I’ve just come back from listening to Michael Gove’s speech at BETT. It was announced in advance that he was going to talk about the use of technology and as Gove isn’t particularly famous for promoting the role of technology in education, I’d been looking forward to his speech.
I have to say, this was one of the best speeches I have heard him deliver. He reflected extensively on the role of technology in wider society, paid attention to the great heritage of British innovations and recognised that the UK is in many ways a world leader in learning technologies.
Even so, although he described a rapidly changing world, he concluded his introduction by saying that a Victorian school teacher could enter a 21st century classroom and still feel completely at home because teaching continues to be delivered in a similar fashion today as it was a hundred years ago.
Gove’s message and prediction is that this will not continue anymore. He argued that thanks to technology learning will look very different in 20, perhaps even 10 years time. Although hesitating, for good reasons, to dictate exactly how this will happen. He mentioned gaming technologies as important tools to get young people engaged in and stimulated by their learning and adaptive learning environments as essential if we are to truly personalise computer based learning. He also recognized that technology will enable teachers and students to assess learning in a way that outperforms any existing solutions.
So, on the whole, I think Michael Gove surprised the audience with a thoughtful and insightful speech providing the necessary political support for educators to continue to innovate and to use technology to fundamentally transform not only how learning takes place in schools, but also what students study.
In this regard, he made a welcome announcement saying that the government intend to open a consultation on withdrawing the existing National Curriculum Programme of Study for the ICT GCSE. Instead, they are looking at introducing a far more rigorous exam focusing on computer science due to the thorough grounding it requires in logic and set theory. And unlike the existing ICT qualification he is open to allowing such an exam to become an option within the English Baccalaureate.
So, Gove is still Gove. But, the idea that technology will be important or could even be the important vehicle for transforming education in the future is the real winner on this very first day of BETT 2012.