When computers were first widely introduced into schools in the 1990s there was much talk about preparing students for a misty digital future that could only partly be foreseen. With the rise of high speed broadband and portable devices, the internet now seems all pervasive. It is hard now to imagine not being able to locate information in seconds at the tap of a screen. At Bett 2024 last week, Gillian Keegan spoke of a time approaching when we will again see a monumental shift in the way in which technology is used in education. A report was published by the DfE Open Innovation Team to coincide with the event, presenting the views of educators and experts on the potential of generative AI, stating that last year 42% of primary and secondary teachers had used generative AI in their role. The report also pulls together the views of educators, industry experts, data and academia calling for a long term strategy when it seems that each day brings a new headline either speaking of the benefits or risks that AI poses to society.

The EEF guide to using educational research points to the importance of identifying sources of research evidence with the need for an awareness of the factors that can introduce bias. The number of teaching staff now using generative AI points to the sector already grasping its potential to reduce workload and increase student engagement through personalising learning. However, there is a need for greater evidence of its actual effectiveness in raising pupil achievement in the context of well-funded industry research having the potential to make exaggerated claims. Currently sources of evidence for the impact of AI are limited. With around 40% of young people in Camden eligible for free school meals, the spectre of a digital divide growing even wider is highly relevant to our local context. In line with the principles of BBS we must consider how AI can increase equity and reduce disadvantage. This can only be achieved through evidence informed practice and the ambition that technology has the potential to make positive change. Next week, 6 February 2024, is safer internet day with the theme of ‘Inspiring Change? Making a difference, managing influence and navigating change online’ and seeking the views of young people on using the internet to make things better. This is a valuable reminder to listen to young people, and the actual impact of technology on their lived experience when seeking to embrace this new era.

I hope you have a restful weekend, the half term is almost within sight!

Stephen Hall

Chief Executive Officer, Camden Learning

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