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Back to school – what’s ahead for 2016/2017?

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Our new micro:bit breakout board

As the beginning of September and the rain and clouds set in, it’s end of playtime and back to the classroom for most in the education business across the UK. As always, the start of an academic year brings together old and new, fresh ideas and familiar routines. Over the past year we have seen how the BBC micro:bit project and internet of school things concepts are bringing education to the forefront of technology innovation. The introduction of the core practical syllabus at GCSE on the other hand has enabled teachers to rediscover the more traditional technology of datalogging as a way of enhancing practical science in the classroom. Looking at the year ahead, there are plenty of opportunities to improve the user-experience for more traditional approaches while developing new technologies which will potentially disrupt and revolutionise education in STEM subjects.

One of our most exciting projects last year involved carrying out an innovative internet of school things project in collaboration with the Infocomm Development Agency of Singapore. Five schools in Singapore were provided with a range of newly developed internet of things dataloggers and weather stations which connected to an online portal where they could gather their own live data and share it with other schools. There was great engagement from Singapore teachers who were excited to see the learning potential in the new technology and, as a result, it looks as though more opportunities for the internet of school things are on the horizon both in Singapore and in the UK. As these projects develop we hope to see an ever expanding internet of school things that will bring education into the wider internet of things phenomenon.

While it was disappointing that delays in the BBC micro:bit project meant that many teachers were unable to use their micro:bits last academic year, we are optimistic that this September will see many teachers using the device to create new projects and enhance their coding teaching. With the completion of the roll out before the summer holidays, we hope that teachers will have had good time to get to grips with the device and will be excited about using it in their lessons this term. To that end, we’re launching a number of products which extend the micro:bit’s learning capabilities, including a breakout board giving the micro:bit access to 12 more input/output channels, a smart plant watering system and coderkits, which combine the coding element of the micro:bit with basic electronics. The micro:bit has the potential to transform coding across the country so we’re looking forward to seeing many more ideas and designs produced by young people everywhere as they crack out their micro:bits for the year ahead.

Finally we’re keen to see more emphasis on the practical experience of science this second year of the core practical syllabus. Several exam boards have specified the use of traditional datalogging equipment such as lightgates, colorimeters and pH sensors for their core practical experiments but we also hope this will help teachers and students to realise the potential of datalogging in wider science applications. Many students are using technology in every aspect of their lives except their science lessons but if school is to produce the scientists and innovators of the future then educators need to focus on bringing technology into the classroom. We believe that ensuring students have a basic familiarity with datalogging is the first step towards truly innovative projects such as the internet of school things.

All in all, it looks like a promising year ahead for education technology and we look forward to seeing more projects, developments and innovations from teachers, students and everyone invested in this generation’s future.

What do you think is on the horizon for education in technology this academic year? Add a comment here to share your thoughts and ideas:

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