Tied Together

Digital in Education

Episode Summary

Katrina Logie, guest host of Tied Together, interviews Roberto Hortal, Head of Innovation at RM Plc. Innovation being what we’re all about at Tied Together, we thought it important to get a look at how digital affects the educational sector with an expert.

Episode Notes

Katrina Logie, guest host of Tied Together, interviews Roberto Hortal, Head of Innovation at RM Plc. Innovation being what we’re all about at Tied Together, we thought it important to get a look at how digital affects the educational sector with an expert.

Episode Transcription

Katrina Logie 00:02

So welcome to Tied Together, where we interview heads of innovation in technology and find interesting guests like today's guest, Roberto Hortal, who is head of innovation at RM plc. I'm your guest host of Tied Together, Katrina Logie, and I'm going to be talking with Roberto today all about how digital affects the educational sector. So welcome, Roberto. Very nice to have you on the show today. And obviously, you know, here we are doing your first podcast.

 

Roberto Hortal 00:43

first ever podcast and very nice that it is this one.

 

Katrina Logie 00:48

Fantastic. Well, it's lovely to have you and very much looking forward to talking to you about how technology is innovating education. It's a very interesting topic for me, and also for our listeners. So Roberto, just a little bit about you, you're a digital thought leader and agent of change. And you partner with board level execs and transformational journeys to make digital and innovation as part of their company's DNA. Can you just tell us about your experience and your journey to where you are today at RM?

 

Roberto Hortal 01:23

Yes, I can. So let me take you back to 1996. The web was something that only existed in universities and I was lucky to be in one of those. I was doing a year in Finland to finish my studies and I really kind of enjoyed using the web to communicate with students around the world about my final year product. So I wanted to continue to do that professionally. And I was lucky enough that Nokia were looking for someone to do just that. To bring everyone the message about mobile phones being something that we should all consider getting our first one, you know, back in the day when most people didn't have one.

Yeah, right at the start. Before WAP, before internet on the mobile phone, when they were used for phone calls and text messages. And so I got that job. My job was to kind of promote mobile phones as a consumer device worldwide from my little office in the centre of Helsinki on the sixth floor, of what used to be a bank. And I've been doing that ever since, I've been bringing digital ways to change people's lives ever since. So we did it with mobile phones and Nokia, then I came to the UK and joined EasyJet and made holidays available to everyone because the online model, the digital model, made them accessible. It enabled us to unbundle the price, enable you to only buy the bits of the holiday that you're interested in. If you're not bringing luggage, you don't have to pay for that, if you're keen to get on the plane fast, you can pay a bit more for that. I'm really good at bringing a whole new experience and a whole new reach to allow people to go and see the world. Again I moved on, and I did the similar thing with insurance where it was at the beginning of the explosion of price comparisons. So making sure that our insurance company was able to reach the right customer service comparison and to embrace the new distribution model that users have vaulted with their feet that they preferred. And then enable them to continue to have every other interaction online as well. This was a world where a lot of companies used to get you online because they knew your customers preferred to do it online but then after that they insist that you call them for everything else. So I was the one that changed that in insurance and then we brought the same model to Central and Eastern Europe and made sure that this new better model of engaging with your insurance company was available to people beyond the UK and the US. And then in 2012 it was the Olympics in London so I decided to go and be part of that through joining EDF. They're one of the major sponsors of the Olympics. And we managed to make energy interesting, make energy better. Not just through the partnership with the Olympics, we did some really cool stuff like using the London Eye to show the world what Twitter was talking about every day about the Olympics, you know the mood of the nation using different colours to illuminate the London Eye depending on the level of excitement that people have on that particular day of the Olympics. But also get making energy cheaper, better and easier to switch and then moving on to helping people automate their own house so you know I created the blue lab which was the UK’s first connected home Innovation Lab, you know, enabling people to automate the heating, the lighting, security, and optimise their energy consumption: save money without giving up on your comfort. And then went on from there, helped transform the co-op from several 100 year old paper based cooperative into a modern platform business for the 21st century. And then I saw the satisfaction of doing something that has a purpose with cooperation, I thought well where else could I find a purpose to improve people's lives where it really matters? And education was the place to be. So for the last three years I have been RM trying to help students, teachers, regulators, and everybody else involved in education get better outcomes through the clever use of technology.

