to learn something new and communicating that to your students and working in a different way – it’s difficult. And it isn’t always necessarily because you don’t want to do it, it’s more ‘how am I going to find the time to do that?’

Joe: I guess it creates more work than started…

Matt: Yeah.

Joe: …and that doesn’t really help too much.

Matt: I mean it can do if you’ve got someone who is responsible for digital strategy like I am you can put resources into place, training into place so that the transition is as smooth as possible. And often teachers have a lot of their resources are all digitised anyway so it’s just hosting them on a platform, whether it’s Google Docs or Firefly for instance which is like a learning platform… so it’s… logistically it can be difficult but once you get into the flow of things it can really, sort of, change things.

Joe: Yeah and I think, going back to the worries of losing control and the big bad world of the internet, the reality is that’s how life is these days…

Matt: Yep.

Joe: …so I think you would be doing the students a disservice if you didn’t actually embrace that and say ‘look, you’ve got these tools readily available, learn how to use them for the benefit of your learning’. And  I think the more… not even cavalier teachers but the more sort of… hate to use the word modern but, you know, the teachers who recognise that and acknowledge that and love it themselves. And that must be key in terms of upkeep. 

Matt: It is key because those teachers can encourage other teachers to adopt that sort of way of working. And funnily enough it isn’t always the newest teachers who are always the better ones. I mean, I’ve been working with some teachers who have been teaching for you know years, decades. And they have been really quick to adopt technology because they have seen how it can improve the way that they work. So if you’ve got everything digital it’s very difficult to lose all of that stuff. You know, if it’s hosted somewhere, you don’t lose work. 

Joe: Yep.

Matt: You can come back in six years time and get that work back. And you know students have less opportunity to say that they have lost their work because it’s on a digital platform…

Joe: Exactly, you can track it…and purely again thinking through the parents’ eyes , it never ceases to amaze me how much… well just how adept children are at using technology, particularly touch interfaces. I mean you were explaining in how this works, and that to me it’s just alien to me in the education world because I’m just too old but I would have thought that would make lessons more engaging and there’s stuff you can do now with this technology you simply couldn’t have done. And that must bringing learning to life and be a richer experience. 

Matt: Yes, absolutely and I think as long as the technology’s used in a productive way. So it needs to enrich something, it needs to improve something or at least do something equally as good but with other advantages. I think it’s important… just throwing technology into the classroom and just hoping that kids are going to be able to use it is just … it’s a high lead to nowhere basically. And then what happens is the technology is blamed rather than the implementation. So yes, students are really good at touchscreens and technology and stuff but using it in a productive way is difficult. So they need to be channelled into certain ways. Because, they might not… they go ‘oh brilliant I’ve got a chromebook or an ipad or whatever it might be but they mostly just use it to browse the internet, or look on YouTube or play games.

Joe: *Laughs*

Matt: And when you go ‘you can use this to support your learning’ they go, ‘oh brilliant…how, how am I going to do that?’ and it’s important that that’s shown to the students, that they’re shown how to do it otherwise it can just be another little, shiny…

Joe: A distraction –

Matt: …yeah it could be a distraction.

Joe: Yeah exactly, I suppose it’s like any tool… the real value in the tool is the art of using that tool, and the best teachers will use the technology to augment learning and make it a richer experience and actually, the speed at which you can learn stuff through touch and play…

Matt: Yes.

Joe: …I don’t think there’s any doubt that that happens… and I’d love to go back and do it myself as I say…

Matt: Yeah me too.

Joe: You know you watch 2 year olds with a tablet and they’re all over and you know my generation like to think we can do it but certainly some of the older generations, you know, they really would struggle with that and you know it is totally alien…

Matt: … yeah it’s a different way of working.

Joe: Yeah but I’d say it’s much more engaging so you know the traditional teacher standing up in front of a classroom learning Latin, times tables by rote and that just feels archaic. I mean it can’t be good for children.

Matt: I mean I think there is room for that. I think the great thing about technology is that it enables you to do… to work in whatever way you want in the classroom. If you want to teach from the front, absolutely teach from the front, but if you all of a sudden go ‘right I want to teach from the front, now I want to do something different. I want to do something student led or I want to do something research based or a quiz because I want to collect… I want to find out their understanding of the lesson that I’ve just taught’. You can do an electronic quiz, they do it, you export it so you can validate all that information. So I think some people think it’s all technology or it’s no technology. And I just don’t see how it… that’s not the world. You know, it’s a tool and being able to have all these options for you, I think it’s brilliant. 

