The Hard Facts About ‘Soft Skills’…

Recently, I happened across a newspaper article titled ‘Top 5 most in-demand soft skills.’ My instinct was to snub the column as although not new to the term, my blasé interpretation of ‘soft skills’ gave them little significance. However, I immediately reconsidered my rebuttal. Perhaps my ignorance on this subject required deeper questioning rather than overlooking? I returned to the original piece with a fresh pair of eyes and my quest for soft skill related knowledge was underway…

First and foremost, what precisely were ‘soft skills’ and what made them soft? Inevitably, my mind had also raced to the existence of their presupposed nemesis, ‘hard skills’ and why were they hard? Were there any medium, firm, supple or even spongy skills that were either in-demand or highly unpopular? It turns out the term ‘soft skills’ surfaced in the US Military, somewhere between 1968 and 1972. The military had successfully trained troops to use machinery, but still observed a difference between group performance. They coined the term ‘soft skills’ to define the skills that were variables in achievement, that didn’t involve interaction with machines. Nowadays, soft skills have taken on a broader meaning. The online Cambridge Dictionary simply describes soft skills as ‘people’s abilities to communicate with each other and work well together’. Wikipedia provides a more enlightening definition: ‘skills which are desirable in all professions’ and also shared the contrast with hard skills, which were ‘specific to individual professions.’

Whether opting for Cambridge or Wikipedia’s take, it seems to me that ‘soft skills’ could be in need of a re-brand. After nearly dismissing the article, because of my own negative preconceptions of the term, further investigation revealed how remarkably important they all seemed! Creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and emotional intelligence are clearly desirable, and also qualities that many aspire to equip themselves with. Yet, by calling them ‘soft’, these skills appear fluffy and we devalue their importance, especially when considering that, according to the University of Michigan, companies who focus recruitment on soft skills develop higher levels of productivity. Indeed, according to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends, 92% of managers agreed that soft skills are just as important, or more important than hard skills.

One of the key factors driving this increased value of soft skills in the jobs market is technological disruption, specifically the exponential growth of robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Contrary to popular opinion, these remarkable technologies are not replacing existing occupations, rather they are superseding specific tasks – or to put it another way, ‘hard skills’. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven many organisations and businesses to the virtual world to ensure operations continue despite isolations and lockdowns, super-charging the change process.

For example, customer service departments increasingly use chatbots and automated messaging solutions. Whilst in HR, automation is transforming hiring, onboarding and retention. Common tasks are rapidly being replaced by cost-effective automated alternatives that leave professionals with more freedom to focus on creativity, collaboration and the exploration of innovative ideas. In other words, because they cannot be substituted by technology, demand for ‘soft skills’ are on the rise. However, according to Forbes, there is an issue with supply; 54% of British businesses claim soft skills are ‘difficult’ to find in candidates, whilst 51% of those surveyed admitted this was damaging business growth.

All this leads to a glaring quandary for us educators. As employers increasingly search for attributes such as resilience, teamwork and empathy, modern UK school curricula tend to focus on teaching hard skills such as mathematics, writing, programming, reading and design. As a direct result of this paradox, the Education Commission estimates that by 2030 over half of the world’s young people will not possess all the necessary skills to participate in the emerging global workforce.

So, what can schools do to ensure their pupils develop the skills that will be a prerequisite of tomorrow’s workplace, whilst still ensuring they attain the best possible grades in GCSE and A-Level examinations? A global rebrand of the ‘soft skills’ misnomer is, sadly, unlikely. However, developing a comprehensive PSHE programme has proved a useful starting point at RGS Worcester. Pupils build resilience, learn to navigate the treacherous social media landscape, understand and look after mental health and learn to develop positive relationships. Soft skills also have a place in our specific curriculum subjects, working not instead of, but in conjunction with, the acquisition of hard skills. Teachers create activities that put an emphasis on group work, time management and peer-on-peer collaboration.  Our Digital Learning Programme provides exposure to digital workflows, real-time communication and facilitates the attainment of skills such as independent research, and presentation packages. Furthermore, a rich co-curricular programme including activities such as debating, the Duke of Edinburgh Award and the Combined Cadet Force mean RGS Worcester pupils naturally develop teamwork, emotional intelligence and empathy. There are also a growing number of digital tools that teachers utilise to help sustain and develop key competencies; Barclays Life Skills, the Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award, Farming STEMterprise are to name but a few.

Ultimately though, the UK education system remains focused on exams and grades. Routine assessment of self-awareness, self-control and empathy is still a very long way off. However, it is important to remember that investing time to teach and understand soft skills will not be lost, far from it. Those who are best armed with strong soft skills, alongside top grades, are much more likely to achieve in the ever changing, complex and challenging world into which they will soon be searching for employment.


‘EdTech Vision 2025’ Highlights Need For National EdTech Vision and Strategy

On Friday 9th October 2020, the ‘EdTech Vision 2025’ report was published by the EdTech Advisory Forum in response to the Educational Select Committee’s request for views and evidence on the ‘The Impact of Covid-19 on education and Children’s Service’. The report celebrated both the tenacity and resourcefulness of teachers, support staff, schools and colleges from across the UK as they dealt with the challenges thrust upon them due to COVID-19. Furthermore, the report called for an end of governmental indecision towards Educational Technology whilst requesting the development of a dedicated Office for EdTech.

Schools with pre-existing digital deployments were cited as being at an advantage when moving to remote learning. Indeed, we are proud to report that the paper featured the RGS Worcester Family of Schools as an example of how embedded digital strategy and culture meant that we were successfully able to mitigate learning loss. The report used triangulated data, collated by RGSW at the end of the Trinity term, that proved our pupils had continued to progress in interactive and engaging remote lessons, facilitated by our Digital Learning Programme.

“…at RGS Worcester 97% of teachers and 93% of pupils agreed that they had been able to continue to progress when using technology to learn remotely. These figures are replicated in their other schools too. They also discovered that the unprecedented circumstances had also resulted in a dramatic digital up-skilling of both teachers and pupils whilst increasing their confidence to further embrace and utilise digital technology at school”

To be mentioned as a leading UK example of digital learning in the corridors of power in Westminster is really quite something for RGS Worcester. Although we cannot claim to have foreseen a global pandemic, having our Digital Learning Programme in place meant we did have an opportunity to keep learning alive for every single one of our 1300+ pupils when schools across the UK went into Lockdown. We have embraced digital technology for a number of years, knowing that a digital deployment would help prepare students for the digital world in which we all live. Our Digital Learning Programme began in 2014 and means that all pupils from y1-y13 have a personal iPad whilst all our teachers have an iPad and/or a MacBook and as a consequence, digital learning is deeply embedded within our school culture. In a small window before school closure, we re-mapped our Digital Strategy to ensure delivering a full-curriculum remotely became a reality. We designed evidence-informed remote learning models, guidelines and CPD workshops that meant pupils and teachers were fully prepared for remote schooling and would avoid any significant loss of learning. Knowing that another lockdown could be a possibility, we subsequently gathered the data cited in the report to learn what we had done well, but also where we could make improvements.

