The term ‘digital transformation’ has been flying around for a while, and it’s not difficult to see why.
From this year’s BETT, digital transformation trends such as virtual reality attracted a lot of attention, and not just because it’s a fun way to learn, but because it’s proving an effective tool in teaching students about the real world.
What is digital transformation?
Digital transformation in terms of education, is the application of new and emerging technologies in order to really make an impact on student learning – which, in a nutshell, means keeping up with technology that meets your goals and actually using it.
It’s important for primary schools right through to graduate education to be on a continuous journey of digital transformation, and it seems the benefits of this are slowly being recognised by schools after years of lagging behind the healthcare and finance industries to name a few.
Especially within Multi Academy Trusts (MATs). Year upon year the number of academies joining MATs is increasing, and for the Trusts these schools sit under, there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of improving student outcomes and IT harmonisation, and that’s where digital transformation can really help.
But, is digital transformation really that important? Or is it just another topic of the moment that we’ll have all forgotten about by the end of the year? We’ve looked into the ways in which digital transformation can benefit the education setting, particularly within Multi Academy Trusts, to see if there really are any advantages to having some form of strategy in place:
STEM skills shortage
According to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), 43% of vacancies within STEM roles are difficult for employers to fill due to the shortage of applicants that match these skills.
These findings only highlight the lack of skills within these industries in the UK economy, and the root cause of this growing skills shortage problem is education – from school right through to university. ICT isn’t just about teaching students how to word-process anymore, pupils are going to need to understand how a computer works and how to make it work for them.
The good news is the education sector is doing something to tackle the STEM skills shortage. With the introduction of the Computing curriculum back in 2014, coding classes within schools are now starting to become commonplace. Pupils as young as five are learning about the technology behind their laptops and smartphones along with the other transferable skills coding brings such as the ability to think logically.
Tech companies are also offering useful tools to help educators with the teaching of coding in a way they can understand too. LEGO® Education introduced WeDo 2.0 and MINDSTORMS® Education EV3, to tap into both primary and secondary schools as a way of introducing coding that allows students to be creative and have fun.
Microsoft have also gotten in on this with its Minecraft Education Edition. Microsoft launched an educational edition of one of the best-selling video games of all time back in 2016. The popular game was turned into an educational tool, teaching students a whole range of skills that they’ll need for their future careers. Whether it’s the enhancement of problem-solving or building on STEM knowledge, Minecraft is a digital transformation tool that has made coding an exciting subject to learn, which can only be a good thing.
Optimising your institution
Expanding Trusts are going to acquire academies regularly, and the chances are, they’ll all have differing IT systems, but how can the IT department reach their goal of achieving IT harmonisation within the Trust?
If the issue of integrating IT systems is left until last, the problem will only become worse as more academies join, and juggling different systems will prove to be a huge headache for both staff and students.
As more Trusts look to unify their systems in order to reduce costs and integrate key data into one place, cloud computing is usually offered up as an effective solution. Cloud computing is probably the biggest buzz word surrounding digital transformation within organisations, and since the Department for Education (DfE) approved the Microsoft Azure platform as safe for schools, the education sector is starting to see the pros to cloud computing too.
The idea that all schools within a Trust – whether there’s 5 schools or 60 – can share information securely and access resources from anywhere and at any time for a more flexible approach to learning, is pretty appealing to growing Multi Academy Trusts.
Collaboration doesn’t just need to be for the benefit of students. Teaching staff also need a professional workspace to communicate with other educators within the Trust and effectively reach out to students outside of the classroom.
There are platforms out there for educators to share best practices amongst teaching staff within academies and connect in real time within the classroom. A good example being Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft Teams became available as part of the Office 365 for Education suite last year, offering a hub for educators to save time and simplify everyday tasks such as end-to-end assignment management, offering a much faster way for educators to distribute and grade their students work.
A platform such as Teams doesn’t just allow you to complete tasks quicker, Teams brings together both staff and students in a professional learning environment where they’re able to share knowledge and reach out for help within the Trust should they need it, enhancing collaboration and knowledge within groups.
Digital transformation is very much here to stay, from elevating the classroom experience to supporting personalised learning, improving technological offerings is vital in order to stay ahead in business, and offer the best quality of education within schools.
The great thing about digital transformation is, as such a broad subject, it can have several meanings to different individuals. The digital transformation tool most schools are contemplating at the moment is augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), if you’re thinking of investing, why not download our guide to augmented reality in the classroom to get yourselves clued up: