Podcast | Season 1 | Episode 7: The Role of Technology in Improving Social Mobility
What impact does EdTech have on social mobility? How can we best prepare young people for future opportunities and ensure lifelong learning? What impact does the Government’s National Retraining Scheme have on teaching and learning? This conversation is chaired by Andy Mellor (National Immediate Past President, NAHT), with panellists Nancy Wilkinson (Senior Programme Manager, Nesta), Professor David Brown (Professor of Interactive Systems for Social Inclusion, Nottingham Trent University) and John Cope (Head of Education & Skills Policy, Confederation of British Industry). This panel discussion was recorded live on 14th November 2019, in the Main Stage of the Schools & Academies Show at the NEC in Birmingham.
Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to our next session, our panel session on technology and the role of technology in improving social mobility. So we've had to just begin by asking everybody to introduce themselves and just say a little bit about who they are, where they're from.
So I'm Nancy Wilkinson, and I work at an organisation called Nesta. So Nesta is an innovation foundation, which basically means we try and work on different problems particularly to do with social good and we find new ways of doing tackling those. And education is a real focus for us in our organisation. And I'll tell you in a second, a little bit about some of our work that we're doing on edtech. But a bit about my background. So I have worked in education policy for the last eight years, and I'm now leading our work at Nesta on education technology. I'm also a school governor in a small Primary School in Tower Hamlets in London. So I see as well as some of the day to day challenges of working with schools, particularly from disadvantaged communities. So just very briefly on Nesta's work in edtech. So we working in partnership with the Department for Education, to help schools and colleges make more effective use of technology. We think it has some real potential to do some great things in our education sector, but it often doesn't live up to expectations, it can often be difficult to use. It's difficult for schools to know what to choose that's right for them. So we have two programs that we're working on. One is a grant funding program, which we announced yesterday, some of the winners of that grant funding, which are all digital tools that we think can be really helpful for schools and teachers, particularly in tackling teacher workload. And the second half of our program is our edtech innovation testbed. So that's an opportunity for schools and colleges to take part in trying out technology for free with working with an external evaluator to really get to grips on what's working so we can get some better evidence for what's out there. So this is my tiny plug. Applications for schools and colleges are open now. So if anyone has any questions about that specifically, you can find me afterwards but yeah, really excited for the discussion. Thank you.
Professor David Brown
So good afternoon. My name is David Brown. I'm Professor of interactive systems for social inclusion at Nottingham Trent University. I'm principal investigator for three European and I said European grants. One is to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to create personalised learning systems for students with autism and learning disabilities. But also for students in higher education, you might be surprised to find that students in higher education aren't always engaged in the learning process. So I've developed projects on educational robotics on serious games, and more recently on digital game based making as well, not just using games, but making games as well. More recently, we have another ESRC funded project. And I'm looking at the well being of young students in education. So again, we use sensor data that might be we're co creating objects, which are networked that children use in schools and the sensor data that can interpret their level of anxiety and we can then introduce non medicalised approaches to intervene. So we're looking at personalised learning systems, virtual reality, augmented reality, robotics, game making, and well being.
Okay, how do I follow that? Hello, my name is John Cope, and I'm Head of Education and Skills Policy at the CBI. The Confederation of British Industry represents about 190,000 businesses also. So my job is kind of one foot in business, listen to CEOs, managing directors of companies of all sizes, all sectors across the UK and internationally. But also we have a sort of a microcosm of the education system in membership as well says that 80 or 90 universities that are members of the CBI, including Nottingham Trent, with 40 or 50 colleges are members. We also have really strong links with school trusts, as well as the independent sector. So I kind of come at this from a from both angles and in those conversations. ones that I have for business leaders, it doesn't take very long until the topic of conversation goes to education skills, it does tend to be the number one priority for them. And it's that kind of mix of wanting a more productive, more vibrant economy. Combined with that kind of social good aspects of education, make sure everyone gets a good start in life. And I have a really strong belief actually, the employers have a huge role to play education skills, and a mentor or point officer role, the duty to do so to get involved with schools getting by with colleges and universities. And too often that role can be not quite as advanced as it could be. And I suppose the thing I would add about my work at the CBI education skills is that we come from the start point, but there is no reason why a young person shouldn't have a fantastic career. Every young person should have that career. There is no reason why you should have regional differences, why different young people from different backgrounds should start their career in a different way. So we come from that start point that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. And and employers have a role in affecting that. And despite the million plus, or so students who they're good or outstanding school, and over the last 10 years or so, despite the very welcome, focus on rigor and knowledge in the curriculum, and also the sort of innovation in education that a lot of Multi Academy Trusts are pursuing, it still remains the case that there is a significant disadvantage gap means young people at the age of 16 can be nearly two years behind the more advantaged peers. And from a CBI perspective, not only is that morally questionable, and we allow that situation to happen, but actually that disadvantage gap is lost business leaders, it's lost scientists, it's lost innovators, lost leaders of the future. And we have a duty to address it.