The report goes on to make a number of recommendations including a new EdTech strategy from government that would include infrastructure rebuilds, improved access to devices, further support for digital capacity, capabilities, curriculum and enhanced recognition of the positives of education technology to support teaching and learning. We know how privileged we are at RGS Worcester to already have the digital infrastructure and resources in place to provide outstanding education on-site and indeed remotely. However, we also concur with the recommendations laid out by the EdTech Advisory Forum. Already we have advised a number of schools such as the Bridge School in Malvern, The Windsor Academy Trust in the West Midlands and the Thomas Deacon Academy in Peterborough about developing digital strategy and adopting individual pupil devices. Moving forward, we would also like to offer our support to any other school that is considering adopting digital technology. We also shared our story with a number of other Apple Distinguished Schools in ‘Remote Learning and Teaching’ publication, available on the Apple Book Store. These challenging times offer a real incentive for schools to work together, share good practice and be there for one another as ultimately, we all share the same mission; to ensure learning continues for our pupils and they are able to fulfil their endless potential. Having a holistic and forward-thinking digital strategy goes someway to ensuring that happens.

RGS Worcester & Stephen Perse Foundation Forge Digital Learning Link

The start of term for teachers normally begins with an INSET day. This involves training, communication about the new school year and ensuring teachers are up to speed with latest safeguarding legislation. At RGSW, we also always reserve some time to disseminate information about our Digital Learning Programme. However, this year I was also tasked with delivering a remote presentation at an entirely different family of schools; The Stephen Perse Foundation in Cambridge. 

Like RGS Worcester, The Stephen Perse Foundation consists of a number of schools that provide outstanding education from nursery up to Year 13 in Cambridge. It is also an Apple Distinguished School and was able to provide remote schooling during lockdown. However, over the summer, Stephen Perse contacted Apple as they were felt their staff were suffering a little ‘digital fatigue’ and wanted some inspiration for the new term. Apple immediately thought of RGS Worcester as the perfect school to complete this task and made contact to make suitable arrangements.

On the 2nd September, using a combination of Google Meet and Nearpod, I delivered a 25 minute presentation to over 150 staff from across the Stephen Perse Foundation, sharing details of our remote learning efforts and some the incredible feedback we had received from parents, pupils and staff. I highlighted that despite the significant challenges represented by COVID, having a digital learning programme meant that learning was not lost and our pupils had been able to continue to progress their studies, collaborate with teachers and peers whilst creating and completing exciting projects and work in a variety of digital formats.

Following the presentation, Vice Principal, Tracy Handford had this to say “The Stephen Perse Foundation was pleased to share reflections on remote learning with John Jones from RGS Worcester. Both schools achieved exceptional uninterrupted provision in the delivery of a full curriculum throughout lockdown through online teaching and learning. As both organisations  look towards the challenges of the coming academic year, the opportunity to learn about John’s recent experiences and great resources has helped Stephen Perse staff to recognise that their exceptional efforts and ability to manage challenges were shared by another Apple Distinguished school.”

This challenging times offer a real incentive for schools to work together, share good practice and be there for one another as ultimately we all share the same mission; to ensure learning continues for our pupils and they are able to fulfil their endless potential. Having a holistic and forward thinking digital strategy goes someway to ensuring that happens.

Remote Learning and Teaching – Stories from the Apple Distinguished School Community


It’s been a summer holiday like no other. The normal end-of-term high-fever, staff BBQ and fond farewells to colleagues and pupils did not happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the start of the vacation blurred awkwardly into the end-of-term as many teachers already found themselves at home following the closure of school sites on March 12th and 20th in Ireland and the UK respectively.

However, contrary to popular opinion, school closures did not spell an early summer holiday for teachers. Rather, for many it signified the start of a remarkable process in which ‘normal’ classroom traditions, customs and practices were turned on their heads. Miraculously, many schools were able to quickly develop and deploy exciting and innovative plans to ensure learning was not lost and students were able to continue to learn whilst at home. Furthermore, those schools that already had established digital learning programmes found themselves at a significant advantage as both students and teachers had the necessary hardware and pre-existing digital skills to make a smooth transition to remote teaching and learning.

I have already blogged about how the RGS Worcester Family of Schools managed to successfully conduct remote schooling but we were not alone in our ability to provide an almost full timetable and co-curricular programme during lockdown. Many other schools within the Apple Distinguished School Community were also able to use their existing infrastructure, hardware and digital culture to ensure high quality learning provision was able to continue.

Towards the end-of-term, a number of those Apple Distinguished Schools put their heads together to compile a digital publication that captures those ideas, practices and stories that emerged from COVID-19 and the need to implement new ways of learning and teaching remotely. Educators and leaders from schools, colleges and universities within the UK and Ireland Apple Distinguished Schools programme have collaborated to share aspects of how they’ve used Apple technology to support learning at home. They also share examples of what they’ve learned, successful practices and ideas for what teaching and learning with technology might look like as a ‘new normal’ when school returns in September and offer a myriad of different possibilities from which we can all learn as we prepare as best we can for an uncertain future.

The book can be found on the Apple Book Store or you can find the EPUB file here or please feel free to download an interactive PDF here.

Remote Teaching & Learning; The RGS Worcester Blueprint

These last few weeks have been astonishing. The COVID-19 outbreak has forced teachers from across the world, in a matter of days, to come up with plans to keep children learning whilst their schools indefinitely close down. Remarkably, and with no assistance, educators have drawn up radical plans to facilitate the best possible provision for pupils in their respective settings.

Circumstances have been challenging, emotive and provoked much ‘outside the box’ thinking. Nevertheless, educators have joined forces, shared ideas, resources and concepts and as a result, school children across the world have been given opportunities to continue to learn, despite these extraordinary circumstances.

Provision Design and Planning

At RGS Worcester discussions and preparations began in earnest three weeks before UK schools were officially closed. Looking at the global picture it was clear that school closure was a distinct possibility and it was vital we needed to be prepared. Our 1:2:1 iPad provision for all pupils from Year Five meant that continuing timetabled academic lesson was possible, albeit remotely. The portability and versatility of iPad, combined with the fact our teachers and pupils are already accustomed to using the device, meant we could develop ambitious plans, safe in the knowledge our Digital Learning Programme (DLP) and status as an Apple Distinguished School provided secure foundations on which to build them. Indeed, considering that both pupils and staff already use Google Accounts; the Computing & IT team quickly agreed that Google Meet would offer the best live-lesson provision. It was also decided that Google Meet should be used in conjunction with Showbie, a workflow solution that most of our academic departments already embrace whilst splitting the iPad screen between Showbie and Google Meet offered a great methodology for remote learning.

