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Steve Wheeler

Steve Wheeler has spent his entire career working in educational technology. He is currently Associate Professor of Learning Technology at Plymouth University, where his research interests include social media and mobile technologies in education. He has conducted research into learning technology in all sectors of education and training and, having been invited to present his findings at conferences in more than 30 countries, he is truly a global educator.

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Publications by Steve Wheeler

Learning with ‘e’s

In an age where young people seem to have a…

Don’t Change the Light Bulbs

Curated by Rachel Jones, Don’t Change the Light Bulbs offers…

Author Blog

Winter is here

July 18 2017

Image from Pexels
We are heading into the perfect storm. Students numbers are growing, and there aren't enough teachers.

For the second year in the UK, secondary (high) school numbers have grown, and it's expected that over the next 8 years there will be a 19% rise in these numbers, with over 600,000 additional students. The sudden increase in births from 2002 onwards is largely responsible for this trend, and this was an expected rise. However, at the same time, funding for schools (regardless of the recent announcement for additional funding - which is simply being siphoned from elsewhere in the education budget - a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul) is paltry, and hardly makes a dent in the urgent problems we have in our British schools. There is a teacher shortage, and it's worsening.

A recent report from the National Union of Teachers reveals some disturbing statistics.  Recruitment of new teachers is a growing problem. Maths teacher specialists are down to 84% and computing specialists are only at 68% of the capacity required. In many secondary schools, students are now being taught mathematics by teachers who are not qualified to do so. Retention of teachers is also a problem according to the report. In 2016, the UK government confirmed that 30% of teachers who had joined the profession in 2010 had left within five years. The report holds many other equally worrying statistics which are beyond the scope of this discussion.

What can be done? There are some solutions to these problems. The British government should urgently fund the building of new schools, and should do so with money from elsewhere than the already stretched education budget. If they can find £1billion to buy the support of another party to prop up a minority government then they can find more. The British government can also reduce (or preferably eliminate) the tuition fees for students for those wishing to study to become a teacher. Many prospective trainees are simply dissuaded from training as a teacher because of the huge debts they will run up as a university student. Alternatively, the government could decide to offset the tuition fees by offering some form of bursary. By far the biggest problem though, is the failure to retain teachers in the profession. Training a teacher is an expensive business, so retaining their expertise and knowledge once they qualify should be the main priority. Teachers are currently surveilled and scrutinised beyond decent boundaries. They are weighed down with bureaucracy and work extraordinarily long hours, mainly spent at home marking exercise books and tests to try to keep up with the punishing assessment regimes the government imposes on all schools.

If as a society, we don't address these problems soon, education in the UK will be stifled, children will be deprived of a good education, and we will all suffer. The UK government must urgently intervene, before winter is here.

Creative Commons License
Winter is here by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's

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Future sense

July 14 2017

Photo by Fosco Lucarelli on Flickr
The celebrated American physicist Michio Kaku claimed that it is impossible to accurately predict the future, and he is right. When we try to predict anything, we always run up against a number of variables, and the longer time goes on, the more variables there are to consider. Astrologers tend to keep their predictions extremely vague, so they can be interpreted in many different ways. Gamblers have to be more specific, and as a result are spectacularly less successful, more often losing their money than winning. Predicting the future is a very risky business, because it hasn't happened yet.

Predicting the future one year down the track can be fairly straight forward, but to predict three years or even five years is increasingly precarious and can lead to some strange and unsupportable assumptions (see the Horizon Report). Occasionally, I see some wonderfully misguided quotes about the future of technology. Some of the most notorious bad prediction are about what is not possible. Take the quote from Ken Olson, president of Digital Equipment Corporation who in 1977 said 'There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.' Similar predictions were made about motion pictures (movies) by none other than movie mogul Harry Warner who in 1927 opined: 'Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?' and by Thomas Edison who said 'Books will soon be obsolete in public schools. Scholars will be instructed through the eye.' Well, time has proven that motion pictures, video and multi-media have become an important part of our entertainment and education, we do want to hear actors talk, and we don't want to get rid of our books.

French philosopher Voltaire was insightful about our problems with 'the future'. He said: 'Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives, and few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of their time.' Most of us look at what is around us and try to make predictions based on what we know, rather than what is possible. We restrict ourselves to the current mindset, and in so doing limit the extent to which we can imagine the future. In literature we find perhaps the richest vein of imagination, and probably always will. Writers such as H. G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Gene Roddenberry, William Gibson and Robert Heinlein pointed us to the future, where technology could achieve seemingly impossible aims. Doors that open when you approach them, global satellite coverage, personal communication systems, cyberspace, videophones, artificial intelligence, replicators and space travel all seemed impossible when they were written about, but now each of these is common place.

We may not be able to predict the future with any accuracy, but we can certainly imagine it - and in so doing, prepare the ground from which these ideas might grow for future generations.

Creative Commons License
Future sense by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's

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