Thank you very much. And I'm going to start the questioning off with a little reflection really of my own IT digital background in that when I started teaching, and we didn't have computers, and and we certainly didn't have the digital natives that we now have in our classrooms. And I've got two daughters, who, you know, the the technology is as comfortable with them as a book, you know, as it was with when I was growing up. So, in terms of the future, what skills are young people our digital natives going to need for the future? And how can schools provide them when they're staffed by a lot of people who weren't digital natives? Maybe Nancy first?
Yeah, very happy to take this one first. And I actually think so. So I think it's a really interesting question, and I actually feel like there's some of the skills that are most needed in the kind of work. I was on a panel yesterday talking about the fourth industrial revolution. So I don't really like that term that much. But considering technology is changing all of our lives and automation is going to change lots of the jobs that young people are going to go into in the future. I actually kind of think, alongside the digital skills that you've mentioned, it's the skills or kind of more human skills that we really need to foster in young people. Things like collaboration and problem solving, we know is really important teamwork, as well as the social and social and emotional skills and resilience that are going to be so important in our in our changing world as we as we all know it. Nesta produce some research a couple of years ago on the future of work and found that the skills I've just mentioned, those are most likely to grow in the future world of work and be important. So I think although we do completely appreciate that the role of technology and people need to have access to that, but actually, it's alongside those human skills that will make the real difference to people and how they thrive in the future.
Professor David Brown
I'm just I mean, we've all read the reports, everybody needs the four C's communication, collaboration, creativity. And what was the other one? Another thing. From my point of view, it's very interesting if people can develop problem solving skills, so I'm very into that. And also, I think also and working with students with a learning disability, but also higher education students to understand your own level of engagement is really important. What engages you as a learner is very important. Because without engagement, deep learning is not possible. So we're developing systems that monitor engagement, and this uses sensor data. It can be you know, people always telling me, facial recognition is a bad thing. And I work in AI. So I think we can use AI really positively becuase I can see where people looking on a screen I can see their body posture, I can see their facial features. And from that and interaction data, working with keyboards, and, and a mouse, we can determine by machine learning just how engaged students are, whether they're engaged, bored or frustrated. And we can use that to alter the learning experience, so that all students are supported to reach their full potential, whether they can afford education or not. And that resources very scarce resources can be directed to those in greatest need. So think that and problem solving and if you then we have a project which is digital game making a European project, which we made accessible to people with a range of physical, cognitive, and sensory impairments. And if we can create encouraging people to do problem solve learning, problem based learning, creating projects, creating games for the curriculum subjects, then that leads to better knowledge of their subjects, but also leads to better engagement, collaboration, and increased instances about better behavior too. So I think technology, tech, and playing and building things is potentially one of the answers.
