The Learning Landscape – Report
Nine panellists are asked the big questions in this fast paced session…
- Educational content continues to have a viable future in schools, but there are challenges in terms of budget and resources.
- Games continue to prove their worth as teaching resources – but ultimately it lies with the schools to determine what gets used in a pedagogical way.
- Measuring the success or failure of digital initiatives continues to be a challenge for researchers.
This session was a quick fire look at the challenges surrounding educational content in today’s industry. It was set up with nine panellists, who took it in turn to address five provocative statements.
1. “There are no real business opportunities in education.”
As the first panellist to respond, Lewis Bronze discussed the limited UK funding involved, and that businesses working within this market are “fighting over a fairly small cake” so it can be difficult to develop a viable commercial model within such a competitive environment. In the end, he explained, “it’s all about service”.
Romana Thibaut-Ayeni believed there “ is room for growth “ especially in the English as a second language field, and especially “if you crack digital books, or personalisation”
Ultimately, as Christopher Bradford explained, we are at a time of rapid change, and rapid change usually results in opportunities from a business perspective, “Play catch up – that’s were the opportunity is.”
2. “No one wants to play an educational game, do they?”
The panel’s response to this was ultimately summarised by the “chocolate covered broccoli” theory. Children will ultimately play educational games if they are of a high quality, and that the games don’t fight the educational content, but let the educational content blend within the game. Civililsation, SimCity, MineCraft and Angry Birds were cited as games that aren’t obviously educational, but do have educational merits for the classroom. And as Phil Stuart stated, ”Any game can have educational context, it’s just about unlocking that game for education”.
But as Julian Wood warned, “The difficulty is spotting learning opportunities within games” and how the teachers use it.
3. “Brands and businesses have no place in the classroom”
Martin Finn presented us with a convincing argument against this statement, claiming large companies can bring a lot to the classroom – helping with contextualised learning, providing a window into the world of work, raising aspirations and providing inspirational role models for the students. They also have the potential to connect with students in ways that their authoritarian tutors are unable.
However, concerns were raised regarding the brands motives, and that educators would need to examine what businesses are fit for purpose.
4. “There’s no evidence that digital content enhances learning”
This proved to be the trickiest statement to discuss, highlighting the difficultly of the subject itself. The general consensus seemed to be that it is a challenge to produce data on a moving target, and the digital market place won’t sit still. In addition to this, it’s often hard to measure the successes within the classroom (as Wood explains, kids are definitely improving their writing skills by using tablets, but “where’s the evidence?”)
5. “Teachers are afraid of technology, so they won’t use your work anyway”
As a subject close to his heart, Julian Wood explained that this statement relates to “a profession that is pressed for time – so quality is important – simplicity is important – it’s got to be really useful. If we get all these right, teachers will use it.”
6. “It’s impossible to make learning materials without a publisher – you can’t do it alone”
The starting point for this conversation, was a quick clip of Chris Thorne, the entrepreneurial teacher who started MrThorne.Com, but he was soon shown to be the exception to the rule, and the general conclusion pointed towards the benefit of partnering with larger companies.
Teachers who have good ideas for learning materials face significant challenges within the marketplace. Moreover, they’re lack of research facilities may mean that their idea has already been done. As Sophie Thomson states, “There is real value that publishers can add… If you partner with a big company you are more likely to get a product out there, and you will need investment to keep your product going in such a changing technology.”
Full details of the speakers can be found in the Session Guide.
LEGup and Edugameshub
Chief Operating Officer & Head
Lewis Bronze M.B.E.
Director of Content and Co-Founder
Dr John Potter
Institute of Education
Senior Lecturer, Education and New Media Departmental Postgraduate Research Tutor
Co-Founder and Creative Director
Product Development Director
Founder of Mr Thorne Does Phonics
Year 2 Class Teacher at The Phoenix School, UCS
Wybourn Community Primary School, Sheffield
Assistant Head Teacher and Year 3 teacher