Education is constantly evolving. Billed as one of the fastest growing tech markets in the UK, our schools collectively spend more than £900 million a year on education technology, or edtech as it’s commonly dubbed. Neither does the sector show any sign of slowing down.
Curriculums change through the years, and with them the means of presenting their educational content to school pupils. We’ve already seen chalkboards exchanged for interactive whiteboards and projectors, and textbooks largely swapped out for laptops and computers. We’re all familiar with these developments, but ground-breaking progress continues to be made.
On October 16th, 2018, the BBC published a report on a parliamentary meeting that served as a landmark event for technology in education. Based at Middlesex University, a robot named Pepper sat down with MP’s to discuss the impact that robotics and artificial intelligence have had on education, and how things could move forward in the future. While all the questions and answers were predetermined, the main thrust of the conversation with Pepper was to encourage a blend of technology and human oversight, rather than replacing one with the other.
This merger focuses on viewing technology as something that is of service to teachers and pupils rather than something to be subservient to. An LSE study has already proven that banning smartphones in schools significantly improved results, but the question worth asking is; can technology be repurposed for education’s sake?
Though robotics and AI are being introduced to the learning environment, for now they largely handle the more administrative tasks in the schooling arena. For example, they’ll record test results or manage student data. That said, the robot Pepper facilitated duties in front line learning too, such as aiding special needs children with their numeracy development. Clearly, this edtech is all of enormous help to teachers, who have been notoriously overworked for years, resigning and even falling ill from the stress of their exploited roles.
An App called Kahoot! has also made waves amongst school pupils both in the UK and the US. It allows teachers to create their own digital games that their pupils can access through the app, enhancing their learning through a fun use of technology. The app had a recorded 50 million monthly users in June 2017, which shows just how quickly edtech can gain traction in popularity. Under teacher supervision, apps enable the learning experience to become exciting and interactive in a way that textbooks, unfortunately, can’t be.
To some degree, edtech allows children to have a more prominent hand in their education. It gives them greater agency in terms of not only what they learn, but how they learn it. Technology is something that young people are very familiar with, and that same familiarity can spur their engagement in the classroom. Edtech use means that learning becomes a less passive experience; pupils can now get involved using their screens, instead of listening to teachers monologue in ways they can’t fully comprehend.
Research conducted in 2014 questioned if school pupils absorb information better when they’re taught under specific learning styles and techniques. In 2019, perhaps surprisingly, this topic of which method is best remains a hotbed for contention and controversy.
It’s well known that pupils can excel in certain subjects and may struggle to master others, and of course there’s no shame in finding anything difficult. It has rightly remained the principle of education in good schools to nurture a child’s desire to learn, rather than to relentlessly push them into acquiring top-end grades to the detriment of their wellbeing. Learning is an organic and diverse process and it suffers when enforced under superficial measures.
This said, an array of questions come into play here; can pupils decipher the information they need from blocks of text, or are more practical study methods their forte? Will they improve from class group work, or can they thrive using an online course at home? Do they need images to tackle a subject, or a teacher issuing instructions at every step?
Each learning method in the VAK model aims to ensure that every child has an access point into learning, breaking down the barriers that prevent them from fully understanding any given topic. A child who prefers visual means can, theoretically, stick to the books and videos while avoiding any physical or listening-based activity. But does it make sense to make the act of learning so linear?
Complications arise when it comes to taking each method and making them applicable to every subject. Can a visual learner use images to really understand playing sport in physical education? Can an auditory learner excel in a silent reading period of an English class? Will their future workplace cater to that singular method alone? When a pupil is confined to a singular way of learning, it may have the potential to create a paradoxical classroom culture and restrict the kinds of information they can absorb in the future too.
Moreover, a research paper in 2004 recorded as many as 71 different learning styles, but the scholars themselves cited that their endeavours were “extensive, opaque, contradictory and controversial” after accumulating their data. Again, this state of argument appears to have changed little to date. While some children did indeed find their studies to be worthwhile under a personally tailored regimen, others criticised the lack of diversity. Do we ignore the things we’re not good at, or do we work to hone our skills?
Children need to know that learning is undoubtedly for them. When it comes to getting started or exam revision, something like VAK is undoubtedly a plus. It’s okay to have favoured ways of doing things, but then again, school is about being flexible and engaging with a never-ending canvas of ideas. There should be a constant circulation of learning styles for children to acquaint themselves with – not only so they can play to their strengths, but also to improve on methods of learning that they’re not so well versed in as well.