And I suppose I would make two points, one about news get a sense of urgency, on fourth industrial revolution, and it's far more complex than we think. And then I'll say a little bit about some of these the four C's, these competencies, skills, frameworks, whatever you want to call them. And so I suppose on the on the first point about the fourth industrial revolution, we need to stop pretending that it's an upcoming event. We're in the fourth Indus revolution is happening, and we keep talking about it like it's sort of about to happen, you know, a lot of the a lot of the impacts of the fourth interest revolution of AI automation and things like that have been happening for a good decade or so. So there is a sense of urgency that we still need to get on this. And that impact of AI and automation is incredibly complex. So everyone's experience of it will be very different. In each sector of the economy, each level, each seniority in a business will be affected very differently. And the one thing that the fourth interest revolution, and kind of is different to previous revolutions that the agrarian and the industrial revolution is their effect all levels of society, the previous industry revolutions tended to impact the low skill and low pay jobs, whereas the fourth revolution is quite as likely to have an impact on what we currently consider to be very high skill, very high paid jobs. So you think about finance, very easy to automate, very easy to use AI and huge swathes of the financial sector. So you know, we can look at the kind of sectors that currently we because it'll be very high paid, very high skilled, actually, they're as vulnerable as drivers. For instance, obviously, the automation of cars would affect. So there's a sense of urgency, the fourth industrial revolution, there's a need to have a nuanced view that will impact all of us in in different ways. And it also needs to be set alongside other challenges that we have. You think about life expectancy as your most favorite statistics that in the last century, for every four hours that past, life expectancy increased by an hour is absolutely astonishing that and that for the entire the last century, that was happening, what that means is that people like me will be working well into their 80s. And if will retire at all. And so the idea that actually we front load education, the idea that we can pour as much education as possible by the age of 18, and 21. If that ever was possible, that idea is certainly dead by now. And then the need to go into lifelong learning is incredibly important. And the second point I was going to make around the sort of frameworks and skills and you have a five pound for every skills framework, I was asked to look at and say just this, will this make the young person work ready, I'd be a very wealthy person. And we did a bit of a literature review of all these frameworks. And you can find about 200 of them. They all use different language, different interpretations, different perspectives on the same thing. And if I'm honest, one of the big problems we have is there are so many of these frameworks, it's deeply confusing for both employers, teachers and young people to actually understand what are the skills that we need? So in order to try and cut through that a little bit, we're at CBI, we set out as a kind of an attempt to answer the question, what does it mean for a young person to work ready? It comes down to three quite simple things. First and foremost is knowledge. There's no escaping that actually knowledge rich curriculum is absolutely vital. All, you know, the too often we slip into Oh, but we've got Google, or you've got all the knowledge the human knows in the phone. Well actually, if you don't know how to start point, you don't know what you're looking for. So actually, we should never forget the importance of knowledge. The second part of what it means to work ready is actually to apply that knowledge in a real world setting. You know, there's no point in knowing how many wives Henry the Eighth had unless, you know, the impact, the reason the the significance of that. And then third is sort of the points that we've just heard is character. And this is probably the most difficult thing to really pin down what character really means. But it is a mixture of creativity, of team playing, of being able to deal with knocks that life sends. And I go back to how I sort of introduced you know, I think it's also very important not to actually expect the education system to deliver all of that. The education system is not able and we should not ask it to make every young person work ready to deliver all parts of that. There's a real important role actually, in employers stepping up on those two areas of character and applying knowledge in real world settings, actually, for employers to step up giving people at work experience, give them careers talks, bring them into the real world, and show them how their knowledge would go up. So I just I would leave on that point of let's not expect education system to do all of this. Employers have a big role.
That's reassuring as an educator. And I want to turn our attention a little bit to the issue of social mobility, because and there are really good examples out there of the way that that education technology can support the development of social mobility. And have you have you got anything to share with us in terms of examples that you might have come across?
