Saturday, 22 June 2019

The Challenges for Primary School Teaching in 2019

I've had the pleasure of dipping my toes into the teaching circle now for three years. Whilst I love what I do, I currently only work 1 and a half days over 2 schools (excluding the time I put into my lesson preparation). I've seen first hand and learnt a lot about the challenges and struggles the education system is fighting. It may not be a surprise to learn that the biggest are Money and Time, but in addition, a big concern is the increasingly rapid progress of technology.

Technology depreciates quickly, yesterdays interactive whiteboards will soon become as archaic as chalk, new digital touch screen displays will be the future, with children and teachers able to demonstrate technological workflow at the front of the class. Whether that's art, working with layers, editing video, creating slideshows; 'showing' the how to process is much more powerful than telling or displaying screenshots of what the process looks like. But the screen tech is still in its infancy and far from fool proof.

Teachers can demonstrate, and then ask fellow pupils to replicate in front of the whole class. Before they try it for themselves. But these screens are costly, and to fill a school with 10+ classes, the money simply isn't there. It will take time to acquire and learn how to use these machines confidently, and before then, the older iPads, or tablets will need replacing or the teachers laptops will need replacing. County or Microsoft will end support for older Operating systems and Head Teachers will be forced to fund the most urgent hardware needs, not necessarily the most important.

There's also the extortionate cost of leasing printing solutions, but that's another blog post altogether.

And then there is the other problem.

Digital creativity is in a boom-like state. I know this, because (from a gamers perspective), I've seen it coming. Look at Cool paint VR for Playstation 4. The 'player' don's a VR headset, and uses 2 handheld controllers to 'paint' in 3D; in a virtual environment, a three dimensional object can be created. Windows 10 has just had an update to paint called - 3D paint, ever used it? My £650 computer wasn't powerful enough, so neither have I. But it will do a similar thing.
Then, when the virtual object has been created, it could be printed using a 3D printer. Ever used one of them? I haven't. But I can guarantee I will, one day, hopefully soon.
Look at Kodu for Windows - Programming your own games using an Xbox 360 controller.

What's starting to appear in High Schools, will, (due to improved simplicity and software familiarity) soon become commonplace in Primary school. Maybe drone technology will be common too?

So how can we support todays teachers, passionate about teaching, but perhaps less passionate or adept with technology in this increasingly complex world?

Step one has to be to recognise the issues and opportunities that a primary school can tackle. What will the jobs of tomorrow look like, what are likely to be the skills that are required for high school.
As teachers, we only really need to light the spark, to know the basics. Once the passion for a new technology kicks in. The pupil will teach themselves the rest; but we have to have the skills to teach rudimentary aspects of each topic. How coding languages work, how controls work, how sensing works, how algorithms help computer programs run, how to make a mark in a virtual world, how to print a basic object, how to add clips, use transitions and produce moving image files.

Once we've agreed on the basics, and the opportunities, we can focus time devoted to up-skilling. It may be 1 to 1, it may depend on the teachers confidence and existing abilities, it may just be sitting in on a lesson delivered by a prepared expert to a class. But we must appreciate that passion for teaching and passion for technology are not the same thing and approach it with a sympathetic and helpful mindset.

Challenge, expectations and goals without support could be catastrophic for well being and retention.

But, approached in the right way, it will be beneficial and exciting for us all.