Furthermore, iPad tools such as split-screen view and apps such as Showbie were already familiar to our staff and introducing too many new concepts at this point was not something we wished to burden our teachers with. Our mantra was to keep things as simple as possible. However, we were also aware that not all teachers would be comfortable with teaching live lessons, so an alternative strategy was quickly devised; using Showbie to host pre-recorded lessons whilst a teacher remained online for questioning. There were also two ‘fallback’ strategies should teachers not be available online for whatever reason. This Digital Provision Guide was then put together, outlining the options.

Training For Staff

1. Live lessons

Without being sure when schools were going to close, it was deemed imperative to get teachers trained to confidently teach remotely. We hosted four sessions in four days at which attendance was obligatory. We modelled how to create a meeting in Google Meet, the best way to share invite codes with pupils and how to cast either yourself or your device screen. We showed how the Apple Pencil could be used in conjunction with Apps like Notability and Keynote to become essentially a whiteboard to model learning on. We also demonstrated how pupils could split their iPad screen between two apps so they could follow instructions and work at the same time. We also encouraged staff, in the time we still had at school, to practice using Google Meet with their pupils so all parties had some experience of using the technology before remote learning became a reality. This provided particularly useful as many minor glitches were eliminated and ground rules were established.

2. Pre-recorded lessons

We were also able to put together three sessions regarding the best way to create pre-recorded lessons. Again simplicity was key here, and it turned out that simply using either the iPad or MacBook screen record function was a hugely popular concept for teachers. Screen record does what it says on the tin; records exactly what you do on your device but with the added bonus of being able to record instructions over the top.

This meant teachers could use Notability or KeyNote to model work, record explanations and then post to Showbie. Another advantage of this concept was that lessons could be created and then shared more than once, thus saving time. One considerable point worth reiterating here is in relation to GDPR; it is extremely important that notifications are turned off when recording, passwords are not entered and only windows that teachers wish to be shared were open. We also put together a graphic to help:

Guidelines for Pupils

Equally as important was getting a firm and clear message to pupils about our expectations for their behaviour when participating in remote learning. Indeed, we put together a presentation that outlined exactly what they were. Next, we called emergency assemblies so that every single pupil received our message and the presentation was also emailed home to those that were already absent. In these extraordinary times, the support of pupils is essential and we needed to be able to demonstrate just how important their cooperation was when conducting remote lessons.

The rules were also put on our Trilby TV digital signage screens across the school and emailed to all pupils, along with these remote-learning guidelines that were also shared with all parents and guardians.

In Practice

On Monday 23rd March 2020, all UK schools were closed to pupils, other than for those children of Key Workers whose parents needed to continue working in the fight against COVID-19. This unprecedented move meant that, for the first time in over 1300 years of history, lessons at RGS Worcester were not taking place at the school. Instead, teachers were conducting lessons remotely, to pupils in all corners of Worcestershire via digital platforms. I was among the teachers that taught in the first period this morning at 8:45am, hopeful that all our hard work would pay off.

I taught y7 and y8 Computer Science and was happy with how the lessons went; the pupils were brilliant. They followed the rules immaculately (as far as I could tell), they even asked permission to use the toilet! Tasks and resources were pre-loaded in to Showbie so they had scaffolded work to complete and they were able to ask question through the chat function in Google Meet. This proved a little tricky to monitor so I adjusted to only allow questions at certain times. The ‘Thumbs-Up/Down’ emoji was used to check visibility, sound and comprehension of instruction but on occasion, I allowed selected student cameras to be switched on so they could mirror their screens to model work. It was the same with microphones; they were allowed on when messaging was not proving fruitful to address misunderstanding or miscomprehension. Generally, pupils seemed to enjoy the lessons and the only issue was connectivity for pupils with poor WiFi. However, none was so bad that pupils couldn’t progress. I asked for some feedback at the end of the lessons:

Staff Feedback

I also asked for feedback from staff so we can look to make changes if things are not working or if things are going well, so we could share good practice. Here are a few selected comments:

  • “It was great – I’ve taught 4 lessons from Y7 through to Y13, all live and kids were great.”
  • “Have a list of pupils to hand so you can ask questions – “Jess put you mic on and answer “ everyone gets a chance then as I forget who’s there.”
  • “We played a Kahoot via google meet!”
  • “I preloaded Showbie and this worked well. First 5 minutes on google meet saying hello, registering and explaining task, then being available to answer questions via google meet or Showbie class discussion, work uploaded at the end. Students well behaved.”
  • “Between them Year 4&5 have sent me 126 messages on the class chat! I’m exhausted”\
  • “I’ve taught all of Year 9 this morning – have to say they were really good! It’s a little unnerving to be talking with no “visual feedback” from faces, but touch wood, they all said they understood what we’ve done – we shall see!”
  • “I had mixed experiences today. Y8 was a live Google Meet lesson but GH and OH were unable to see it hear me. They had been OK in Geography though. I was planning to do the lesson on my whiteboard in the classroom but had to do it on Explain everything and put it onto Showbie so GH and OH could access it.”
  • “All resources were preloaded to Showbie and further details were also on Planner. Students in Y7 shared their short essays at the end of the lesson. I asked for volunteers and, when asked to do so, they turned on their mic and read to the rest of us. Many others sent positive chat comments to congratulate them afterwards.”
  • “Y10 helped one another as we wrote a complex essay together and told me we should rename ourselves RadioEnglish as it was like calling in to a talk show!”


So, it is very early days in what promises to be a long battle vs COVID-19, where teachers stand on the very front line. However, after seeing how the education community has come together over the last few weeks, I am certain it is a fight we WILL win. The extraordinary efforts by schools to ensure learning continues in adversity, have been nothing short of miraculous. The power of education should never be underestimated and teachers yet again have proven that in the most unusual of circumstances, they can react, learn and adjust to ensure provision continues.

Royal Grammar School Worcester – Apple Distinguished Until 2022

One of the first tasks I undertook as the Director of Innovation at RGS Worcester was to ensure our institution retained ‘Apple Distinguished’ status; a mission that provided both challenge and opportunity. However, I am pleased to confirm that RGS Springfield, RGS Dodderhill, RGS The Grange and RGS Worcester all received the much-coveted accolade for our innovative and meaningful approach to teaching and learning through the implementation of Apple Technology.