I can give a couple of so I said that we've announced some funding for grantees edtech organisations that are working in a range of different areas. I think the first point I'd make is that usually, I think technology has a role to play in tackling social mobility where it supports great teaching. So I don't think technology on its own can do this. We were talking just before we started around a school, you mentioned in Blackpool that had really embedded iPads into their learning. And I'm sure there was some fantastic programs on that iPads that children could use, that teachers could use. But I guarantee that it wasn't that alone, that it was that those iPads were helping teachers teach brilliantly saving their time, so they had more time to put to the things that really mattered. So I think when we're talking about social mobility and technology, I do think it's essential that we're looking at technology as a support for great teaching and learning. Some of the tools I would say about actually as an example for for that I think there's we're working with organisations that are one trying to tackle formative assessment. So such an important element of teaching being able to give great feedback. So I was working with a few organisations that are supporting schools to save time on their assessment but also support great feedback. People like HegartyMaths is fantastic, Seneca, Pobble. All of these are working with schools to to kind of help that teaching process. Another really key element we think, is parental engagement. We speak to schools all the time. And I know from my own work as a school governor, how difficult it is to engage with some of those hard to reach parents, parents who might be working two jobs, who don't have normal working patterns, who might have had bad experiences with the education system. And we're exploring this with several organisations that are making it much easier for parents to access to access information about the school in a more accessible way. So an example on that is free flow info. So they work in a number of schools are doing things that are really different. So just different ways of engaging different kinds of parents. So I think that's another key one. And another thing you mentioned was accessibility. So we, I think one key thing is that all technology I think we've already heard should be accessible to all students. So students with learning difficulties often are left behind from technology products, which don't see it as their top priority. And I think it should be it should be a priority for every single technology product out there. And schools and people like us should be pushing them further to make sure that that is a key priority. And somebody who's here today actually, mangahigh, a maths assessment tool, and we're supporting them with some funding to make sure that everything that they have on offer can be ready and available for SEND schools. So a few examples, not too many plugs, I hope, some helpful advice as well.
Great. And obviously, you know, issues around social mobility, don't stop at the end of key stage four, you know, there will be same sort of issues in higher education whatsoever. How are you using technology to be able to support pupils who are disadvantaged in higher education?
Professor David Brown
So in higher education we do we use the same approaches. Basically, as we do with students with learning disabilities, and autism, we personalise the learning experience. So we think that's the most important thing that we can do to support all students to reach their full potential and, and direct scarce resources to those in greatest need. So it's the same in special education, or inclusive education, or in fact, in higher education, AI and machine learning might help us to help teachers create lessons at scale. And that we base the personalisation on the learning goals for that particular student, their speed of progress, and their affective state. And we can judge their affective states by census data. But all that means is we can tell pretty very accurately it If they're engaged, bored or frustrated, and if they're bored, that's the worst state to be in and we increase the learning challenge. And we can do that by tutors, human tutors or lecturers coming in and changing the learning intervention. Or there's a checklist of inclusive teaching practices. Or we can do this via an algorithm, which we do in a European projects, which automatically changes the level of challenge as well. So that would support all students, no matter what their learning challenges are, to reach their full potential, and it helps lecturers and teachers in inclusive education and special education identify students operators need.
Yeah, they are. I would add, I suppose that is to reinforce just how critical this is, you know, we often do surveys of our members. And whenever we ask them about where their vacancies are, where their skills gaps, we have a very consistent number that about two thirds of our members will come back and say, actually, they have digital vacancies. So they have jobs there in digital, they cannot fill. And digital is the area where they know they're going to have great skill gaps over the coming years and will invest the most. So for solutions, which I guess is at the heart of this question, I think the first thing is to try and get away from thinking of digital as a subject. And, you know, we used to have ICT lessons and things like that, and I know I did, I had a one hour or month or something like that there was on ICT. I never quite know what the value of that that was. So I think he's getting away from it as a subject and actually viewing it much more along the same lines as numeracy literacy. Actually, digital needs to be weaved into every single subject. And it needs to be core to everything. And so I suppose it's that first year getting getting away from as a subject and thinking of it much more as a competency is something that that should be embedded. The second point I'd make, I suppose, is about the breadth of the curriculum. And this is quite sort of quite a wide point I suppose to make just about, I'd say obviously what is the point of GCSE is now given that most young people are all young people stay in educational change at what is the purpose of GCSEs at 16. So, you know, our