Joe: Yes, and I guess the risk is that distraction factor. But I think once the… perhaps the novelty factor, you’ve got to get over the hump of well ‘I’ve got a tablet’ or what ever it may be and then you’re actually teaching how you’re going to use this to enhance your learning. That’s where… almost the technology fades into the background.

Matt: It should be transparent it should just be like, just the way that you work. So it’s not… you don’t do book learning, you just use a book to… as a tool to help you learn. The same as you use a tablet or computer or a touchscreen or whatever it might be and it’s kind of finding that balance where it isn’t all or nothing, it’s a blend of everything. And it’s important. 

Joe: Yeah and does… how good is – currently – technology at adapting… so you have your objective to learn ‘X’, different pupils will have different ways of learning it. I mean some people will be better at just repetitive stuff, some people will be better through play learning. Is there a technology emerging now so you can actually… within one class you can effectively teach different approaches…

Matt: Well I think that’s the beauty of digital because as a teacher you are able to send different resources – or differentiated resources – or whatever you’d like to different students or use a learning platform say to channel people… to channel students into a certain way. So it just gives a freedom and it can make learning more personalised to students because they can approach problems in a different way, perhaps. Whereas if you’ve got one tool, pen and paper, that’s the way that you’re going to do it. Whereas with digital you can… the best classrooms I’ve been in was where you’ve got an ipad and they’re doing activities on an ipad, you’ve got pen and paper and they’re doing stuff with that as well. You know, if they want to have a digital copy of that, PDF it on their device upload it to the learning platform or to where ever they want to have it and then they have access to all these different resources that can be very quickly digitised. And it just wasn’t that possible – and it was more than a few years ago now. 

Joe: Yeah and I’ve seen it. My eldest son he’s just started secondary school and you know all his homework is done basically on an ipad and – as you say – it’s all Google Docs. So the kind of prep/brief will be here’s a sort of… Google Slides presentation it’s got all the assets you need to produce the work and it – it’s good. And when I sometimes think is it creating more work for teachers? Because if there’s something missing, you know, he emails the teacher and the teachers are great and they’re replying late in the evening and you think… is that a good thing?

Matt: I mean that is a really good point. That is a really good point because it does – it can open up the channels of communication.

Joe: Digital’s strong and brilliant – but it’s invasive as well. 

It is, and it’s down to the teacher – or the school – to manage that and say what the expectation is in terms of teachers replying. So whilst a lot of teachers will just reply because they’re just going to reply, whereas the expectation should be well these are the hours in which you work and students need to understand that there is a barrier, even though with technology it seems like there isn’t a barrier. And it’s down to the school and heads of department and teachers to kind of set those expectations for students. But it’s positive for them, it also can be invasive as well. 

Joe: I mean, I guess it’s like life. 

Matt: Yes.

Joe: Everyone remembers a good teacher and everyone remembers a less good teacher and I think it’s setting the expectations of both students – well and parents actually getting them involved, you know, what can you do within each subject or teacher I guess.

Matt: Well that’s why it’s down to the use of technology as well in the classroom. It can be… some people could find it a distraction. I mean I don’t know about you but I get distracted on technology all the time. And I suppose as a teacher, managing that distraction and that… it’s behaviour management in the classroom. And the school have it again – expectations. This is when you use technology this is when you don’t. Some classes may be like ‘just use the technology, do what you need to do, use what you need to do to complete the task or whatever it might be. But then I suppose that teacher, if he or she is going to have that environment they need to be active. You know, they need to be moving around because we do get distracted and… it’s basically like a traditional classroom expect rather than saying ‘don’t play this game with a piece of paper’ like I use to do at school you know, you say, ‘don’t go on that, don’t go on that’ you know. And there are restrictions you can apply to tablets and the computer systems that prevent you from going on certain places so it’s kind of just… modern life.

Joe: Yes ok, it’s modern life and it’s a string in your bow as a teacher and it’s how you use that and again – we’ll probably come onto that perhaps in the curricular discussion a bit later but it’s… I imagine it will vary from teacher to teacher. But one of the… again one of the possible negatives I’ve thought about is sort of this concept of the digital divide.

Matt: Yes.

Joe: So some schools will be well equipped and some schools less so. And that’s in terms of people and crucially capital expenditure because it’s not a insubstantial cost.

Matt: No it can be huge…

Joe: You know, to sort of re-equip an entire school is a massive investment and that’s tough. 

