What do you think of when you hear the word ‘school’? Blackboards, books, pens and paper – the traditional image of a classroom – a nice, familiar image, but one that is no longer relevant for the world as it is today.
We now live in a completely connected society, where we must all constantly keep up with the latest innovations. Out with the blackboards, in with the smart boards; and forget pencil sharpeners – just don’t forget to sharpen your typing skills.
What this means is that children are now learning to use the latest technology not just in the way they spend their free time – on smartphones and iPads – but also in the way they study and are taught at school. As part of their goal to educate, schools now need to be immersed in digital technology.
But there are many challenges to this. The first, and most important one, is having the very basic resources necessary to access online learning – high-speed, reliable broadband. The second is knowing that children are protected when working online: just as we would never let them go into an unsafe area in a city, there are parts of the internet that we would never want our children to visit. The final issue is about having access to quality online learning materials. Although nothing can ever replace an inspiring teacher, having the right tools can really help motivate kids.
Because being adaptable and comfortable with technology are exactly the abilities that are becoming increasingly critical in the workplace (and in life!) today, we have a responsibility to help our children develop them while they are in education. What we know about jobs today will soon become as outdated as the fax machine – since 65% of today's primary school children will end up in jobs that haven't yet been invented. We may no longer be able to pass on specific professional knowledge – but we can teach them the skills, the curiosity and the attitude that will help them thrive.
This can be done by getting them to work on projects with schools on the other side of the world thanks to video links, sharpening their business skills by involving them in online fundraising initiatives, or teaching them to use or even build the kinds of programmes they will need professionally. From knowing basic Excel and PowerPoint to more sophisticated design, language and computing tools, a grounding in digital skills is vital to confidently adapting to a new world – one where holograms, virtual simulators and 3D printing are all expected to be part of a day’s work.
And that is why London Grid for Learning’s initiative to improve students’ IT experience in London has been such a great success – it was widely adopted by schools across London, and helped them save over £100 million. Because we want to enhance children’s education provision and support innovation, Virgin Media Business has just signed a deal to take this programme to schools across the UK. This new initiative is called TRUSTnet and will provide access to high-speed broadband, improved security and tailored educational content.
It is often repeated, but it’s true: an investment in our children is an investment in our future – and we need to think of all the different aspects in which we can help them grow, succeed – and be prepared to discover the new, innovative, digital world.
As the UK leads the information revolution, it is this kind of investment in the next generation that will determine our future, and help us sustain our powerful competitive advantage.