members of regularly will sort of say to us that they feel that young people are getting a more and more and more narrow curriculum, and how can that be broadened? So one of the questions that were asking at the CBI do regularly ask of government is, is now the right time to start that conversation about rethinking GCSEs entirely about was the point exams, huge amount of pressure and capacity put into 16, but actually mostly stay in to 18 and that that creates the opportunity to have a lot more creativity subjects which have declined over the last 10 years. It also broadens out to help this show be embedded in more and on to the next stage who some amazing analysis done by the Royal Society, about A-Levels over how disadvantaged young people, on average to 2.4 A-Levels to 2.4 subjects. So the idea that a young person by the age of 18 can narrow themselves down to less than three subjects at the age of 18. feels wrong to me. And I think the the changing world of work, globalisation, ai automation requires greater breadth than ever. And yet we're going the opposite direction and actually narrowing down and I I would add on then on to the next stage on to higher education and technical, first and higher education. And I think culturally, and regulatory and pretty much every part of the system and the financial system drives universities to very traditional approaches to higher education. Everything drives towards three year bachelor's degrees. And that's sort of what everyone hopes for that's the sign of success that parents looking for and that's what the finance system encourages. And actually moving away from that and encourage much more flexible, innovative distance digital provision. Now like that of the Open University, I was there only a couple of months ago. And they were showing me they have, they have a free satellite that they can control and they, they, they you can use it as part of education. Anyone can use it, they have a, a satellite or satellite dish, it's a telescope that's it, the word I'm looking for a telescope that is in, I think it was either Tenerife or Fuerteventura in the middle of nowhere, that all their students can use as part of their education, these kinds of innovations the university is able to do with their model we self see replicated, and then very quickly finally as I'm talking for a while. On the technical education side and, you know, higher education, I think you'd agree he's put on quite well over the last 10 or 20 years or so. And the part of the system that really is creaking is colleges, further education and adult education. And I think the government and all parties now acknowledge this on the funding side. But actually, we need to make sure that there's the capital investment, so that actually, neither the colleges and FE can invest in technology can invest in the things I just described over Open University in order to actually give a really high level innovative education.
I mean, you mentioned adult education. Do you welcome the government's national retraining scheme?
I sit on it, and so I probably should welcome it. I mean, that the point I would start from is that adult education is at its lowest in 20 years, the number of adults that are actually participating in some form of education is at its very lowest in decades. And you compare that to all the things I've just spoken about globalisation, longer careers and ever AI automation machine learning. That's ridiculous. We've got all these challenges and adult education is at the point it is, and per person the investment in adult education is the lowest in the entire education system. It receives about 1000 pounds per person, you compare that to five 6000 pounds in schools. So it is the part of a system that is working. So it's working the least has the least investment. And as a result, the bill for that is usually picked up by employers. So employers spend about 44 billion pounds a year on training. And compared to, you know, the the DfE budget gap schools budget, which is a lot lower, so employers are picking up at the moment. And the national retraining scheme is an attempt with the CBI, the Trade Union Congress, the Treasury and the Department for Education and Department for Work and Pensions to try and understand first, why aren't people naturally retraining, which is a really fundamental question because actually, there is a lot of support out there when you think about it advance learner loans, tuition, fees, things like that. There is a lot out there. So why aren't people naturally doing it. And most of the evidence shows that people do not as adults seek education, because they slip into that front loading that I spoke about, they slip into that cultural pressure that you learn as much as you can by 18-21. And then off into the labor market, you go. And the only time really you need to do any sort of retraining or upskilling, in a formal sense, is if you hit crisis, you're made redundant, or your jobs about go or something like that. So that's the main reason why people don't and they see no real value actually retraining upskilling unless there's that crisis. So first thing is trying to understand that and try to address it for a really good public information campaign and the TC and the CBI are working with our members and the TCs and unions to try and address that second, is actually much better signposting. You know, as I said, there's a huge amount out there is lots of colleges very high for me. Lots of Universities, lots of different options and lots of financial support, it's actually really difficult as a person, especially if you had a really bad experience in education, or you don't have wealth to fall back on, actually, it's quite difficult to navigate the system. So explain that. And then third, and finally, if you've got people motivated, you've signposted the system a lot better than ever before, there is still a real hardcore people for which the system just doesn't work. And that's the point. We're working on now, with government to try and see if we can subsidise training, and how we get CBI members and employers to really engage in that actually dangle the carrot of if you get involved in the scheme, there are employers lining up to employ you and give you a good idea of what we're trying to achieve with the partnership.