Apple Distinguished Schools are ‘centres of leadership and educational excellence’ that have embedded Apple technology deeply within their teaching and learning culture. For example, we regularly hold Regional Training Centre events that offer high quality and free CPD to educators locally and nationally. Indeed, between now and the end of the academic year there are four events planned ranging from using the app GarageBand to an inter-school robotic golf competition! If you would like to come along to one of our RTC events then please follow us on EventBrite and sign up to an event that interests you.

Apple Distinguished Schools are beacons of educational excellence and we regularly enjoy hosting educators, schools or any interested party who wants to see outstanding digital deployment in action. Just this month we invited PGCE students from the University of Worcester to come along and see what our Digital Learning Programme (DLP) is, how it works and why it benefits both teaching and learning. Furthermore, we are looking forward to welcoming senior leaders from schools in our region next month to demonstrate aspects of our DLP.

Moreover, they are a network of some of the most innovative schools on the planet. Every year we have the opportunity to meet with other Apple Distinguished Schools at the annual ADS innovation summit. Last summer I was fortunate enough to go to Berlin and hear some incredible ADS stories and bring back some great teaching and leadership ideas to RGSW.

Myself and Head of Computing at RGS The Grange, Matt Warne also attended the ADS conference in London in November 2019. It was another opportunity to hear from other ADS Schools based in the UK and Ireland and share ideas, strategies and concepts. We also received official confirmation of our continued ADS status until 2022.

So, how do you become an Apple Distinguished School? To obtain recognition, each school must have successfully embedded Apple products into everyday school life to inspire creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. Furthermore, they need to showcase the impact that innovative uses of technology have had upon learning, teaching and the school environment. Moreover, you need to have met the following criteria:

  • Established one-to-one programme
  • Innovative use of the Apple platform
  • Staff proficiency with iPad or Mac
  • Documented results

However, there’s also the small challenge of collating evidence of all this in a digital book that is sent to Apple HQ for approval…The process of compiling and writing our ADS book provided me with a unique opportunity, as a new member of staff, to learn about RGSW and its Digital Learning Programme.

You can view and download the Royal Grammar School ADS Book by following this link

  • The first chapter is an overview of our four schools; The Senior School, RGS The Grange, RGS Springfield and RGS Dodderhill and afforded the possibility to learn about the unique cultures that each school enjoys but also understand the commonalities that bind them together.
  • Chapter two focuses on the RGSW vision for using digital technology. It gave me the chance to speak to the four Head teachers across our four schools to hear how they saw the continued progression of our DLP as a fundamental aspect of the school’s development strategy. This chapter also gave me a chance to explore the role of ‘key stakeholders’ and how they underpin the innovative culture RGSW is famous for and to explore how the DLP helps RGSW to become a more sustainable environment.
  • The third chapter examines learning and how the DLP encourages teamwork, collaboration and creativity. It includes movies, pictures, examples of work and interviews with teacher who explain how the personalisation of work and critical thinking are facilitated by our use of digital technology.
  • The focus of chapter four is teaching and how across our four schools, high quality continuous professional development for our teachers is integral to the success of the DLP. It explains how we have used evidence-based practice, and tools such as the Apple Teacher Programme to develop teacher skills, knowledge and confidence to use their MacBook, iPad and Apple Pencil.
  • The Environment is the topic of chapter 5, and describes how our holistic infrastructure enables learning to take place anywhere, anytime. Across our four RGSW Schools, we are incredibly fortunate to have a wide selection of environments that encourage creativity, collaboration and independent learning to flourish.
  • Finally, chapter six examines results. Measuring outcomes are vital to ensure RGSW achieves our goals and fulfils our vision. In this chapter we show the results of in-house research that evidences the difference digital learning has made to teaching and learning.

In conclusion, the selection of the RGS Worcester family of schools as Apple Distinguished highlights our respective successes as innovative and compelling learning environments. It is a badge of honour that all our staff members should wear with a huge amount of pride.  It is ultimately their dedication to continually engage and motivate our students, create incredible learning journeys and challenge themselves to continually improve and reflect upon their own pedagogy that has helped us to be recognised as a distinguished school.

Navigating The Digital World In The New Decade

The prospect of a new decade has always correlated with hope for change and progress. Decades tend to define generations so it’s exciting to consider how the 2020s will ultimately be remembered. By the end of the *insert adjective* 20’s, both my children will have most-likely left home and could either be at University or in the big-wide-world of work. No matter what path they choose, I hope they will look back over the 20s with fond memories of the film, music, fashion and people that defined an era.

Yet despite the lack of clarity on the cultural icons that have yet to make their mark on a decade that hasn’t started yet, there is one certainty about ‘what’s next?’…

If you think things are digital now, “you ain’t seen nothing yet…”

In June 2010, an estimated 28.7% of the world’s population were using the internet. By June 2019 that figure has more than doubled to 58.8%1. As for social media, in 2010 there was around 970 million social media users, yet in 2020, the figure is expected to rise to 3 billion.2 Imagine what these statistics will be in 2030?

No matter how you look at it, the digital revolution shows no sign of slowing down. The ‘Internet of Things’ is becoming ever more permeated across society and it’s hard to think of a job that our children will end up doing that won’t involve either the consumption or production of digital technology. Students today have already started to navigate the digital world, but it’s a journey on which the destination is unclear – the speed at which technology develops means that much of the technology our pupils use today, will almost certainly be obsolete by the time they leave school. Nevertheless, it is absolutely essential that both schools and parents are there to help children navigate their digital pathways. The technologies themselves may be changing, but digital productivity, communication and literacy are already pre-requisites of the digital workplace in which we are all participants. Pupils who attend the Royal Grammar School Worcester interact digitally in this way every day and are therefore, already at an advantage. Furthermore, through our PCSHE lessons, computing curriculum and Digital Learning Programme, digital skills, knowledge and responsibilities are continually reiterated so that our student voyages to digital success are as clearly demarcated and defined as possible.

I elaborated on this theme in a presentation I recently delivered to parents which I have shared at the end of this post. I talk about the differences associated with growing up in a digital world, but point out that they are not necessarily negative. Indeed, by showing interest, engaging in dialogue and a process of active mediation. Together, we can assist our children to use social media to their advantage as we guide them on their digital journeys.


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Social Media: What Is The Significance of Parental Engagement?

Today in the UK there is a plethora of different social media available. 72% of 12-15 year olds and 91% of 16-24 year olds use the internet for social networking (RSPH 2017). Certainly, the ability to communicate in a variety of manners, instantaneously across the globe, has introduced a myriad of advantages to almost every sector, including education. However, it has also brought with it serious challenges such as computer security, viruses, data hacking, fake news and of course, online bullying and harassment.

Click on the image to download this free iBook

Recent news headlines have called for the banning of mobile phones in schools; discussed controversy surrounding social media platform’s handling of content promoting self-harm and suicide and highlighted potential damage social media can do to mental health.