 

Katrina Logie 06:00

So very much thinking about the customer experience, innovating the customer experience, but also how to create a better use with technology.

 

Roberto Hortal 06:20

Very much so. I used to talk about making the impossible possible. So it's one of those things that drives what I do. If you think about how hard it used to be to go on holiday, because flights only went to about three places and they cost as much as a small house. Whereas now (before COVID) people could go anywhere on a whim and still have some change for drinks at the end of the day. So that’s the sort of transformation that I aspire to bring to different industries and different markets and different people. At the end of the day it's about the people that benefit from that.

 

Katrina Logie 06:57

Making it accessible. You talked about RM plc being a 40 year old startup in education. Why is that?

 

Roberto Hortal 07:14

Yeah, so it's a company that is very good at reinventing itself and understanding what the education sector needs from technology, every stage of the way. So you know, back in the day, 40 years ago when it was founded was all about accessing the actual technology itself and RM was a manufacturer of PCs, they built PCs in Oxford. PCs that were designed to last for a number of years and to be childproof, waterproof, shockproof, that kind of thing, because that's what was needed then. As PCs became more accessible, then we pivoted to the software that made those PCs useful. For a long time, and still up until today, we are the most successful ISP for primary schools. So making sure that the primary schools have access to the Internet, and can use the same tools that we use in our working life and our consumer lives when you go into the classroom. And then more recently, we've been investing in the development of things like robots for education, making sure that children of an early age and primary school aged children are able to engage with technology in age appropriate ways to start learning about how technology works. We're bringing a lot of connectivity and high performance and a platform to enter classrooms, primaries and secondaries. Things like Office 365, and Google Classroom, Chromebooks, laptops, projectors. All that technology that enables the classroom to be a totally interactive place to be, and unlock the potential of the teacher to really deliver real good learning in the classroom. But also at the same time, we develop a lot of the software that is used in the back end of the school to make sure that the school can operate. So you know, the management information system, the finance systems, the stuff that keeps their school ticking over, and the teachers getting paid. More recently, we have got involved in taking the whole world of high stakes assessment online. So you know, when you take your university examination, when you take your A level or your GCSE examination in school, when you take a language examination that will allow you to maybe apply for a visa to work in a different country. These kinds of exams, that open great opportunities for your personal development and professional development, it's very important that those exams are fair, and that they really reflect the candidate's knowledge and what the candidate knows and has learned. And these used to be done on paper in a very very difficult way. So what we do is we take all of this into the cloud, we take the actual papers, we bring them online, we scan them, we put it in front of the right markers, we make sure that the marks are right, we make sure that the candidate is getting the fair representation of what they need in the exam. And then we do that at scale. So we do that across the world, in a lot of countries, you know, billions of bits of paper every year. And now we are actually replacing the paper with onscreen assessment as well, because that's the next logical step, making sure that the assessment itself can be taken whenever and wherever. And it's made accessible to people, regardless of where they just happened to be.

 

Katrina Logie 10:31

I see. So is this helping take away the hassle for the teachers with the markings of the exams and everything?

 

Roberto Hortal 10:42

For the teachers in a lot of countries? Yes. In the UK, not yet, because we are very wedded to paper exams still in the UK. In places where the exams are taken online, in New Zealand, yeah, because it's a  lot easier to deliver a test that just appears on the screen, all the teacher has to do is to click a button on their own time in order to start the test. And then click a button when the test is finished. And then some of the answers are auto-marked. Some of the answers will require professional evaluation, but the teacher gets some help by being able to focus only on those things that require the teacher's knowledge to be able to be marked. And also you can share it with other teachers, we do a lot of level marking, we do a lot of comparative assessment, new ways of assessment, not just looking at a rubric and making some sort of decision about what number to put next to an answer. More than a new ways to assess particularly for things that are not easy to assess a rubric, you know, theatre, music, physics, complex things that are much better assessed in different ways. So yeah, the sky's the limit at the moment on that area, we only really started.

 

Katrina Logie 11:50

That's really gonna help save time, isn't it, I mean, so this is all with sort of AI?