Right. We're going to open it up now to the floor. And is there anybody who has a burning question they would like to ask and we'll get around with the roving mic. Either that or we'll go to Slido. We've got one or two questions on Slido. And as you'll see there, the top question has been like twice, so we'll go to that one first. Social mobility is linked to money, what if tech provides cheaper education, which is more accessible, but less good? Privilege, we'll still have non tech extras. Does anybody want sounds a bit like a statement? Anybody wants to comment on that one?
Professor David Brown
I think that's really true. That's a real potential downside of technology. Because every time we introduce new technology, virtual reality, AI machine learning, the money still tends to go to higher education. So I fight for money in Europe, to support technology in terms of educational technology for people with learning disabilities and autism. But still, the big money's still going to people who can afford to go to university. So social mobility in the past as we all know, was based on good education, and you can change your economic position or your social status. And when I went to university, I didn't have to take a loan. But now all of my students have to take a loan. And so what we're getting is people who can afford to pay afford to take the risk, and not people based on greatest merit. So I think it's a challenge to technologists, to create systems that are targeting people at risk of exclusion. And that's what we do. And there are good uses of virtual reality and AI, and machine learning, and you all know them. And we can also invest in good uses too. And that's what I think our aim should be, to address that point. There's a huge potential danger.
Do you want to chip in on that one?
I suppose, what I would add again, to go back to my high open, about employers have this duty to step up and get involved. And you know, thousands and thousands do is that is part of the solution. In the you know, we we spent a lot of our time encouraging our members to get involved and actually getting them to go to schools that need the help in college universities that need the help. So, you have phenomenons and I'm sorry to use a London example in Birmingham. But you know, you have a phenomenon where schools in Tower Hamlets will have bankers, accountants queuing up to help and there's a lot of their time to tell him to go away. And you then go only a half a mile down the road somewhere like Barking and there's nothing and actually it's very difficult for employers and charities to understand where are the cold spots as it were, how do you get your help to those that most needed not the ones that shout the loudest or are closest, so I was very struck actually by a speech by Damien Hinds when he when he was Secretary of State that he said that it when he first became Secretary of State, all of his civil servants planned out his diary to visit schools and colleges and all of the schools, colleges that he was visiting, were outstanding or good. And, I think there's a danger we all sort of slip into is that we will see the good, we will see the outstanding, and I hope whoever is the next Education Secretary will continue what Damien Hinds spoke about and actually commit entirely to helping the cold spots, not the official cold spots, which are somewhat arbitrary and somewhat confusing. The Northeast for instance, not having one despite having the highest of deprivation, but actually thinking about where the schools and colleges that need the most help, and how do we get the most money to them? How do we get employers to help them? And try to actually coordinate it because I, I think there is enough out there, there is you know, we spend above the average education. And we have very, very enthusiastic employers. And yet we still have disadvantaged gaps and other problems. So I think a huge part of the answers question is just better coordination, and focusing all the efforts as much as we can.
I think this is a really interesting question. And if we take it, if we're thinking about schools at this point, the way I'll answer this question, I think one thing first to say is I don't actually think there's a danger that technology is going to replace teachers in our school system here. I don't think that's going to happen. And our research that we've done at Nesta doesn't show that it's likely, if anything, it shows that teaching is likely to be the occupation that's most likely to grow through as our world changes. So I think if we kind of agree that we're going to still have a system where every young every person of school age can go to school, for free in a state education system with teachers. You know, of course, so we have a recruitment crisis. So perhaps not enough teachers, but I still think that resource is always going to be there. But then I think the access to technology for school aged children is really about individual schools and deciding how to use their budget. So there's huge funding pressures. And so that is one key barrier for lots of schools is a decision as to whether to buy hardware for schools and what technology to provide to students. Some schools choose to do it and some don't. And I, you know, I won't talk too much about that. But I think it's kind of at a school level. And I think one of the key challenges here is the fragmentation of our system. It's really difficult for technology companies to navigate their way around the school system, going door to door almost every school in the country trying to sell their products. And it's very difficult for schools to get the value for money that they want from technology because they often operate on their own or in very small multi Academy trust. Obviously, there's some that are in larger trust that might have some ability, but actually most schools are In a situation where they're quite on their own and need much more support and advice on on kind of purchasing technology and getting the best value, because then actually all of those students in that school regardless of their background would have access to it. So a school level, I think that's really one of the challenges.