Matt: Yeah and schools have priorities. You know, lots of schools can’t afford to buy stationery. A lot of… most schools understand how important technology is and I think there was a recent article I can’t remember where – I think it was the BBC – about aging technology in classrooms and not all of them are going to be able to afford to do it. And I think tech companies have a big part to play in this because they can support schools I think better than they’re doing at the moment. So yes you will get educational discount, but most of the time that educational discount it’s not really going to help that much.

Joe: Yeah, well then I guess Google Docs…

Matt: Yeah, so things like Google Docs you know that’s free which is great. But the actual technology to use that isn’t free.

Joe: No, although again for example, my kids I’ve bought a chromebook. £200 and it’s pretty good and because it integrates so well with Google’s properties. I mean, for what they need it’s absolutely perfect, they wouldn’t be wanting to do any advanced stuff on it. 

Matt: Yeah and again that’s a good point Joe, because… lots of people, if you’re working on a digital strategy you don’t go, ‘I’m going to go into this digital strategy and go I want this bit of technology’. You have to kind of decide what’s best for students, the school, the teachers, budget and then working from there deciding what you need. So you don’t have to go out and buy thousands or hundreds of ipads. If a chromebook for £200 does what you want to achieve then absolutely. I mean even then, that could be pushing people’s budgets as well and again support from some of the tech companies…

Joe: …Yeah I suppose the parent, PTAs and PSAs, if there’s fundraising for specific – an appetite for, a look at IT in the widest possible sense I would of thought parents’ agenda, I would have thought they would want their children to be very comfortable using technology. More so than they are probably themselves. 

Matt: Yeah I mean every time I’ve been at parents’ evening and I mean I’m a computing teacher by trade and you know they understand the importance of computing, IT things like that. But along with the technology you’ve got to think of the infrastructure that goes behind it, you know? 

Joe: It’s massive.

Matt: Yeah, so if you’ve got chromebooks and they’re brilliant but the WiFi is not robust enough or, you know, there’s not enough density or it’s not fast enough or reliable enough, then that technology again – that front end user technology – is going to get the blame.

Joe: Oh sure. 

Matt: So it’s that investment behind the scenes as well that needs to be done before that technology – the hardware that the kids and the teachers will have come in. 

Joe: Yeah and you’ve got the infrastructure you’ve got the, as I say, the capital costs but… and I’m sure this is particularly important for your role now, setting guidelines around how this is used because again a really obvious aspect of technology is cyberbullying and, you know, the manifestive destructive nature of people using their phones during class or, you know, upskirting in the playground…

Matt: Yes.

Joe: You know there’s an endless list of negative stuff which is tough. And I guess, there isn’t any… I don’t want you to come up with answer now but is that down to the schools to set?

Matt: … I mean it is down to the schools to set expectations. Again what their rules are, addressing what is the size of the problem, if any… how are they going to deal with problems outside of the classroom at home? Are there rules around mobile technology in terms of students’ smartphones? It’s really tough.

Joe: It’s a minefield and I guess you can set guiding principles, you can equip the children for a wider life because it isn’t, you know, sitting around on your xbox chatting away in the way all children do. It’s intimidating as a parent and you know you’d like to think you need to allow you need to set your children on the right path and you need to equip them with the right decision making processes to hopefully not go wrong. 

Matt: That’s it and it’s about education for kids for the teachers and for the parents I mean parents need to be told  what the kids get told essentially but more, because they need to know how to protect their children . You know, they’ve got a smartphone. You know, so how do I stop my child going out and going on any site that they want , and there are ways to prevent it. And you know some parents are brilliant, some not so much…

Joe: Yeah, and I know from personal experience we’ve had the whole cyber protection thing and it wasn’t mandatory – I have to confess I didn’t go, my wife did, and I think it was good but I have to confess again I think that will vary from school to school…

Matt: And if there’s not the expertise within the school then again, they can probably get outside speakers in… some charge some don’t, I mean most do to be honest and then there’s everyone battling for them so it’s really difficult. But having someone in school that can be responsible for that sort of education is really, really important as well. 

Joe: So just from the curricular aspects of it, you know, just as you alluded to some schools have resources and some don’t. How much of a challenge is it for the majority of schools to do this. I mean in terms of skilled teaching staff is that as much of a challenge within teaching as it feels within the private sector and the digital world?

Matt: Yeah, it is a challenge. And staff need to be supported. There can’t be an expectation that everyone is instantly going to know how these things work. Some teachers will fly ahead, really confident with it and use it all the time. Some teachers will be like ‘yeah, I’ll give it a go, not quite sure how to do it but Ii will learn’ and then you get some teachers who either they don’t want to or they’re not confident. And it’s important that every single teacher is given the support that they need to bring everybody as close as possible to the same pont. And that’s difficult because you need time. Not only the time you’re going to be training them but teachers’ time. 