In 2018 the BBC reported that over the last three years the number of children who are being homeschooled in the UK has risen by around 40%. It’s not hard to see why; for parents, ensuring their child’s schooling is top quality is vital, and home schooling is definitely worth consideration as the new school year starts. Whether you’re considering homeschooling for your little ones or terrible teens, choosing to self-teach offers the perfect method for many parents who seek a more hands-on approach in their children’s education. In the UK, as a parent you must ensure your child receives a full-time education from the age of 5, moving through Key Stages 1-3 and on to GCSE and potentially A-Level education.
So is homeschooling right for you? Whatever the age or abilities of your child(ren), learning from home presents many benefits. Let’s look at a few of these advantages, which may help you decide.
Two of the main reasons influencing UK parents’ decision to choose homeschooling include protecting their children’s mental health and the ability to avoid exclusion. Being in a large classroom environment can present a number of challenges for children, including exposure to bullies, feelings of inadequacy from being around superior-performing peers and being singled out for being ‘different’ from other children. Many children may feel as if they simply don’t ‘fit in’. Home schooling offers a solution to avoid these situations and protect your children’s mental health and wellbeing.
The chance to learn one-to-one rather than one-to-many offers many children the chance to feel fully involved and immersed in their own learning. This increases their chances of remaining engaged and interested in their studies. This also allows you, as a parent, to build a stronger bond with your child; to be able to identify their strengths and weaknesses and work with them on these. It is attention that they may not get in a large classroom environment.
Homeschooling allows your child to proceed through their education at their own pace rather than that of scheduled class. Every child is unique, with their own abilities, and these abilities may vary from subject to subject. If your child needs more help with Mathematics and less so with English, you can adjust their learning schedule accordingly.
This means more healthy sleeping patterns and time to study – you have the time to flex your child’s learning timetable around your lifestyle and circumstances. You can take holidays when you want, too. A definite win-win.
Homeschooling offers many benefits over more traditional school classroom study. It’s worth weighing up the pros and cons of both options before making a decision to homeschool of course, and there are plenty of resources to do this, including the UK Government’s website, which can provide further advice.
Too often we are inundated with stories of successful people’s morning routines, such as getting up at 5am to practice yoga, replying to emails and ticking off half a to-do list before even starting the working day. However, while this idea of always creating a productive morning may be inspiring to some, it may not sound remotely achievable – or appealing – to you and many others.
Oxford academic Dr Paul Kelley believes that our body’s natural rhythms are not set for such early morning starts. He called for a shift in the standard 9-to-5 work pattern of employees, claiming that the natural body clock is not accustomed to it: workers end up sleep deprived, affecting performance and output levels. Dr Kelley proposes that a more efficient starting time of 10am would suit us better during our working years, leading to lower levels of exhaustion and better gene function.
Similarly, Dr Kelley believes that children should not be expected to start school until 10am either. It is an idea that has been put to the test by a groundbreaking Oxford University experiment, and its results appear to support him. Grades increased significantly and rates of illness more than halved over a two-year period, illustrating the positive impact that better sleeping hours can have on teenagers’ performance in school. According to Dr Guy Meadows, co-founder of The Sleep School, schoolchildren in Britain take sixth position as the most sleep-deprived in the world. Losing 10 hours of sleep a week is a direct result of students being forced to get up too early since the adolescent biological rhythm is ready for sleep at midnight, as Dr Kelley points out.
As these findings and beliefs demonstrate, it is absolutely fine to not follow the standard daily work pattern imposed on us by society when it comes to our own study time. Some of us naturally work better in the evenings and into the night, meaning our mornings start off a little later than those of early-risers; others prefer to sacrifice a few hours of sleep in the morning for an earlier bedtime. Part of the journey through Higher Education is finding out what study rhythm works best for us individually and utilising it accordingly. There’s no sense in starting weekend study sessions at the crack of dawn if you know your brain won’t be buzzing with motivation until a few hours later. Likewise, if the thought of staying in the library past dinner time fills you with dread, adjust your routine to suit when your mind feels most active.
One of the things to battle with is the guilt resulting from later starts to the day, with longer hours spent in bed synonymous with attributes of laziness and lack of direction. However, as science shows, biological factors have a lot to do with how our bodies respond to traditional work patterns. It’s time for a societal change and a better understanding of our natural body rhythms.
The prospects for geography students at university certainly hold promise for their future employability; a study of graduate unemployment rates six months after graduation by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit charity showed that geography, along with psychology graduates, were least likely to be unemployed.