It is certainly true that many children connect to social media just when their social and emotional development levels leave them exposed, yet despite the widespread concern, social media can also undoubtedly bring benefits to young people that use it. For example, socialisation, communication and relationships have all been made easier to manage, whilst health information and emotional support have also been made more accessible. Furthermore, social media platforms also provide an opportunity for young people to express who they are and promote positive self expression and have provided the platform for a ‘revolution’ in young people’s engagement in politics (Orehek and Human, 2017).

This situation leaves parents, and indeed teachers, in a seemingly permanent battle between the potential educational and social advantages of social media, and the possible negative effects that some content may have on children’s attitudes, behaviour and safety.

In an effort to discover more about this conundrum, and offer research-based guidance to both educators and parents, I undertook an investigation that also formed part of my MA in Educational Leadership and Management. I conducted a critical examination of the importance of parental engagement, the disadvantages of social media and the current practice of parents when mediating their children’s social media usage. Furthermore, I am happy to be able to share that research with you for free on Apple iBooks.


The Challenges of Changing Digital Culture

Culture as a concept is infamously hard to characterize but is one of the most important concepts in education. Kaplan and Owings (2013) suggest that school culture can be understood by established, yet unspoken assumptions, values, beliefs, practices and actions. Schein (2010) agrees, stating that an organisation’s culture is the intrinsic basic assumptions and beliefs held by its members.

Therefore, when Hodas (1993) suggests that, until recently, the last technologies to have a surviving impact on schools were the textbook and blackboard, it becomes immediately clear that for established norms and practices to change to incorporate digital technologies, a significant change in school-specific culture is required. There are of course immediate difficulties; computers and digital technology are not culturally neutral. By their very nature they change discourse and traditional means of communication as they influence classroom social interactions.

There lies the difficulty; a change to teaching style required by a shift in culture (due to the adoption of technology) involves movement of those teacher beliefs and assumptions which are often stable and resistant to change.  Without such a shift, combined with the cultural norms of contentment and comfort-zone mentality, purchased technology may never make it out of it’s box. In other words, higher levels of use are far more likely to occur when the perception of technological value is high and the physical resources low rather than the other way round.

Imperative in driving any such change in school culture is the role of leadership. Much of the responsibility to progress digital culture remains in the hands of school leaders as it is they who have the ability to determine the cultural norms and values and decide which technologies correlate with them. Indeed, Stoll (1998, p13) describes school leaders as “culture founders”, who are ultimately responsibility for changing culture by introducing new values and beliefs, whilst Schein (2010, p11) argues that perhaps the “only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture”.

Sharing a Vision

A good place to start for an effective school leader wishing to integrate technology within the culture of a school is to ensure they have a clear vision for the role of the educational technology in their context. Successful school leaders should facilitate the development and agreement of visions that encapsulate best practice with regard to teaching and learning. Indeed, McKinsey and Co (2010) investigated a number of educational systems worldwide to ascertain which factors consistently heralded improvement. They discovered that nearly every school leader they questioned confirmed that establishing both vision and direction were among the most significant attributes of their success. However, for the vision to be successfully realised, an effective school leader should ensure that it is established in conjunction with teachers, and even other members of the school community. Unless leaders share the formation of the school vision for how (and why) technology will enhance both teaching and learning, teachers may not be motivated to integrate it within their pedagogical approach.

Barriers to Culture Change

However, even after establishing a collaborative vision, changing culture, even in the most accommodating of settings, is difficult to achieve. Ertmer (2005) points out that the individual philosophical beliefs of teachers are not easily changed whilst Newhouse and Clarkson (2008) reported that a wide-variety of teachers were less than enthusiastic about the changes required to their pedagogical approach that were associated with the introduction of digital technologies into their everyday teaching.

Indeed, it is often the case that the more an approach is viewed as innovative, it becomes more likely that teachers will be skeptical and view it as a potential fad or threat. So how can school leaders combat these numerous challenges in their efforts to successfully embed a culture of using digital technology to enhance and improve learning? Ertmer (1999) has distinguished the various hurdles into two categories that highlight the importance of teachers internal charactieristics; ‘first-order barriers’ are external and unaccountable to teachers, whilst ‘second-order barriers’ are internal and reflect personal beliefs and attitudes.

First Order

  • Resources as a Key Variable

Typically, teachers cite a lack of resources as a major factor in their struggles to adopt digital technology into their curricula; including hardware, software, time and technical support. Any lack of access to relevant technological equipment is then (albeit understandably) used as reason for the underutilisation of classroom technology. After all, if there are no new computers or software installed and no technicians to install them, teachers would be less likely to break away from their everyday, pedagogical comfort zones.

In most schools, the overall school budget is managed by the senior leadership team. Gibson (2002) expresses his concern about the potential negative influence on technology adoption by those in charge of budgets who lack the required knowledge or understanding to buy the required resources to progress. Therefore, school leaders who wish to adopt and integrate technology will need to ensure that sensible and well planned finances are available.

However, literature indicates that even if plentiful resources are purchased, increased availability of digital hardware and software is not necessarily sufficient to encourage classroom integration (Gibson 2002, Ertmer 2005, Anderson and Dexter 2005). A comprehensive study by Cuban (2001) provided further evidence that increased access to computers, hardware and software does not always lead to widespread and beneficial classroom use. Possession of digital technology does not guarantee effective integration; of more importance is the teachers ability to know how to integrate it. School leaders who believe by simply purchasing technology their schools will suddenly witness mass integration will be sadly disappointed.

  • Time as a key variable

A valuable resource that does not break the bank is time; although it does represent another huge factor within this variable. During the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow project, researchers such as Sandholtz, Ringstaff, and Dwyer (1997, cited in Ertmer 2005) concluded that it takes five to six years to integrate technology to the extent advocated by constructivist (a view of learning in which people construct their own understanding and knowledge through experiencing things and then reflecting on those experiences) reform efforts. Therefore, school leaders who wish to adopt technology should not expect an overnight solution and should be willing to allow time for a successful adoption process to take place.

Second Order:

  • Modelling Behaviour as a Key Variable

Teachers who consider technology to be threatening would be more likely to adjust their normal practice to incorporate technology if a school leader can prove to them that it has advantages. For fundamental change to occur, leaders need to successfully model the new practices they expect to replace the old ones. Indeed, Stegall (1998) suggests that it is imperative school leaders consistently use digital technologies, read books about computers, take part in personal and professional  development opportunities, attend technology conferences, join technology organisations, find experts to help and give advice and take the opportunity to visit and critique schools that have successfully integrated technology into their curricula. These observations concur with the association between beliefs and personal experience as suggested by a theory proposed by Nespor (1987); if personal experience leads to the formation of beliefs then logic suggests changes to those beliefs could be effected through positive experiences. Therefore, if modelling good practice with technologies is itself to take place, school leaders need to create an environment of support and collaboration to maximise it’s success.