Yeah, and that touches very clearly doesn't hit on a couple of the questions that we've got there. In terms of, you know, you've got a limited budget, how do you create a digital learning space that you think is or that you know, is right? Without taking a punt on it, and who's there to advise? And, you know, I remember in the dim and distant past, Vector being around as well, and they were, they were a decent source of advice. They were a good go to people. But I dare say that you'd say Nesta, get Nesta involved?
Well, yeah, I think one of the key thing obviously, I say that one of the key things I would say that we're really trying to support schools with is the evidence base. So unfortunately, you know, I don't have the school's budget if I did, I would obviously use it in a different way. Maybe but you know, without us giving more money to schools, of course, that's not something I have control over. But what we're trying to do is make sure that there's really good evidence for what works in technology, so that schools don't waste their budgets on things that end up not fulfilling their promises that end up in a cupboard the next kind of year when the teachers change over. So it's about having a really good informed evidence base for what technology can work in what context and using that. So the edtech testbed that I mentioned previously is going to be producing a whole range of evidence and we hope to produce evidence in other ways, and find the best way of disseminating that for the school system. So that's something we're still exploring and if people have ideas of how schools and and and teachers really want to find out that information, how can we make it as easy as possible then we're really open to ideas about that as well, but it's something we're really keen on.
Professor David Brown
So just picking up on what Nancy said we have been actually used virtual reality perhaps people pick up on like it's a new thing. But I've been working in virtual reality for over 20 years and special schools, which students with autism, there's a really strong evidence base, but Nancy might be right that's in the academic community. So we know that virtual environments have been used to teach independent living skills to students with learning disabilities, employment skills, but it can also augment cognitive skills, such as working memory, choice, reaction time, independent decision making. That's all in the academic literature. So now that we have the second, it's actually the third or fourth wave of virtual reality. So we have headsets like the Oculus quest, for 400 pounds wireless, you can have incredible virtual experiences. But there's also the evidence base of perhaps our challenge in academia, is join with government organisations and join with Nesta as well to actually get that information that evidence base as teachers in terms of what works in terms of game making virtual environments. And in terms of robotics as well, where we've all had positive European projects, which show those technologies can teach skills, but they can also engaging people and encourage collaboration and better behavior. So I think perhaps the challenge is universities to work with government and non government organisations now to get that information to teachers, because there's a lot of evidence already existing about what works and what doesn't work. So we need to augment the evidence base and build it as well.
And to go to James's question, and this just pops up I have a I could associate it with quite a lot I'm of the generation and where the interactive whiteboard was rolled out in every classroom across the country, before very swiftly Blackboard in front of it, because the teacher had no idea how to use it. And if they did, add very little value to the classroom anyway, at least that was my, my experience. So I would I would I would repeat everything that's been said about the need, actually for schools and colleges universities to be supported. I would I would pose the question of who is curating the knowledge, who is curating the pedagogy and all the different things that are going on in the system. You know, you look at other professions, like, you know, in medicine, you have the BMA, they'll curate that. So I think there is a role here for the College of teaching, to actually step up and start playing that role and curating the knowledge crazy understanding. And I would point to one of the most fascinating examples of this in Japan, but their entire co equivalent of Ofsted and their framework actually has it built into it collaboration to teachers and schools are actually rewarded for sharing lesson plans for sharing what works and things like that. So I would pose the question of, you know, why do we have a body this kind of purpose is to curate, the knowledge and the system and to sort of spread breath practice. Why don't we have like the rest of the economy out of the country, we have a 2.4% R&D investment target as a country? Why do we not have a 2.4% equivalent target actually in pedagogy in education, where we are investing in research as a country, about these new methods.
That's a fantastic note on which to end this panel. And I genuinely think that maybe the education endowment foundation might be the organisation that could pick that up and curate that. And the beauty of this event is that the ideas that are generated here will be taken forward. So you heard it here first, a teaching toolkit from the education endowment foundation. I'm signing them up to it now about effective use of technology. Can I thank you for your involvement. And also add my thanks to yours for the panel.
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