Studying geography equips young people with a wide range of transferable skills which employers are keen to see: skills in numeracy, teamwork and project work gained through field trips, applied analytical and research skills and the ability to use a variety of computing applications. In an economically and environmentally challenged world, the diverse disciplines of ‘soft’ social sciences of human geography blend with the ‘hard’ sciences of physical geography, to give students a unique overview of the complexities facing our planet and its inhabitants. The subject brings an awareness of how to navigate socio-cultural differences required to address global issues and gain an understanding of natural disasters and their possible prevention.
This also means we require increased private and public sector investment in geographical science research and application; the creation of jobs which will improve the future for our planet and its inhabitants. If we consider natural disasters alone, specifically studies on storm and flood disasters, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, the amount of incidents have risen by 7.4 percent annually in recent decades.
Not that we need to be reminded, of course. In 2014, the UK suffered its worst rainfall in at least 248 years. Thousands of homes across the country were flooded, culminating in an estimated more than £1.1bn of damage. This could be the start of things to come – with the Met Office predicting that global warming could mean heavy summer downpours are five times more likely by the end of the century. Perhaps now, more than ever, our planet pleads – invest in geography.
In 1957, Russia sent Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, into space. America’s response was a promise to send a man to the moon. It was the then President Kennedy who made this risky claim, but it was met in 1969 when, on 20th July, Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the Eagle lunar module on the Moon.
Eventually the Cold War ended, and the USA and USSR decided to work together. Since then, although space exploration has continued remotely, the race for physical discovery in Outer Space appears to have subsided. Or has it? In recent weeks, a film celebrating the life of Buzz Aldrin, First Man, hit the big screen. Its reflection on an original ‘Man on the Moon’ comes as a new space race is gathering pace. Rather than government bodies such as NASA running the race however, it is the billionaires of America who have their hands on the controls.
The Falcon Heavy car, made by one such billionaire Elon Musk’s (above, right) Tesla company, was produced so that he could start exploring the possibility of carrying tourists on “slingshot” trips around the moon. As The Economist reports, ‘Mr Musk’s ambition is to propel humanity beyond its home planet…. In the days of the space race between America and the Soviet Union, the heavens were a front in the cold war between two competing ideologies. Since then, power has not merely shifted between countries. It has also shifted between governments and individuals.’ For his part, when speaking to The Guardian, Musk underlined the assertion with enthusiasm: “We want a new space race,” he said, “Races are exciting.”
Musk is not the only one to have taken over from space agencies like NASA and their main contractors, Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos beat Musk to landing a reusable rocket through his own company, Blue Origin, and the UK billionaire Richard Branson and a slew of other entrepreneurs have followed with lighter-lift rockets.
Phil Larson, a senior science adviser in Barack Obama’s White House and a former SpaceX official, explains, “There are many new rockets being developed, some light, some super-heavy, some in between.” There are some inevitable concerns. NASA has strict safety requirements for human spaceflight, but there are fears the new breed of explorers won’t always adhere to them in their race to be the first to reach the next popular goal.
NASA is preparing for a return of American astronauts to the moon, and last year China deemed an expanse of desert in the country’s north-west to be sufficiently Martian to be reserved as a training ground for Mars-bound “taikonauts”. China is not working alone in this, though. For the first time, Pakistan appears to be entering a space race, this time with rivals India. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has said that, “Pakistan will send a human to space for the first time in 2022, with China’s help.”
Meanwhile, India is promoting itself as a low-cost provider of rocket launch services for overseas satellite projects. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is no stranger to space exploration. The ISRO has already sent remote exploratory missions to Mars and intends to be the first to reach the Moon’s south pole in 2019. They also plan, in 2022, to send a crew of three astronauts on a seven-day orbit of Earth. As The Economist reports, “If the mission is successful, India will become only the fourth country in the world to independently develop a manned space flight, following in the footsteps of the former Soviet Union, US and China.”
While the race to reach the Moon has already been won, there is much still to learn. Mars features high on the wish list of the space explorers of the modern age. But who’ll win the next race? The established space agencies or a rich billionaire who has always dreamt of walking amongst the stars?
I am a complete book worm. I love reading, delving into new worlds, learning new things and improving my vocabulary. In my opinion, you should too! Here are some reasons why…
In my first years of studying I took an English course to improve my language skills. It was a nice surprise then, when I found out two of the books we had to read were already on my own ‘to read’ list! I thought this was wonderful because not only was I able to study and understand the language of these books, but got to enjoy the course in many more ways. It didn’t feel like work, which is always the dream!
