Festival of Education

The festival started off with a short film made especially for this event by Paul McCartney on Vegetarianism. According to a recent report by the UN, livestock is responsible for 18 % of all greenhouse gases. McCartney has started a campaign called ‘Meat Free Monday’ and has put together a cook book with that name. His argument is that grown-ups have created an ecological disaster in the planet and it is their responsibility that the future generation enter a sustainable world. The campaign aims to attract schools as the younger generation very much want to be a part of the effort to save the planet.

Anthony Seldon, the headmaster at Wellington College was the chief organiser of this event. FOE has teamed up with The Sunday Times to cover the event. It aims to bring together the opinions of parents, students, think-tankers and an ‘army’ of support staff. Questioning is vastly  encouraged There were 9 broad areas: big ideas, provocations, creative thinking, learning in the 21st century, new frontiers, post 18 education, interactions with The Education Foundation and wellbeing and safeguarding. The talks that I attended were as follows:

1.     Peter Barron (Google), Mona Mourshed

(McKinsey) & Rod Bristow (Pearson)

Mona Mourshed, a rising world star under 40 and the global education leader at McKinsey

75 million: number of global unemployed youth (15-24 year olds)

34%: Average % of global employers who cannot find the talent pool. (In the US, 3 million jobs are available but no one is there to take the jobs)

30 years: For 30 years, there has been a big gap between the wealthiest and the poorest because people do not possess the required skills and skills constitute the major driving force for social mobility.

Skills are mainly provided by Universities (and schools to a certain extent) and employers. There has to be a close interaction between these two areas and the government. The unemployment issue is directly related to not having much interaction at all.

Peter Barron, Google director for Europe and Middle East

23%: Since 2002 computer science students have fallen by 23%

0.5%: only 0.5% of total candidates took A levels in 2011

98 % of Google employees were exposed to computers in their higher education

UK does not lead in the IT sector. Our children are adept at using the computer, but do not know much about their workings. Michael Gove, the Education Minister moved away from just using software in the ICT programme to using writing computer programs, in a major revamp of the IT course offered in this country.  Coding is the new future!

Rod Bristow, Pearson Education

Education is the principal factor for economic success. Education empowers people. Bristow’s vision is that education has to be inclusive. Everyone deserves a good education. It has to be relevant and respond to the challenges of a fast changing economy. It has to be ambitious. We lose a trillion dollar each year because of illiteracy. Writing skills and numeracy has to be a priority in primary schools. Education has to be rounded. Knowledge is of no value unless it is put into practice.

2.     Panel discussion: learning in the 21st century.

Coding was the key word in this discussion too. Apps like Memrise, Poraora were mentioned.

3.     Abdul Chohan: How technology impacts learning?

The classroom has not changed much over years. But at Essa academy they have given out iPod touches and classrooms have 60 inch screens with apple TV (for the price of a smartboard you can have two screens and TV). Essa is creating a Learning ecosystem. They are creating their own textbooks using ibooks author software.

4.     Stop teaching calculating, start teaching Maths: Conrad Wolfram

Math education is rapidly changing. ICT (information and communication technology) is the handwriting for the future generation. Many are unhappy with math education. Maths is more important than any other time in the past. Computers have changed math education. Why do we need Maths? Technical jobs and economy depend on it. Every day living requires far more quantitative skills than ever before. Lastly, Maths is fantastic for organising thought. What Wolfram proposes is the following: Teach students how to pose the right questions, transform real world problems to mathematical formulation, computation, and lastly verification of mathematical formulation. Computation is primarily done by computers and unfortunately this is what is hugely taught and assessed in exams all over the world. Maths is not calculating but is much more than that. Current Math education is ‘mechanics centred’ but we need to move towards ‘problem centred’ mathematics. We need to teach understanding and not just hand calculations. Programming is an integral part of mathematics. Composition is to English, what programming is for Maths. ‘Demonstration’ is software introduced by Wolfram to improve Math education. Assessment should involve real world problems. There is a conference in in London in November called ‘Computer Based Math’.

5.     How technology is changing the world. Technology: Richard Noss

Technology enhanced learning can be cheaper. Inclusion: adapting technology for autistic children or students who are socially different. ‘Echoes’ is a good way to learn. Blindly taking invisible models is very dangerous. Learning the learnable is what we do mostly at schools. What is necessary is the other side of the chasm. What do 21st century students need to know: Splitting problems, Teaching how things work, How to find a bug and Critiquing models. Technology is an expression media just as violin is an expression tool for a musician. Can we teach the ‘unteachable’ and learn the ‘unlearnable’.

6.     Nextgen: by Ian Livingstone

The talk was mainly focussed on programming for games.

7.       The book is dead! Long live the Kindle! by Chris Meade, John Mitchinson, Tom Chatfield

Wellington College does not have a lot of printed books. The panel discussed the relative merits and demerits of Kindle vs paper book such as attention span of students, earnings of writers, quality of writing and words in electronic media fighting in a Darwinian way to grab our attention. It was mentioned that the existing publishing model will not support mediation between publishers and readers and the future will see more and more touchscreen based multifunctional devices.

8.     Interactive Zone & Stalls

Lectrio (a course management system), Google sites, O2 learn, Acer tablets, Smartpens and technology enabled learning.


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