  • Teacher Knowledge as a Key Variable

Teacher knowledge has a huge impact on their classroom decisions, therefore it is imperative that school leaders help them to adequately develop and improve their knowledge systems if culture is to successfully develop. Interestingly, Shulman (1986) set out a framework that enabled the subsequent analysis of teacher knowledge by summarizing it into seven categories; pedagogical knowledge, content knowledge, knowledge of classroom management strategies, curricular knowledge, learner knowledge, context knowledge and knowledge about educational goals and beliefs. Three decades later it is evident that digital technology knowledge has emerged as a potential eighth category. However, it is not as simple as a teacher knowing how to switch on an interactive whiteboard or use an iPad.  For example, teachers who wish to efficiently adopt technology into their pedagogical approach need to be able to redesign curriculum, manage software and hardware and ascertain which technologies or applications allow successful integration and improved learning to take place. Therefore, school leaders must create a culture that ensures relevant teacher knowledge is given the chance to develop accordingly.

  • Teacher Beliefs as a Key Variable

Kagan (1992) suggests that often what teachers regard as their professional knowledge, could be considered more of a belief. Many of the tedious eduTwitter arguments between so-called progressive and traditional teachers corroborate this very point. Indeed, it is these attitudes that frequently carry more substance than knowledge when determining the behavior of teachers. Many other researchers concur that teachers’ beliefs concerning the value of technology and student learning were internal components that stopped teachers from utilising technology (Anderson and Dexter 2005, Zhou and Bryant 2006).  Teacher beliefs and, in some cases, innate resistance to change, is therefore another factor that could adversely affect a positive deviation in culture. Indeed, research by Honey and Moeller (1990) discovered that teachers with student-focused pedagogical beliefs were generally better at integrating technology whilst those with more traditional beliefs encountered much greater challenges to do so.  Furthermore, their observations saw that teachers with predominantly traditional beliefs generally implement less sophisticated technology use whilst those with constructivist beliefs implement a more student-centered pedagogical approach to technological integration. There are a number of potential factors involved with this but teachers with traditional beliefs may simply distrust the role of technology as they perceive it to detract from the relationship between teacher and student (Cuban 2001). Furthermore, many teachers  believe technology to simply be another weight added to their already overloaded list of responsibilities (Ertmer 2005).

However, Fang (1996) noted inconsistencies between teacher beliefs and what materializes in their classrooms. He goes on to suggest that actually contextual factors hindered teachers’ ability to routinely administer their beliefs in their classrooms. This means that there could be potential for school leaders to develop the foundations for change, when teachers have constructivist beliefs, via the establishment of a culture of innovation. However, school leaders must also be fully aware that teacher beliefs are seldom fully revised and “thus over time, become deeply personal, highly engrained, and extremely resistant to change” (Ertmer 2005, p13). Bingimlas (2009) probes a little deeper and concludes that resistance to change itself is not necessarily a barrier in it’s own right; perhaps, he suggests, it is a sign that something  is not right; why is their a resistance to change occuring?

Finally, Bandura (1997) argues that in some cases, even if a teacher does believe in the advantages of integrating digital technology within their pedagogy, the questions they have over their own ability – their self-efficacy to implement the change – will itself be a significant barrier.

  • Self Efficacy as a Key Variable

Without self efficacy both knowledge and belief in technology are insufficient to facilitate student learning (Ertmer and Ottenbreit 2010). Bandura (1997) describes self-efficacy as the belief in one‘s ability to organise and accomplish the required course of action to produce results. The significance of this, with regard to technological integration, was noted by Wozney, Venkatesh and Abrami (2006) who surveyed 764 teachers to discover one of the two highest predictors of technology use was their confidence of meeting their goals using the technology at their disposal. A survey by The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA 2004) concurred; the area that encouraged most responses about using technology in the classroom was “lack of confidence”. The same study concluded “many teachers who do not consider themselves to be well skilled in using ICT feel anxious about using it in front of a class of children who perhaps know more than they do”.

Leaders therefore should devote time and effort to raise teacher confidence to utilise technology, beyond simply administrative tasks, to accomplish and meet student learning objectives. One of the best options available to school leaders is the facilitation of positive experiences for teachers, with digital technology, within the context of their classroom. Successful personal experiences in which the potential of classroom technology is clearly articulated are most likely to build teacher confidence. In other words, the variable of modelling good practice with technology can improve self-efficacy.

In conclusion, awareness of first-order barriers will help school leaders address lack of technological self-efficacy. For example, giving sufficient time for teachers to get to know the technology and start to enjoy successful experiences with it are strategies school leaders could engage with. Furthermore, working alongside knowledgeable colleagues or encouraging staff to join professional learning communities could also help leaders to improve the self-efficacy of their colleagues.  Moreover, school leaders need to develop a culture of learning, where teachers know that opportunities for professional development will help improve their practice, skills and knowledge. Teachers need to be able to tailor their professional development for direct impact on their own practice and be afforded the opportunity to take responsibility for pedagogical improvement. When adopting new technologies or strategies successfully, they must become an everyday part of teachers’ repertoire with tangible results and positive impact in their classrooms. Indeed, if a school leader is able to increase confidence, offer positive experiences for teachers to improve their skills, knowledge and understanding, they are more likely establish self-efficacious behaviour. However, like teacher knowledge and beliefs, self-efficacy by itself is not enough to ensure technology is adopted in schools appropriately. Nevertheless, school leaders should take heed when considering that it is those individuals with a positive sense of efficacy that help to shape a culture that could ultimately overcome the significant challenges that occur in the adoption of technology.


Anderson, R.E. & Dexter, S. (2005) School Technology Leadership: An Empirical Investigation of Prevalence and Effect. Educational Adminsitration Quarterly, 41: pp.49-82

Bandura, A. (1997) Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.

Bingimlas, K. (2009) Barriers to the Successful Integration of ICT in Teaching and Learning Environments: A Review of the Literature,Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, pp.235-245.

BECTA (2004) A review of the research literature on barriers to the uptake of ICT by teacher.

Cuban, L. (2001) Oversold and underused: computers in the classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Ertmer, P (2005) Teacher Pedagogical Beliefs: The Final Frontier in Our Quest for Technology Integration? Educational Technology Research and Development, December 2005, 53(4): pp.25-39

Ertmer, P & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A (2010) Teacher Technology Change, Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 42(3): pp.255-284.

Fang, Z. (1996). A review of research on teacher beliefs and practices. Educational Research, 38(1): pp.47–65.