So, what are the benefits of reading, and can I convince more of you to do it?
I have a rule that every night I do my best to read a few chapters before going to bed. Since doing so I have had much longer and deeper sleep and find I am more productive throughout the day. Reading helps you forget your worries as you focus on the story. After a few chapters, things will seem much less stressful than they did before. The article linked below adds more to the case.
I have just finished reading Deborah Harkness’ vampire trilogy and could not believe how many facts and so much history one author packed into such them! It’s amazing what you can discover when you pick up a book and start reading. You could even find an interest in something you’d never heard of before.
One of the best things about reading is it can improve your memory no matter what your age. It has also been linked to longevity, helping to prevent Alzheimer’s and just keeping your memory sharper than it would be without. So why wouldn’t you want to read? The link below has more about this.
Sometimes you can feel like you’ve hit a brick wall with a particular essay. This may mean you need a break, but rather than watching some TV, I find that picking up a book unrelated to your course can give your mind a better chance to relax and think more clearly. It’s a great way to press pause and will often help us to go back and break that wall.
Ever been sat on the sofa or propped up in bed with a good book, glanced over at the clock and realised a few hours have passed since you sat down? Well that is a sure sign your focus is working and a great indication that you’re relaxing too. When reading you are focusing on all the words, the story, turning pages and thinking ahead, which is a lot of multitasking, meaning your focus is automatically improved!
The next time you’re undecided whether to pick something off the shelf to read, then, I recommend you don’t hesitate!
Imagine if everything you had ever been told was wrong. We are told ‘facts’ and stories all our lives – but how can we know what we are being told is right?
When my daughter first started trying to convince me to home educate her, I countered her arguments ‘for’ with arguments ‘against’ that I had learned from other people: “You need to go to school to socialise with children your age;” “You are better off getting help from a teacher face-to-face;” “You need your peers at school to help you problem-solve”.
The problem was that each response I gave always came with a niggling doubt, mainly because I knew that my years spent studying at home with the Open University were far better and more rewarding than the years I spent studying for my degree with a bricks and mortar ‘traditional’ university. Added to that were my twelve years as a school governor (six as Chair) at a large primary school, where I felt the pushing for targets, associated paperwork and policies, all overshadowed the well-being of the children. I was also concerned that creativity and physical education were being pushed out by government targets and always had that same niggling doubt in my mind that ‘maybe this isn’t the best way’.
Further thought brought me to the realisation that for each ‘against’ I thought of, my brain seemed to automatically register a solution. I knew that socialisation wouldn’t be a problem; I have friends who home-educate and meet up regularly with other home-educating families. There are also numerous opportunities for voluntary work and I knew that if my daughter found some voluntary work in an area that interested her, she would be far more likely to meet like-minded friends with shared interests. The local riding stables are top of the list at the moment. Is she self-disciplined enough? Having watched her concentrate on her work, planning her days, and having her ask me relevant questions, I know the answer is yes. So long as the subject interests her, she will have no trouble completing the work. And that’s the beauty of home schooling – the children can choose the subjects that interest them.
My daughter has had an interest in video editing and IT for a long time – years – and I feel that they are something that she could make a successful career out of. Home-schooling, combined with some ‘unschooling’ (while she works on her video editing and IT) seemed like the ideal combination to give her a strong start in her working adult life.
And so our journey into home schooling has begun. It’s early days yet but the support so far from Oxford Home Learning has been impressive and I can honestly say that, as yet, I haven’t had any regrets in taking this path.
We understand that waiting to find out your exam results can be an extremely nerve-wracking experience. It is important to know that feeling some kind of stress is a completely natural reaction. But, if it becomes persistent, if it never gives you a moment’s peace, it is important to take action to stop those nerves from affecting your health and well-being.
Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at Priory Group has looked at ways you can reduce your stress to prevent it from affecting your physical and mental health. Some of her suggestions are as below.
It’s Good to Talk
There will always be someone you can talk to when you feel worried about your exam results or your future. Whether it is a parent, carer or friend, you should discuss your thoughts and emotions with them when you feel troubled. A parent might be able to help you challenge your worries by providing you with evidence that your thoughts are not a balanced view. For example, they will be able to reassure you about how much revision you did and how well you have performed in past exams.
You may want someone to lend an ear or distract you with a quick chat or offer of advice. By taking the time to access this emotional support, you have the opportunity to let off steam and is so doing prevent your feelings from boiling over. There are also supportive charities like Child Line and the Samaritans who can be contacted anonymously over the phone or through web chat.
