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Preparing children for the digital world

It seems like an almost impossible task. How do school’s educate children for a fast-paced digital future when the technology is constantly evolving, and the rate of change is increasing?

For children, 8¼ is age of the tipping point for digital knowledge, according to a survey from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. This means that students born from 2010, known as the Alpha Generation, are now reaching the age at which their knowledge surpasses that of their parents.

They’re the iGeneration – the children who are growing up talking Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa at home and cannot imagine a world without digital devices. For them, interacting with Artificial Intelligence is natural and communicating with their friends in multifaceted ways is normal. Fast forward 10 years and advanced AI will have become mainstream. But do we have to second-guess the technology to educate children to use it?

Andy Perryer is the digital learning adviser at Cognita Schools, the parent of Downsend, and he works closely with Downsend’s head of digital learning, Lee Silva to make sure pupils are able to experience the latest technologies such as a Virtual Reality kit offering children a fully immersive 360 learning experience, as well as 3D printing and scanning. Children are given the opportunity to experience these technologies from an early age  both as part of the curriculum, and through the school’s ‘Stretch’ programme of enrichment opportunities.

According to Andy, it’s the iGeneration who will benefit from technology advancements in education. They’ll co-exist with AI, and their inquisitiveness will be their advantage –  they’ll happily touch buttons and handle technology as if it were an extension of themselves.

The real benefits come with technology that does not just substitute and replicate classroom tasks and activities – it’s those which demand creative thinking and to be transformative, seeing problems from different perspectives and to do so quickly.

The use of technology in schools is transforming the way children learn. Being able to record your tennis serve not only gives children a quick visual to see where improvement can be made, it can also be done in real-time, which will accelerate the impact of the learning.

Experiencing the sights and sounds of the London Blitz against a green screen allows children to feel like they’re actually experiencing the event, which sets the scene for the historical narrative. But more than this, most of the development requires learners to collaborate, share decision-making, and to be more collegiate with their peers.

But the benefits don’t stop there. In schools like Downsend, technology is used to digitally record pupil’s progress, add to their personal portfolio of work and include text and voice notes – which is an important way of receiving feedback. This record follows them through school, shows progression of understanding, and connects in family members into their learning.

A school’s approach to classroom technology should not be second-guessing programming languages and training for specific technology. The focus should be on creating adaptive learners and allowing the flexibility of young minds to think expansively and critically through feedback, directing their own learning at their own pace and integrating that with traditional methods for a rounded experience.

Downsend School is a selective independent co-ed school in Leatherhead for children aged 2-16. The school has recently undergone significant refurbishment, with further expansion underway in the form of a brand new Creative Arts Centre, and from September this year will offer a three-year GCSE programme. Read the full Downsend School review here.

There are open events at Downsend School on Fri 6 Mar. The Little Downsend nursery and pre-preps at Ashtead and Leatherhead are also holding open events on Fri 6 Mar. Little Downsend at Epsom will hold an open event on Fri 13 Mar. Book here.


Downsend School, 1 Leatherhead Road, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 8TJ. Tel: 01372 372197.

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