 

Roberto Hortal 11:56

There’s a little bit of AI, there's a lot of simply just the comfort of being able to see anything anywhere. So imagine if you're a student that wants to get an accountancy degree, because you want to be an accountant, but you just happen to live in a remote area of Pakistan where there's no place to actually take that exam. In the past, you may have to walk a couple of days to a centre to sit in front of somebody else's computer to take the test, purely because they wanted to have an invigilator make sure that you're not cheating. Today, you can use remote invigilation, do it in your room, in your remote area, not be tired and have a better opportunity to actually demonstrate that you know your accountancy really well and you really deserve that qualification.

 

Katrina Logie 12:41

Right, so how long this has been around for?

 

Roberto Hortal 12:44

In different ways, for a few years. We've been involved in assessment for quite a long time, our existing product is called assessor three. So it's the third generation of our assessor product. On screen assessment has been around for a long time, but it was very basic. So again, in the way that we do it, it’s been around for a couple of years. We acquired a company a couple of years ago that had the right product for us, and we've been developing it ever since. And it's now getting to a state of maturity where we are proud to take it to market and really claim that this can compete favourably with paper-based exams for most scenarios.

 

Katrina Logie 13:23

I see, did it help with the situation in the UK during COVID? With all the students being marked fairly?

 

Roberto Hortal 13:34

It could have helped, and we were really interested in helping, but it was decided that no exams were going to take place. So in this particular scenario, we both decided not to try to go online and instead use teacher assessments to go out with a grade. So we weren't involved in the teacher assessments because as I said, we provide a lot of the monitoring information systems where those assessments live. But not the not the on screen assessment technology in this particular case,

 

Katrina Logie 14:05

There's a lot of money being invested in education and technology. How has it changed, would you say, in the last 10 years? Has COVID helped with speeding things up in terms of creating tools to benefit people out of the classroom?

 

Roberto Hortal 14:28

When you look at the UK market specifically and still benefiting from being relatively new to education myself, what I can see is that there was an early stage a few years ago with the No Child Left Behind and similar initiatives from the government, where a lot of money was put into early stage technology. And some of it is still in the classroom and is working really well. A lot of the digital screens, a lot of interactive displays that exist, a lot of the payment methods for canteens in secondary schools, that kind of thing. But some of it wasn't quite ready for primetime. So particularly in the classroom, I think there's been a mixed success, some of it is working really well, some of it was a little bit too early, or it wasn't deployed in the right way. Maybe the connectivity wasn't there to support the number of terminals. And certainly, as with everything, technology is only an enabler, you need to be able to use it. In the same way that I wouldn't dream to tell anyone to sit in a car and take me somewhere having never been in a car before. I think training and understanding what technology is able to do for you, and then getting the practice, to do it to a competent level is as important as accessing the technology and that hasn't been there traditionally, in a lot of places, not just education, in workplaces as well.

 

Katrina Logie 15:51

So it's about enhancing the learning experience?

 

Roberto Hortal 15:54

If I can take you back to a time 20 years ago, in businesses, we all get to use PowerPoint for the first time. We all went through a phase where we started using a lot of pictures, a lot of fonts, Comic Sans was everywhere. And clipart was everywhere, as well. And then slowly, slowly, we learned how to use PowerPoint well. As an effective means of communication. And these days, we're replacing it with other things because it's showing its age.

 

Katrina Logie 16:26

I agree with that actually.

 

Roberto Hortal 16:28

Schools need to go through that journey. And at the moment, the schools were given the technology, but they didn't quite go through those growing pains of trying things and getting them wrong. They haven't gone through the phase of doing Comic Sans in anger yet. So we have to help them. I think as technology people, we have to help the users of technology use it well. We have to keep asking ‘Why?’ a lot. ‘What are you trying to achieve?’ and then ‘How can I help you achieve that?’ And if I just dump a bunch of technology on your desk, that's not likely to be the full answer. So I think that happened in the past. And therefore there was a few years of reticence to embrace technology. And now with COVID, yes, technology was unavoidable. There was no choice, you had to use technology. And some people used it really well. And some people used it a little bit less well. There were a lot of examples of people sending documents to homes, to get them printed, to then figure out a way to take a photo of them, to send them back to be tested or to be marked. And so there's been some good examples and bad examples but we are now at a time, I think, where we have gone past the point of no return. Technology will continue to be a tool to be used in education, certainly in higher education, very likely in secondary education, hopefully, also in primary. And now we are at a time where we have to optimise that analogy. And we also have to learn to use it well. And to learn to embrace the things that technology allows us to do that we couldn't do in the past.