Joe: Exactly.

Matt: And there’s not a lot of time! So it’s a huge challenge.

Joe: There has to be a huge cultural shift in the way they work, which like you said earlier on, some teachers will embrace it and love it, whereas – it’s human nature – if you’re two years away from retirement and you’ve got your processes and you’ve got your lessons planned, you’ve got everything lined up, you’re going to fight it. And that’s the same for any organisation not just education. 

Matt: Yes.

Joe: And it’s just change is resisted. 

Matt: It is and I suppose it’s modelling why or showing how it’s going to improve their lives, their teaching lives, the administration and the students and it can be a hard sell that it’s not out of the question and all teachers – the vast majority of teachers – just want to go in and do a really good job. And if we’re introducing this sort of new technology, it’s hard again – time is really difficult to come along and often they’ll go ‘well I haven’t got time to do it and I just want to concentrate and get the most out of these kids, my students’ so it is a really fine line but support, training is absolutely necessary. 

Joe: Is it a fair assumption that I have that most teachers acknowledge that they have no choice, they have to embrace technology and they have to sort of accept the change and it’s about equipping their students for later life. Is that a fair…

Matt: …Yeah I think so, I mean the vast majority of teachers in general they want what’s best for their students again. And as a school if you’re introducing this technology and showing how it can improve the students’ educational outcomes through teaching and learning, teachers want to be involved.  

Joe: Yeah.

Matt: But again, it’s difficult to be involved when you don’t have the time. So yeah, teachers use technology all the time.Writing lesson plans, you know, you will never see a teacher – well very rarely – who is not at a computer at some point, and they understand that, it’s necessary. But there are some leaps that school’s made which are difficult, and do change the way why for instance when every student’s got a device, every teacher’s got a device that’s difficult. It’s difficult to implement, it’s difficult to train for and it just presents challenges.

Joe: Do you see more demand for computer/digital/ whatever you want to call it related syllabuses? So the actual… what the children are learning? So we talked about the way in which you learn and that permeates across all subjects but is there, you know, what do we want to learn about and what courses are growing in popularity, which are fading…?

Matt: I think, in terms of cross-curricular, digital skills, it’s down to schools overarching digital strategy, combining that with teaching and learning strategy. So these are the expectations that we have… I know I use the word expectations al lot but that’s exactly what it is and then again training and showing the teachers… all down to what technology’s available to them, this is how you can take advantage of this technology across the board in every single lesson. So it’s less about a qualification and more about just using it, just using it and having strategy and building into lesson plans and department development plans and school development plans and things like that. It can’t just be a ‘technology’ go ahead, it needs to be thought about, you know? It needs to be thought about other wise, just like any strategy it’s not going to work. And that‘s when technology gets the blame for stuff, because it’s not been thought out properly.

Joe: Yes, and so your role – it sounds a fascinating role – is that a role… I mean, I presume it didn’t exist, not that long ago… do all the schools have that role?

Matt: Umm, there’s lots of schools who have a similar role. They are becoming more and more… you’ll see them more, essentially. I love it, this is what I sort of like doing. I mean it is a job but it’s something that I really enjoy doing as well. So yeah lots of schools have this because you need to have someone responsible for it. 

Joe: Yeah, and it’s not… certainly a Head’s very busy but they must acknowledge that, crikey, you know there’s probably a sea change going on that we’re probably in the middle of, we need to be confident. The decisions we make today which may not be implemented until two, three years – or you certainly won’t see the full benefits for some time…

Matt: Oh yes well I’m looking at strategies now that will take two years, potentially three years to work out. Obviously there’s steps that you have to go through to get to that and people will see changes along the road but yeah it’s not like snap your fingers it’s going to be done. But that needs to be communicated to staff as well so it isn’t kind of… nothing is said for months, years… and they need to be involved in decisions as well…

Joe: – The journey yeah exactly, get them bought into it and understanding each step and what the change has been.

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. 

Joe: No that’s good, and I know we could probably talk on for months on end but we traditionally end on ‘what’s the vision?’ so Matt’s digital vision for education so what’s the next – probably not 10 years away but the next big things that you are excited by and you can see really…

Matt: … So about five years ago I wrote an article about future technology and that was in the Guardian, and I loved writing that it was brilliant and I talked about the cloud and how that the future was in the cloud and the internet basically. And I still believe that and you see it more and more. You know, more and more cloud working more and more services moving into the cloud, management information services into the cloud, everything moving into the cloud. Which is great but it also makes technology services accessible pretty much anywhere with internet connection or web browser so I think it’s all going to continue to develop that way. I guess in terms of hardware, I love virtual reality, I love augmented reality.