Gibson, Ian  (2002). Leadership, technology, and education: achieving a balance in new school leader thinking and behavior in preparation for twenty-first century global learning environments, Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education, 11(3): pp.315-334

Hodas, S. (1993). Technology refusal and the organizational culture of schools. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 1(10).

Honey, M., & Moeller, B. (1990). Teachers’ beliefs and technology integration: Different values, different understandings. (Technical Report 6): Center For Technology in Education.

Kaplan, L. S. & Owings, W. A. (2013). School culture and change as learning. In Culture re-boot: Reinvigorating school culture to improve student outcomes (pp. 1-36). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

McKinsey & Co. (2010) ‘How does a school system improve?’ [Online]. Available from:

Nespor, J. (1987). The role of beliefs in the practice of teaching. National Institute of Education, Washington DC.

Schein, E.H. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership. 4thed San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. p.6.

Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2): pp.4-14.

Stegall, P (1998) The Principal – Key to Technology Implementation, Presentation at the National Catholic Education Association Convention April 15 1998. Available at:

Wozney L, Venkatesh V & Abrami P (2006), Implementing Computer Technologies: Teachers’ Perceptions and Practices, Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance Concordia University.

Zhao, Y., & Bryant, F. L. (2006) Can teacher technology integration training alone lead to high levels of technology integration? A qualitative look at teachers’ technology integration after state mandated technology training. Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education, 5: pp.53–62.

The AI revolution is not coming; it is already here, but what place does it have in education?

The thought of Artificial Intelligence, for most people, immediately brings with it the image of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator or C3P0 from Star Wars. However, the reality of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is very different; comparing AI to human intelligence is the first mistake people tend to make.

Research into AI began over 60 years ago and until fairly recently, the most common forms of AI consisted of nothing more than extremely quick information processing systems that completed specific functions reliably and accurately. A well known example is ‘Deep Blue’, the chess computer that beat the reigning world chess champion, Gary Kasparov, in 1997 and subsequently became the first computer system to do so.

The advantages that Deep Blue had over Kasparov did not lie in its ability to learn, moreover they lay in memory and computation. However, ‘Machine Learning‘ is a subset of AI that has flourished since the 1990s due to the explosion of available data, and is the AI that is most commonly found today. Machine Learning involves the creation of artificial ‘neural networks’ which simulate the way the human brain learns. Machine-learning applications build models based on data-sets that engineers use to train the system, and with each new data set, it updates its model and the way it interprets the world. A seminal moment came in 2016; Google’s ‘AlphaGo’ demonstrated a significant machine-learning advance, beating the reigning human champion of ‘Go’, a game more complex than chess or checkers. To win, AlphaGo used deep learning to evaluate the strength of different board positions having been previously trained by matching the moves of expert players from recorded historical games. AlphaGo then used this knowledge to continually play against itself, learning to improve after every single move it made.

However, despite the incredible human-beating performance of both ‘Deep Blue’ and ‘AlphaGo’, ask either of them to complete a much more routine task, like mowing the lawn, they would be of no use whatsoever. AI, therefore should normally be regarded as ‘domain-specific’. Indeed, when you consider the amount of routine tasks an average human completes every day, (physically, emotionally, academically, subconsciously etc.) you realise that although AI may well be able to match (or even beat) humans at the specific task for which they have been trained, otherwise they are simply not as intelligent as humans and shouldn’t be considered as such. In fairness, domain-specific AI developers do not claim to have matched holistic human intelligence. Such a feat is known as ‘The Singularity’ and is something we are still pretty far from achieving. However, renowned physicist, Professor Max Tegmark, argues that there is no fundamental reason why AI will not continue to progress until this is the case.

Right now though, in the early 21st Century, AI is rapidly becoming part of our everyday lives. All new Apple computers, phones and tablets come with the virtual assistant, Siri, whilst smart-speakers such as Amazon’s Alexa are becoming evermore popular. Each piece of software adapts to users individual language usages, searches and preferences. Sound waves are converted into text which allows the AI to gather information from a variety of sources from which the AI is able to answer the questions, or complete the task set, using the data as required. There are also plenty of other areas in which AI has permeated everyday life:

  • Finance: banks routinely use machine learning for fraud detection whilst most stock market trading decisions are made by computers.
  • Manufacturing: AI controls robots that enhance proficiency and precision in the construction of cars, airplanes etc. it has also decreased the number of industrial accidents
  • Transportation: cars such as the Audi A8 already have automated AI functionality whilst some airlines use AI to identify potential flight glitches. The potential for AI to save lives on roads, in the air and on water is huge.
  • Energy: AI helps to balance production and consumption across the world’s electrical grids whilst helping to keep power stations operating efficiently and safely.
  • Healthcare: machine learning is helping to reveal relationships between genes, diseases and treatment responses. Moreover, in 2016 a Stanford study showed that AI could diagnose lung cancer better than human pathologists.
  • Communication: most modern smart phones come with in-built AI which can also connect to the ‘internet of things’; providing improved efficiency, accuracy, convenience when controlling items such as lamps, thermostats, freezers etc.
  • Marketing: companies such as the disgraced Cambridge Analytica have made the headlines by using machine learning to predict who will respond favourably to targeted adverts.
  • Retail: Amazon, Ocado and L’Oreal  all use AI to navigate their warehouses and to lift and stack products, fulfil customer orders and pack materials whilst preventing accidents respectively.

AI In Education

However, despite these in-roads, AI has yet to have a major impact on mainstream education. Most schools are still getting to grips with the remarkable opportunities afforded by WiFi, digital learning and mobile technology. Nevertheless, there are some examples of how AI is having an impact on learning and indeed, business functionality in education. For example, UK based educational AI company, Century Tech, has developed a learning platform alongside neuroscientists that tracks student interactions, including every mouse and keyboard movement. Century Tech’s AI monitors patterns and correlations in student, year group and school data and provides a personalised learning journey for each student, whilst giving teachers a real-time snapshot of the status of all children in their classes. At RGS Worcester we are planning to visit to a number of UK schools, such as Bolton School, that are already utilising the Century Tech AI.