 

Katrina Logie 18:04

So what changes are we seein? You've talked about robots you've talked about helping teachers with assessing exams, etc. And also technology in the classroom, tablets, what else are we seeing in terms of tools?

 

Roberto Hortal 18:29

So I think the first thing we're seeing is we're seeing a lot of time saving opportunities, teachers are very busy people. And if you think about a traditional teacher's day, when you finish teaching, you're nowhere near finishing your day. You have to collect all your books, you have to take them home or take them to the teachers room, you have to mark, you have to give some feedback. And then you go home and you start planning the lesson for tomorrow. What you can do today is, you first of all don't have to lift weight anymore. The books can be online, something like Google Classrooms or Office 365 Assignments. So everything can be digital, you don't have to carry anything, you can go home and do your marking at home on your own computer. The feedback is automatically collected and delivered back to the student. Plus there's a history of it, so if a book gets lost, which happens all the time, no worries because we have the digital version of it. And then your lesson planning, there's massive opportunities to improve lesson planning. So we all know that our work we all like some things better than others, we all prefer some parts of our jobs better than others. What we are seeing now in some of the more forward thinking multi-academy trusts is they’re creating collections of teaching materials, collections of lesson plans plus the teaching materials that is using the plan and sharing them with other teachers, so you can you can pick up material that somebody else has started with and, you know we all like to change things so that’s possible. You add your own spin to it, you add your own tone of voice. But there's no longer a need to start from scratch. And then if you look at the data that the management information systems are able to collect these days, you can then have a look and say ‘Actually, this version of the material was more effective at helping students learn the content than that other version that somebody else has used.’ And you can start being data driven in what is the best way to get your particular group of people in your classroom, to help them to learn the right things in the right way. You can also engage them in things like marking, we have very high hopes for something called comparative judgement, which is where instead of saying this one's a four, this one's a six, you just have to see two bits of work and you have to pick which one's better than the other. And that gives you a ranking. Right? What we have seen is that, first of all, the ranking doesn't depend on the quality of the marker, so students can help mark. So again, take time away from the teacher, rather than the teacher doing the marking, you can ask the classroom to help you with that. But also, because you are being exposed to other exemplars of an answer to the same question, as a student you learn. And we have seen progress studies, we have seen proper evidence that this is a fact. That you actually get better results, and learning is happening as children, as students, are involved in marking. So you get the double whammy of saving time, and some learning outcomes that happen on the back of that, it's really, really interesting.

 

Katrina Logie 21:38

So you're making it interactive between the students and the teachers.

 

Roberto Hortal 21:41

We are indeed, yes, and that is one of the key things that we're trying to do. And also helping the classroom become a community of learning as well, so also helping children find other children that may be able to help them with particular subjects. Ask a friend before you ask a teacher,

 

Katrina Logie 21:58

Yeah, it teaches some really good skills in working together. Collaboration, which is very important, because you can only learn from other people. And not only that, it's about bringing everybody's skills together to create something, and doing it on your own is a challenge. So, this is brilliant. How do you research to get these ideas that innovate? Do you actually go into the classroom to see what they need? Or, how do you develop these ideas?

 

Roberto Hortal 22:34

We spend a lot of time in the classroom. We also have quite a few colleagues who have a background in teaching, or in the design of high stakes examinations, or in the design of educational policy, which is always something that we need to understand and be able to work with. We are lucky that we have customers around the world as well so we are able to see what's different in every county, but also what's coming through every country. And then we - particularly within the innovation team, but more or more across the entirety of RM and the industry, to be honest - we work with the customers in building a product together. So we don't just go and ask you a number of questions, and then go away for a year, and then present a final product that we think you're going to love. We will work with you, with the teachers, with the students in the classroom, every day of the week, every week of the year, making our products incrementally better, until people finally fall in love with them and tell us ‘Yeah, I will be very disappointed if this product wasn’t available to me anymore.’ That's our maxim, we want to delight the customer. We just don't want to do something that works but something that people really look forward to using in the morning every day.

