Ofsted has highlighted that of the British schools it visits annually, some 800 (14 per cent) have been assessed as satisfactory for at least their last two inspections. I believe there are four challenges facing education at the moment.
• Tackling failure – helping schools that fail to improve year on year;
• Increasing the ambitions of students;
• Improving teaching; and
• Narrowing the gap between schools that perform well and those that do not.
Meanwhile, additional education budget cuts may be on the cards in the coming years, so education institutions need to save money while tackling their challenges.
Improving standards of education is tough. Just look at the recent teacher strikes.
More often than not, though, the complicated issues involved will require bespoke offerings, which is where VARs can prove vital.
Teachers are struggling to adapt to new technologies that should be helping them. So I believe the time is ripe for VARs to team up with educationalists to ensure schools get the most from the technology they are touted.
I see IT innovation and cross-school collaboration happening in an attempt to address some of the problems teachers face. Some smaller rural schools, for example, can now access the same information and services as larger institutions, as well as share specialist teachers.
I have read that teachers are seeing the potential for videoconferencing as a collaboration tool in schools. Some are already using videoconferencing in the classroom.
We have been working with schools in Dumfries and Galloway to get videoconferencing into schools. I believe it benefits both children and teachers.
For example, some are now holding language classes in conjunction with a school in France, ecology and environmental studies alongside a school in the Caribbean, and music lessons with a New York music school. One school has also linked up with a provider in Poland for home economics classes.
This has all been done via videoconferencing.
The results have been outstanding. I believe that teaching via videoconferencing encourages students to become autonomous learners. A child in control of his or her environment is more likely to take responsibility for their learning.
Empowering children in their education leads to students who take responsibility for their own learning, and who are more likely to make the effort to engage with the teacher in complex interactions.
Teachers are also seeing the advantage of being able to include more students in a class, or reach home-based or remotely located students, or enable absentees to view a recording of a class later on.
Videoconferencing allows teachers to meet at the end of the day to go through the curriculum, discuss individual students and help them develop their own skills. They can share ideas and facilitate continuous personal development sessions with staff at other schools.
I believe the dynamics of the classroom are changing, and teachers are crying out for help. In many parts of the country, students are not getting the education they need. These institutions need trusted advisers to help them use technology to improve their performance.
Daniel Weisbeck is EMEA vice president of marketing at Polycom
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