BT can help you future-proof students and get them work ready

BT has been at the forefront of innovation for decades. They serve 1.2 million businesses and public sector organisations in the UK. Over 14,000 schools, colleges and universities already work with BT to enhance their learning outcomes. But BT help through much more than calls and lines, they sell IT hardware and software solutions to support learning environments of all shapes and sizes through their IT reseller arm, Business Direct. With a team of education-focused IT Specialists, Business Direct has over 30 years’ experience of providing IT solutions to academic organisations. Utilising their partnership with world-renowned brands like Apple, Microsoft and HP; Business Direct are perfectly placed to offer end-to-end solutions to schools, colleges, multi-academy trusts and universities.

Business Direct recently explored the idea of future-proofing pupils

The speed with which technology is advancing makes it likely that a huge proportion of the jobs that we do today will have changed significantly, or won’t exist in 10 years. Microsoft and The Future Laboratory published a report which stated that 65% of today’s students will be doing jobs that don’t exist yet! (1)

In order to prepare students, you need to teach them skills which will allow them to adapt to whatever the future has in store, or that sets them apart as unique. It’s been predicted that workers will stay in jobs for an average of only 4.4 years and will change jobs more than 10 times. (2) It’s probable they’ll see more significant shifts happening, especially in technology. All of this means that students are going to have to be multi-skilled and have the ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines. The ideal worker of the next decade will be “T-shaped”: they'll bring deep understanding in one field, but have the capacity to converse in the language of broader disciplines. (3)

To succeed in this ever changing landscape, students will need to embrace the concept of lifelong learning and be able to learn new skills later in their life. This means that instead of just teaching them facts, school and society should help students know how to learn and understand new tools themselves.

To do this, you need to create within them a love of learning and an ability to learn independently. This requires learning to be challenging, interesting, rewarding and fun for students. In turn, students will take more control of learning in their own time. There are many tools available to help you create this type of learning environment - 1:1 devices, collaboration tools through e-boards and apps, e-learning – including gamification, virtual, augmented and mixed realities. All of these will help you transform learning into something that’s exciting and that students actually want to do. Business Direct can help you purchase, deploy and embed all of these solutions.

The rise of robots

The future will also see an increased use of smart machines and systems. With this rise, many jobs will be replaced by ‘robots’ that can do the job quicker and more efficiently. However, this opens up new job markets where people can either create, or work with these smart machines to make them better. These are the jobs that’ll stand the test of time, alongside jobs which focus on creativity, or social and empathy skills; these are skills which robots will not be able to replicate any time soon. Professor Rose Luckin, an expert on AI and education at University College London believes the school curriculum needs to be brought up to date to reflect that problem-solving and creativity are becoming more important assets. “Regurgitating knowledge is something that you can automate very easily, that doesn’t prepare children for the modern workforce”. (4)

Business Direct want to help you future-proof pupils

When exploring the specifics of future-proofing pupils and enabling them to be the productive workforce of the future, Business Direct focus on the key areas of computer science, the adoption of mixed realities and STEAM.

Over the next 10 years it’s estimated that there’ll be 1.4 million jobs in computer science, but only around 400,000 graduates qualified to do them. (5) Over the last few decades, with instant access to technology at our fingertips, we’ve increasingly become a generation of tech consumers. With technology being so readily available, there’s been no reason to learn how it works. But now, with jobs creating and working with smart technology on the rise; the students of today need to understand not only how to use technology but how to create and manipulate it too.

The UK computing curriculum was updated in 2014 to address this problem. It hasn’t been designed to transform every student into a coder, developer, or engineer but to equip students with the skills to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and tackle any problem. It combines mathematics, logic and algorithms, and teaches students a new way to think about the world. Students who can think computationally are better able to conceptualise, understand and use computer-based technology, and so are better prepared for the digital world.

Computing also ensures that pupils become digitally literate and are able to use, express themselves, and develop their ideas through information and communication technology. The applications of computational thinking stretch far beyond writing software. Fields as diverse as mechanical engineering, fluid mechanics, physics, biology, archaeology, law, music and even businesses are applying this approach.

Coding or ‘programming’ has been part of the national curriculum right from the start, but has often been overlooked. But now that the computing curriculum has been introduced, it’s become a huge focus in education. Coding is an important tool for computer science; it’s the art of telling a computer how to perform complex tasks. Code powers our digital world – every website, app and computer programme runs on code to operate. Understanding how to build and create through coding, will not only prepare students to become digital makers, but will also teach them to express themselves and develop their ideas through technology. Once students know how to code, it will separate them from those who merely have an idea, and equip them with the skills to make their ideas a reality.

Harness technological advancements to enhance learning

Virtual reality (VR) has been around for a long time, the first commercial headset was in fact released by Sega in 1991.But technology wasn’t quite advanced enough for VR to “take off” until recently. Market researchers CCS Insight have predicted that by the end of 2017, more than 12 million virtual reality (VR) headsets will be sold. So it looks like after many, many years of unsuccessful attempts, VR is finally here. With rapid advances in technology over the last few years, we’ve seen a real shift in the amount of VR tools available in the marketplace and what it’s actually being used for. It’s no longer seen as solely as an entertainment tool. According the Cone of Learning created by Edgar Dale (1969), after two weeks, the human brain tends to remember: 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see and 90% of what we do or simulate. VR provides students with the opportunity to simulate doing the real thing, therefore virtual realities are an extremely powerful tool for education that can strengthen the learning experience.

STEAM ahead with a future-proofing plan

53% of employers think they’ll struggle to recruit STEM technicians and graduates in the next three years. (6) To help future-proof students and prepare them for these roles, many schools have increased investment in STEM initiatives in school, things like: 1:1 devices and BYOD (bring your own device) initiatives; STEM or coding clubs and robotics programmes; creating a specific STEM curriculum; and STEM interactive days. These projects are a great start, however, STEM learning misses out the critical processes of creativity and innovation, even with experiential learning opportunities, STEM is limited. To make students truly future-fit they need more than an understanding of these areas, they need to be able to apply their learnings, to create and demonstrate ingenuity.

This is why the STEM to STEAM movement has begun. Many employers, educators, and parents voiced concerns that STEM alone misses several key components that are critical for students to prepare and thrive. As an approach to learning, STEAM uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as starting points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. STEAM learning encourages students to take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist with problem-solving, embrace collaboration and work through the creative process. Business Direct promote the use of technology to support a STEAM curriculum as they believe STEAM students are the innovators, educators, leaders, and learners of the 21st century.

Future-proof your pupils with BT

To consider future-proofing pupils through embedding technology in your learning environment, get in touch with Business Direct. Whether you visit their website, read their blog, or talk to an Education IT Specialist, their no obligation, free advice can help you intertwine future-proofing student learning with your wider IT strategy.

1). Source: Future Proof yourself – Tomorrow’s jobs; report by The Future Laboratory and Microsoft, 2016
2). Source: The Four Year Career; Fast Company, 2012
3). Source: Ten Skills for the Future of the Workplace; Leonardo Renew
4). Source: Schools not preparing children to succeed in an AI future; The Guardian, 2016
5). Source: International Business Times article, Coding in the classroom: What is coding and why is it so important?, 2017
6). Source: STEM Careers, 2017

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