The Digital Future and Education
Ian Yorston Main

The Digital Future and Education

28/10/2011

This year’s Roedean lecture held on 11 October was given by Ian Yorston who has been Director of Digital Technology at Radley College since 1993. Ian’s passion for and knowledge of digital technology could date back to the Gulf war, 1990-1991, where he served as an Electronic Warfare Office.  His lecture was punctuated by reference to the gadgets and devices which are appearing at an ever increasing rate and having such an impact on the way in which many live their lives.

Ian has a MAD (Make A Difference) agenda at least partly inspired by a Douglas Adams quote: “Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty- five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.” As our schools are led mainly by those in the latter age bracket Ian claims that unless there is a change in mindset not only will opportunities be missed to develop the quality and richness of the educational experience but that negative and uninspired attitudes to digital technology are preventing us from nurturing the inventors and innovators of the future.

By insisting on teaching students keyboard skills and how to use word processing software and browsers etc., but not how to build such packages we are producing technology consumers, not developers and creators. It is a part of our duty of care to prepare students for the future. “Create the software or be the software”.

Tim Berners-Lee, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. Perhaps we can forgive Ian, who has worked in a boys’ boarding school for eighteen years, for only using men as examples of those that have “made a difference”. But what should we be doing to have more English men and women taking centre stage in the digital future?

Ian has two lines of attack. Firstly, embrace the technology. Let the students bring their devices into school and enable and promote their usage in delivering and developing the curriculum. And secondly, teach and train the students to solve problems by teaching coding and not how to use software packages.

For further information go to Ian’s website The Unreasonable Man.

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