Yesterday marked the official launch of Shape the Future in the UK, held at Shirelands Collegiate Academy in Smethwick. Shape the Future is a program aimed at helping governments invest in education technology to create jobs, drive economic growth and increase competitiveness.
The day began with an introduction from Sir Mark Grundy, the Principal at Shireland Academy. He gave us all something to think about with the following statement:
“407 years ago, a revolution happened outside parliament. Today, 407 years later, a new revolution could happen.”
Joice Fernandez, Microsoft’s Worldwide Senior Director for Public Private Alliances, and founder of the Shape the Future programme, kicked off the speeches by introducing the programme and giving us his translation of what Shape the Future means:
“It's a movement, a cause and a belief."
A key phrase which Joice repeated throughout his motivational speech was that Shape the Future is not just about technology in the classroom, but about “Empowering the children” and giving them greater control over their own learning.
Once Joice had introduced us to the basics of the programme, Dr Vanessa Pittard took over to explain the Department for Education’s view on the importance of technological advancements in education.
She expressed her view of technology as an enabler, and outlined that a strong relationship exists between lack of attainment and a student's background. The important issue of social inclusion was a key part of Dr Vanessa’s speech, and she emphasised the implications behind providing students with technology to enhance and develop their learning. The figures here speak for themselves. 109,000 students, around 20%, of those leaving primary school don’t achieve the national average, with this rising to around 1/3 of those leaving school at 16 (after GCSEs). Finally, she stressed the need for more to be done by government to tell teachers and schools what works in order to improve achievement, for example, technology rich environments lie that at Shirelands.
Mike Allen from RM was next up, and provided us with yet another detailed and inspiring speech around the impact of technology in education. He began by voicing his belief that it is getting harder to see cause and effect, especially in education, however, continued to say that “technology and careful use of technology can be successful”.
He detailed how the Shape the Future programme allows more devices to be in the hands of more young people, at lower costs, without jeopardising any of the technology, all through the use of 1:1, which “really fits the way students work and learn”.
Kirsty Tonks, Director of e-learning and transition at Shireland, finished the day, telling the room how the programme has helped the school develop teaching and learning through technology. She communicated the substantial need to create engagement through technology, not just with the students, but with their families too. On 1:1 devices, she expressed her original scepticism, but explained how she feels that ownership of the devices makes a difference to students, as they do not get distracted by the technology, but instead embrace it and integrate it in their learning.
Kirsty explained how the technology had no only aided learning, but had inspired creativity by the students themselves, who have developed their own resources for themselves and their peers, such as Further Your Maths, an online revision tool developed by year 11 pupils.
Finally, she introduced some of the students from Shirelands and other local schools, who gave delightfully refreshing presentations around how they feel software such as Kodu and OneNote have allowed them to work with technology to enhance their education.
Once all the speeches were finished, the audience got the chance to play with the RM devices which are available to schools, all of which are running Windows 8, as well as demos of Pivot, a tool to help teachers track and analyse attainment, attendance and other key student facts, and a Kodu demo by the students.
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