BETT 2015: Dashboard Education: Building Virtual Schools to deal with increasing numbers of students

By Dashboard Education

Dashboard Education

"If you build it, they will come" to paraphrase the 80s fantasy baseball film 'Field of Dreams'. Well, it's a quote that gets used (and misused) quite a bit when someone has a crazy idea and believes that faith will result in success. The real trouble happens when you haven't bothered to build it but they come anyway!

In the UK there are a lot of young learners who are unlikely to have school places when they pop on their new shoes, roll up the sleeves on their oversized jumpers and have their sandwiches carefully packed in their frozen lunch box and head off for their first day at school. In April 2014 the Guardian reported:

"A quarter of the total of local authorities believe that government funding for additional primary places is insufficient to meet demand for 2015/16"

Hmmm. So the government are going to build more schools then? Err, probably not. Schools take a while to construct and some believe that 'titan' primaries, exceeding 800 learners, are the way forward. One thing is for sure however; doing nothing is unlikely to be that helpful.

Building a baseball field on your remote farm can be tricky (ask Kevin Costner), building a school in an inner city is even trickier, building a virtual school though... well that is not so crazy.

Technology is becoming cheaper, better and more accessible. Our children are second generation digital natives and can be seen happily interacting with their tablets as if they have evolved with a 'swipe instinct'. Perhaps they have.

Learning centres could be used by young learners to have interactive access with brilliant educators from anywhere in the world. In the same way teaching assistants help qualified teachers, they could help qualified virtual teachers. This is no 'one way' teaching model either. Anyone who has spent some time with interactive learning apps knows the power of a fully interactive, virtual learning environment.

I work for Dashboard Education and we like the idea that it is possible to supplement traditional teaching with technology based education. Maybe it's the way forward, maybe allowing young learners access to the best educators who are closely matched to their learning needs is not such a bad idea. Maybe it's time to adopt new ways to deliver education?

Some people say we have gone crazy (a bit like Kevin Costner) but we are not so sure. Is it better young school starters are crammed into unfit classrooms and given evermore generic curricular activities, or is it better that selected individuals around the World can access tailored teaching, regardless of their physical environment? We think we might be on to something.

We are building the Dashboard Academy which will launch in September 2015 and are recruiting talented educators to operate in the online environment. Busily getting ready to implement revolutionary learning, powered by Office 365, as it is free to education, free to learners, free to teachers. This means we can share the best teaching resources with the best educators for more learners than ever before.

So we are virtually building it, but will they virtually come? To be honest we don't know. What we do know is that we will be ready if they do. It's our Field of Dreams - we'd love to see you there.

Written by: John Cooper, Director of Education at Dashboard Education and Mathematics Lecturer at Sussex Downs College.


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