Ensuring the UK has the right people in place to lead the next technological revolution

2 mins read

Earlier this month, a panel of experts led by ARM’s CEO Simon Segars gathered at the Science Museum in London to discuss how the UK was going to ensure that it had the right men and women in place to lead the country through what was described as the next ‘technological revolution’.

Segars talked about the role of technology and the importance of ensuring an increasing supply of technologists, scientists and engineers and how the UK was going to have to do more to encourage young people to take an early interest in technology and develop careers in STEM-related subjects. He said a number of steps needed to be taken in order to encourage more children into the technology industry.

“We need to ensure that teachers bring technology not just into classes about technology, but into as many subject areas as possible,” he said, using PE as an extreme example.

“Imagine you equip a PE class with fitness trackers counting steps, speed, activity. Or use footballs or basketballs with built-in sensors that can work out how the ball has been kicked or thrown. Suddenly, while you are getting exercise in PE, you are also learning about data science and maths and applying them both in the real world. Your PE lesson is now a science lesson too.”

Segars went on to suggest that STEM subjects should be introduced in a way that appeals to all students, both boys and girls, and ‘those good at maths and those good at art’.

Panelist Professor Danielle George, associate dean for teaching and learning at the University of Manchester talked about the importance of what she called ‘thinkering’.

“It’s vital that we allow students to tinker and to fail and to praise those failures. We need to make engineering fun.”

Segar said that there was a need to ‘de-geek’ technology and to make it accessible for everyone.

How technology was taught was another issue. Both Segars and Prof George suggested that technology should be taught and introduced into curriculums as early as possible.

“This is one of the reasons we collaborated with the BBC to help deliver the Microbit,” explained Segars. “One of the many goals of this programme is to get technology in the hands of all students earlier and in a package with which they can immediately achieve successes.”

A comment from the floor called for a fundamental change in the way the national curriculum was taught as there was too much focus on making it easy to assess subjects rather than getting technology based activities into the curriculum.

Dr Meghan Groome, executive director of the Global STEM Alliance, said that it was important to expand the pool of teachers capable of understanding and teaching new technologies.

“We need to figure out how to incentivise teachers to take on new ideas and to put themselves in the place of the learner. We also need to find time in the school day for this and to provide quality training for teachers.”

Segars agreed, warning that it was vital to provide adequate materials and training for teachers.

“Many teachers were not adequately exposed to technology in their own training,” he concluded. For them to be successful in passing STEM on to the next generation, ‘it is imperative we train them on how it can apply to their respective disciplines’.