With this machine learning opportunity already available, it is only a matter of time before other possibilities afforded by AI are realised; here are a few examples ascertained from my research:

  • Disruption of the ‘Industrial’ model of education and personalised learning
    • It is often argued that today’s classrooms have barely changed since education became available to the masses during the Industrial Revolution. Artificial Intelligence has the potential to completely change this model. Rather than having 1/2 teacher(s) per 30 children, each child could have a personalised assistant with an individually tailored learning programme. Taking the next step from the existing Century Tech software, future AI could actually co-deliver lessons to pupils at an optimal pace, understanding exactly what motivates, stimulates and select activities that best challenges them. Furthermore, AI could monitor tiredness, learning difficulties and psychological well-being, continually accumulating more information to optimise the learning programme alongside their human teacher.
  • Reduce Teacher Workload
    • The human aspect of teaching, in my opinion, should never be replaced. However, AI can remove many of the routine burdens that prevent teachers from being able to devote their energy to their students and indeed, teaching itself. AI could select the appropriate teaching materials for each lesson and note when pupils are absent or distracted. Furthermore, it could continuously measure and assess student progress/work so teachers no longer have to. The AI could then provide detailed assessments to teachers and even send reminders to pupils to finish uncompleted work whilst offering detailed formative advice. In turn, this could help improve teacher retention and recruitment.
  • Breadth of Intelligence Developed
    • AI can open up a much broader education for all. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, not all schools are able to provide the broadest possible enrichment. Emotional development, a wide-selection of languages, drama, teamwork, travel, sporting achievement, exposure to the arts, moral leadership etc. are sometimes sacrificed in order to focus on grades and league-tables. AI, however, could allow for more effective development of every child’s cognitive capabilities and all possible elements of human intelligence.
  • Stimulus for Students
    • Computer games grab the attention of young people and the next step from creating AI that can play games (such as Deepblue and Alpha GO) is for AI to actually create immersive and intelligent games that provide tailored game-play experiences that continuously adapt to suit learners, never growing out-of-date in the process.
  • Support for Disadvantaged Learners/SEN
    • Students with physical disabilities that mean they can’t use input devices like mice or keyboards could use natural language processing that enables development of voice-activated interfaces. Indeed, students who find it difficult to access school could benefit from a personalised AI teaching assistant at their home.
    • Efficiency, accuracy and quality of SEN diagnosis (e.g. ADHD) can be improved by AI. It can also educate instructors about the most effective methods with which to teach the individuals
    • Work has already begun to use AI to help people who have Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). Using data, AI systems have been able to help individual learners address special needs requirements. Another project, developed at UCL called ECHOES, resulted in the construction of a learning environment that built on existing technologies, such as interactive whiteboards, gesture and gaze tracking interfaces to create an interactive multimodal environment that could adapt to specific requirements of individual children with ASC.
  • Social Mobility
    • AI could offer the highest quality education for every student and help to counter-balance the stagnant social mobility opportunities afforded in society today. The rapidly falling price of technology means that as AI evolves, it could become widely available for a low cost and offer the same opportunities to all pupils. Class size, teacher quality, motivation/behaviour of peers, pace of progress and capital spending per-student could all become far-less of a factor in the quality of education available to students, regardless of socio-economic status.

Potential Pitfalls

As with any new technology, there are some dangers regarding the proliferation of AI, and we should all be mindful of them to ensure we tackle them proactively rather than wait until it’s too late. Anyone who has seen ‘The Great Hack‘ on Netflix will have seen how AI was used to target floating voters in The US Presidential elections and the Brexit vote in the UK. Both the Trump and Pro-Brexit parties used Cambridge Analytica to harvest voter-data from Facebook which enabled them to produce and share specifically targeted videos, memes and links that helped to sway voter intention in the desired direction.

  • Ethical Issues and Privacy
    • To be as effective as possible, AI needs to know as much as is possible about our bodies and minds. In the wrong hands, this data could be used to manipulate and endanger. Procedures must be in place to regulate and store the data responsibly and securely.
  • Infantilisation of humanity
    • If you take the growth of SatNav as an example of how AI now guides us around our physical environment, it’s entirely plausible that other forms of AI could replace different aspects of our thinking. As Niall Ferguson wrote in the Sunday Times “…the sum of human understanding may end up being reduced by AI”.
  • Loss of Jobs
    • More efficient tools and machines have been replacing jobs for centuries, and some studies suggest that over 25% of current jobs are susceptible to automation. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however rather than replacing the drudgery of work – we must be mindful not to take away the satisfying, challenging, social, worthwhile and ultimately ‘human’ aspects of the workplace.
  • Automation/Deprofessionalisation of teaching
    • Professor Anthony Seldon claims that robots will replace teachers by 2027. Although this seems unlikely to me, there is the very real possibility that as AI becomes more adept at teaching students, teacher expertise in subject areas will be less comprehensive than the machines. Furthermore, although AI could help allieviate the teacher recruitment crisis, we must be careful not to see AI as a replacement for teachers. Rather, we should consider how we change teacher-training and the role of the teacher to best utilise the opportunities offered by AI.
  • Social Immobility
    • Currently, AI costs are significant, therefore we need to ensure that the potential advantages of AI are not monopolised by wealthy countries/families/schools. Indeed, there is a possibility that AI may become cheaper than actual teachers/TA’s and in less-advantaged parts of the world in the future, AI may be seen as a low-cost replacement. In this rather bleak, dystopian possibility, suggested by Professor Rose Luckin, the most privileged in society may receive holistic, human-led education where AI acts as an intelligent assistant whilst poorer students only have AI alongside childminders to keep them on task.


The AI revolution is not coming; it is already here. Furthermore, my research concludes there is little doubt about the incredible potential of Artificial Intelligence in Education. AI can enrich the teaching profession, reduce workload, personalise learning and enhance the experiences of children. One day in the not too distant future, it could even help to offer a world-class education for every child, no matter what their background or socio-economic circumstance.   Nevertheless, it is an area within education in which we need to tread extremely carefully. The possible pitfalls that I have outlined must be managed proactively as we begin considering how best to integrate AI into our educational systems.

The speed at which AI is permeating into almost every aspect of our lives suggests that the education sector and the educators within it must prepare themselves and indeed, their students, for a new era in education where teaching and curriculum design will become entirely different from the so-called ‘Industrial Model’ that we have experienced since the 19th Century.

Intelligence itself is no longer a uniquely human concept, although the rise of AI has also demonstrated just how multifaceted human intelligence actually is. Yes, computers can out-perform us at certain tasks, but human intelligence is far more complex than that. Professor Luckin even suggests that the fact we call AI ‘Intelligent’ diminishes our own intellectual attributes; “there are many technologies that can deceive their users into believing they are human. However, I would suggest that this is more a reflection of our propensity to undervalue what it means to be human than a real reflection of the intelligence of the technologies”.

Perhaps the dawn of AI in education should also raise questions over the type of intelligence that our current education system encourages and values; facts that help you pass exams are undoubtedly important, yet they they are only a small aspect of what human intelligence is capable of. The fact that AI can now pass some of the exams we set for our pupils suggests that their scope is far too narrow. They do not take into account social intelligence, metacognitive intelligence, emotional intelligence and our perceived self-efficacy; all of which AI is unable to replicate.

The possibilities afforded by AI in education are remarkable, but we must ensure that where AI improves education, it does so in a way that compliments, rather than replaces, the most important aspect of teaching and learning; humanity itself.

Further Reading: