How Ashford Prep School are keeping up with the latest advances
Mr Nick Tiley-Nunn, Headmaster of Ashford Prep School
How are you keeping children abreast with the latest technological developments? In terms of keeping up with the latest technological developments, our Digital Steering Group always has an eye on emerging opportunities and latest developments in educational technology. We have had 1:1 devices in the school (iPads in Prep and Microsoft Surfaces in Senior) for a number of years and the confidence with which children use these devices is staggering – they are incredibly skilful and responsible users of technology. This has been vital to ensuring that even in the challenging context that we have all lived through over the last year, our pupils have not simply survived educationally but genuinely thrived and the school has been operating as close to business as usual, even when their physical classroom was the kitchen table.
What type of emerging technologies are you currently focusing on in lessons? Our curriculum at the Prep School is broad and covers a range of technologies. We have a growing focus giving our children the opportunity to experience augmented reality (AR), not only in their computing lessons, but as a way of enriching the wider curriculum and providing learning opportunities that would simply be impossible without technology. For our youngest learners in Early Years, this might be colouring that comes to life in front of their eyes through Quiver, ranging to real-time exploration of human anatomy with AR t-shirts. We will be exploring the impact of using AR to redefine learning opportunities through our own small scale action research project this year including looking at how to integrate AR into classrooms and corridors of the school with interactive displays.
Do pupils get to try their hand at robotics? Absolutely! We are very excited to have got our hands on a brand-new set of Sphero Bolt robots, which will allow our children to apply what they have learnt in their coding lessons and use it to control their very own robot to complete tasks and missions. We hope to be able to offer this opportunity to other schools in the local area through community initiatives.
What proves most popular with your pupils? The use of Minecraft in lessons has proved hugely popular, particularly in Upper Prep. I was blown away when I got to see first-hand how they had used Minecraft to create their own working example of how pollination takes place, with the children acting as virtual bees in the environment that they had created collaboratively. It reiterated the huge potential for working together as a team to create something that they would not have achieved on their own. This ability to work collaboratively, perhaps without even being in the same room, is a 21st century skill that I believe will become increasingly important given the changes to working life that we have witnessed globally over the last year.
How can you help them to develop an interest in a particular new technology? I think that fostering the ability and confidence to work iteratively; making little tweaks when something doesn’t work, is key. However, I think that the most important factors in helping young people to develop an interest in anything, not just technology, is breadth of opportunity and time. Put simply, if you want a child to develop an interest in something, they have to have the opportunity and time to experience it.
It greatly concerns me that at times we seem to have a very narrow perspective of what the formative years of education are all about as a nation. For me, it’s about nurturing happy and confident learners, broadening horizons and inspiring minds, and ensuring that every child moves on to secondary education with everything they need to be the best that they can be as they become young adults. Time to explore, create and truly challenge children rather than a race to arbitrary milestones needs to be prioritised.
We need to seriously ask ourselves what skills, knowledge, understanding and (perhaps most importantly) values we want the next generation of citizens to have. Technology will have a big role to play in the world that our children will inherit, so my view is that the earlier they can use this technology with confidence, responsibility and most importantly balance (nothing replaces the joy of a good book or time outdoors) the better.
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