Teachers as experts, personalised learning and educational technology: Bett 2023 highlights
As the London Bett show drew to a close last week, my colleagues and I on the Maths — No Problem! Product Team found ourselves reflecting on why this year’s themes resonated so strongly with us, especially compared with previous years.
In Bett 2023, there was a noticeable focus on personalisation of learning for pupils — from AI to student wellbeing — and how to achieve positive student outcomes despite ever-challenging budget constraints.
The potential of technology in education
Before Covid, many of us felt that Edtech rarely lived up to its promises of transformative change and reducing teacher workload. (There isn’t a primary school in the country without a stack of hardware gathering dust in a cupboard and a server full of software that likewise didn’t live up to the promised results.)
For at least the last decade at Bett, experts have spoken passionately about the potential of technology in education, urged school leaders to evaluate the latest evidence presented by the technology industry and tried to explain how to get the most from various pieces of hardware and software that may or may not still be in use.
The teacher is the expert, not the tech
This year seemed different. We heard from the teachers themselves who described the impact some of the latest tech is having on their learners. We liked what leaders such as Anthony Lees and David James from the Cornerstone Academy Trust had to say: “The teacher is the expert on the child, not the tech.”
These days, teachers tend to talk about tech with a calm, evaluative approach and with a strong focus on personalised learning for their pupils in their context. This is an improvement from the old days when computers were seen as all good and books and notebooks all bad. The boring truth is that what works for one classroom activity doesn’t work for another, just as what one child or group needs is often completely different from what others need. Personalisation IS key, and tech is another tool to help teachers do their jobs more effectively.
How Maths – No Problem! is balancing print and technology
So, our Product Team started thinking: Where does Maths – No Problem! fit into all of this? Our approach for the future is a balance of print AND tech in the form of giving teachers the best possible tools, resources and training because in the end, this is what benefits pupils the most. We focus on giving schools what they need, when they need it, irrespective of mode of delivery.
If you're lucky enough to get a ticket for the Maths — No Problem! conference in Manchester, you'll hear maths mastery pioneer Dr Yeap Ban Har address this very subject. Ban Har reminds us that teachers are the real education experts, whether they’re using an iPad or a notepad.
Teachers, not tech, make the difference to pupils
When it comes to technology in schools, the level of interactivity may differ but this is the truth: teachers are what make the difference to pupils; It’s the same whether they’re analysing detailed assessment data from Insights or projecting an engaging anchor task on a whiteboard.
Schools need to find the confidence and the language to explain this when faced with the pressure to simply “move with the times” or, as some still say, “get with the 21st century.” (Will you tell them or shall I?)
Teachers, not tech, play the key role in education
It may sadly still be culturally acceptable to say you’re not a maths person in a way it is not acceptable to say you’re not a person who can read and write. This was explored in a Bett talk by Sandra Elliott from TouchMath in which she challenged schools to look at the funding and focus they place on mathematics teaching and learning compared with literacy. We need to develop a love of maths in all primary aged pupils to provide them with the skills they will undoubtedly need for the future. To do this, we will also need to develop teacher confidence to deliver this learning.
At Maths — No Problem! we are committed to the importance of the role of the teacher, supported by tech to achieve this. Our key takeaway from this year’s Bett was the welcome recognition that teachers, not tech, play the key role in a child’s education. Look out for some exciting announcements from us about this topic related to our award-winning Primary Series in the coming months.
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