Joe: Yeah I guess just in terms of learning you know, chuck on a headset and you’re in a viking settlement suddenly…

Matt: Yeah.

Joe: …just that as a kind of… as an experience for children it’s phenomenal. And you know you could argue that it might replace visits to the museums which would be shame. 

Matt: Well it would be but logically it can be difficult to take kids out …

Joe: The pragmatics, yes of course…

Matt: … and expensive. But you know, I’ve visited the moon. And this was on quite a high end piece of kit. But you can do pretty similar experiences on the more affordable things but I was blown away you know there’s no point just me looking at it, I show other teachers and they’re like ‘woah, this is amazing!’. For history, we used art packages where they’re able to make like 3d pieces of art, sculpture… just, it’s just amazing. And when it gets to the right point where it’s affordable I just think augmented reality as well where you can actually make books come alive or you can augment things in front of you like planets or cells or things like that it’s just stuff like that is…

Joe: No definitely-

Matt: …it brings it to life, you know?

Joe: Exactly and it I think the word augmented is the clue but if you think most museum experiences now, they’re pretty good. And you get the old headset and you walk around I mean that’s simple technology I mean just to reply audio and sometimes video but I mean it really made it… I went to Verdun last year in France with the boys, and it’s really good you know, you walked round this big castle and each point it played you a little video and it wasn’t… like I say that’s not groundbreaking but it definitely enhanced that experience and you learnt a lot more because I would not read it from a book, I know I wouldn’t.

Matt: Yeah and augmented reality  it’s part of our world as well. So it’s not just replacing one with the other you’re kind of… it’s all together and it’s just being able to play with things and see things in real life where you would normally be able to as part of the normal world.

Joe: I think you remember it more and I think you know if the simplistic aim of education is to kind of learn and crucially remember stuff and then enjoy that process then i think it’s a no brainer!

Matt: Yeah and you can take that technology home with you, I mean if you’ve got a smartphone… obviously it tends to be more of the high end smartphones that tend to bring AR to life but that will just become mainstream, that’ll just become normal. So you’re able to experience stuff… I mean that’s a brilliant way of combining traditional tools – paper, pens whatever it might be – with technology. 

Joe: Yes exactly.

Matt: I also think machine learning, you know AI I think it going to be – I mean this isn’t new to people but I think it’s going to change things. You know, at the moment you write reports every half term, or every term whenever it might be, and you send data to parents, your grade cards. But with the way data can be changed and machine learning can be used you have that sort of data so teachers aren’t necessarily going to have to write report after report after report after report. It could be…

Joe: Copy and paste!

Matt: … live data that is for the individual student but it’s live so you can see things that are happening…

Joe: Like dashboards…

Matt: … and I’m sure people wouldn’t like the idea of you know reports being written by a computer but…

Joe: Yes but if it’s based on regular input of charts and things, they can make a very realistic forecast off the back of that.

Matt: …Yes, I mean, I wrote an email to you yesterday, and Google just predicted what I was going to write based on what I’d written before. And I think it still needs that personal touch from teachers but it gives them another tool to help write their reports.

Joe: – facilitate being a good teacher…

Matt: … And report writing is very time consuming, reporting data is very time consuming and having something able to produce something for a teacher just makes our lives easier. Gives more information to parents, to students – it’s a win win. 

So all these things combine together and I think most of all it’s important that everything’s seamless.

Joe: That’s right.

Matt: Everything just works together.

Joe: It’s a facilitator rather than a…

Matt: Yeah, it becomes invisible and it just makes the lives of everybody easier, more productive, teaching and learning is enhanced and you know teachers being able to organise their time and everything it just needs to – to work.

Joe: Cool, yes. Right Matt, I’ve very much enjoyed my trip back down to the classroom so thanks for your time.

Matt: Pleasure.

Joe: I hope you enjoyed that. As always we’re always up for ideas if you want to be involved with a future digital brew then get in touch. Thank you. 

Thank you very much to Matt for a fascinating chat and to Alleyn’s School for hosting me during half term.

We hope that you enjoy this episode and, as always, would love to hear from you if you are interested in featuring in a future Digital Brew episode. Please feel free to get in touch if you would like to find out more.

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