When you get anxious, your “fight or flight” response kicks in, where your body releases adrenaline and increases your heart rate. Breathing deeply can help your body to settle down to a more natural state. Imagine, then, blowing into a balloon: As you take a deep breath in, notice your stomach rising as you allow your lungs to take in the maximum amount of air. Then slowly breathe out imagining you are filling the balloon with air. Try and do this three times.
Keep Yourself Busy
Try and ensure you have structure and activities each day. For example, give yourself a project to complete over the summer, look at voluntary or part-time work, organise social activities with your friends and help out at home. If you keep yourself busy, you have less time to sit and dwell on your thoughts. You will also feel better about yourself as you have been able to achieve something.
Getting Good Quality Sleep
We understand that getting a good night’s sleep may seem impossible because of your nerves, but it is important to try your hardest to get into a good routine. Go to bed and wake up at similar times every day, and make your bedroom a relaxing space, with any screens turned off at least an hour before bedtime. Avoid caffeinated drinks in the hours before bedtime and try to fit in at least twenty minutes of exercise each day – but again, not too close to bedtime.
Form a Plan for Results Day
Think about all the possible outcomes on results day, and jot them down. Then, write a potential plan for each one. For example, if you were to get your expected grades, what happens; If you get lower than expected, what would your next steps be?
This can help you to recognise that there are options and a future for you, regardless of what happens. It can stop yourself from worrying about the unknown, because it means you have a plan for every scenario.
Tackle Your Negative Thoughts
It is easy to gravitate towards the worst case scenario when you’re feeling anxious. Do you believe you failed your exam spectacularly? Do you think you’re going to get terrible grades across the board? There are steps you can take to question and alter these thoughts:
Then, write down a healthier way of thinking about the situation. For example, instead of thinking that you’ve failed an exam, you may want to think, “I know it was tough, but I worked so hard that I know I tried it my best. I’m proud of the work I put in.”
Completing this activity at the end of every day will stop you from focusing on potential negative outcomes during this stressful time.
If your stress levels don’t seem to be getting any better, you should visit your GP. They will be able to provide you with the right support you may need at this time.
Getting-and staying-organised is certainly easier said than done. Many struggle to stick to their deadlines and maintain a structure to daily life, be it at work and studies or in general tasks. As a student, it’s a real hassle to have to attend school, study, and find an organisation system that works for you. Most students have no idea where to start from when it comes to keeping everything in order. There are, however, a few general tips to help you get started:
You should pay particular attention to the second part of this point: prioritise. Making a to-do list is the easiest thing when trying to be organised. You will most likely include both trivial and important tasks on it. The most important ones may also be the most time-consuming. Make sure that you tackle the significant tasks first as it is when you start with your list that you have more energy to pursue what is on it. If you deal with the minor items on your list first, in the hope of crossing them out and feeling good about yourself, I would suggest that you think long-term; the most important tasks will be there haunting you.
Have a study schedule. As a student, this should be your priority. A study schedule can help you prioritise and keep up with your homework and assignments. Make sure to include an estimate of the time each subject will take as well as its deadline. If you are unsure or simply want a second opinions, you can always consult your teacher.
Speaking of a study schedule, there is nothing more counterproductive than missing out on deadlines. Doing so may result in you not being able to keep up with the old and new material. Additionally, this will probably affect your grade and the whole point of a deadline is to prevent that from happening. So, make sure that you have all the deadlines for your assignments and try to prepare beforehand. Try not to leave anything for last minute.
This will greatly help you when you are considering how you want to divide your time. Beginning when you get the assignment leaves you room for more meticulous research and, once again, you won’t have to deal with stress or struggle with the idea that you could have done a better job.
Here comes the fun part! Spend some time creating a playlist that gets you motivated. Music is a great influence, so try to find the one that gets you psyched. Beware though, you should not spend more time creating a playlist than you would on your actual assignments.
Telling someone about your plans, your assignments, and how you are thinking of staying organised can help keep you accountable. Try telling that to a person who you know will be checking on you and is interested in your process.
What screams ‘job well done’ for you? Do that! Once you are done with all the items on your list, reward yourself with something that relaxes you and makes you happy. It could be an hour of video games, going out with your friends, or simply listening to your favourite music. Whatever it is, do not abuse it. Try to reward yourself only when you feel that you are truly done with your list. If, for example, you cross out one insignificant item and reward yourself, you will probably not fully enjoy it as there will be something weighing heavily on you. Make sure that you deserve that reward and work really hard for it.
How do you stay organised? Do you have any tips? If so, please share them with us!