 

Katrina Logie 23:55

Yeah, it's about designing tools that are going to help the teacher do their job better or more efficiently.

 

Roberto Hortal  24:02

Absolutely. But that is a really important point. Again, like I like looking back and looking for examples, and I remember a couple of years ago, three years ago, we went through a phase where AI was coming after our jobs. Yes, we were all going to be unemployed and AI was coming after our jobs.

 

Katrina Logie 24:23

Everybody got scared. 

 

Roberto Hortal 24:25

Everybody got scared, everyone was gonna have to train as a driver or something. And that never happens. That is never what happens, but that is always what some technology companies want to sell. So in the area of assessment, there has been a lot of talk about AI assessing your high stakes exams. Can we remove the teacher? Can we automate the assessment? I think that’s the wrong question to ask, it’s how do we help the assessor give the right mark and in the classroom, how do we help the teacher get the outcomes they're looking for? Get those people that they have care of to learn as much as they're capable of, and also to socialise themselves and to become better adults, better participants in society when it's their turn to be the leaders of the world. There's always that fear that, you know, ‘Are they coming after my job?’ And that is never the case.

 

Katrina Logie 25:24

No. So do you think the way this classroom is set up, though, could change? The traditional classroom, in having the teacher at the front and then all the students listening to the teacher. Because the way it's going is becoming more sort of shared information between the students and the teacher? Do you think that could change? The way the classroom is set up.

 

Roberto Hortal 25:48

I think certainly there will be more models. If you see some of the things that are going on in Scandinavia where they’re certainly less hierarchical with the teacher in the middle, rather than the front, and circles of children. And also, there's a lot more emphasis on self directed learning in places like Finland, which I know works, I used to live there. And the teacher’s role is slightly different: more of a leader and a mentor, less the sage on the stage. So that model is going to be more possible, because the children are going to have the tools they need to become fully self directed. So that's one example of something that you may see, certainly with secondary and further education, you know, the more you are able to take control of your own learning and your own interest. There's going to be a lot more opportunities for you to interact with more people. So you know, there is a scenario where you may be able to pick who you want to teach you a particular subject in university, and it may not be someone that works in the university, it may be someone that works in a different university that you think is really good, and you want to attend that lesson, so you might well just be able to sit in their lessons in the future. So again, the world kind of unbundles in very interesting ways. But I don't think we just want to see change, for change’s sake, we want to understand what the limitations of the current model is and make it better. And there's nothing wrong necessarily with the one person who knows a lot about the subject imparting knowledge to other people. But for instance, what we can do is to make the learning a lot more interesting by allowing you to practice on that at the same time. So imagine some sort of interactive desk where you will be able to practice as you're being told the theory of something, and kind of cement your learning, because you're learning both practically and theoretically at the same time, but you're competing with someone in a different part of the country to see which is the best one in a particular area, you know, at the end of the lesson as part of your assessment. You may turn it into a competition rather than just a very hard test that you have to do just before you're allowed to go home and have your tea.

 

Katrina Logie 28:05

Yes. And also you talked about collaboration, interactive, kind of working with other students, I mean, also on a global scale that will probably...

 

Roberto Hortal 28:15

But also, I think one of the untapped opportunities is to allow teachers to do that. If you think about one of the revolutions in technology that I'm most proud of, because I was part of it in a very tangential way is how open source is now running everything we do. So you know, our phones, Android phones, run a version of Linux which is open source. It’s thinking about the open source community, software that has been created by people that choose to collaborate, to do something amazing. And now, the internet runs on open source. Even the traditional, big kind of licenced software people have greater business out of providing cloud environments where open source software can happen. So open source is high quality, is high availability, and it runs the world. And if you think about what teachers could do, if they took the same approach to the lesson plans, the content, the way they teach. A global community of teachers sharing best practice and contributing to a body of teaching materials and lesson plans getting better and better and better. That is available to everyone to use and more importantly available to everyone to improve. That is now for the first time possible. You can't do that for photocopies, there's not amount of photocopies in the world that is going to enable that. But now with technology it’s not only possible it’s trivially easy to do.

 

Katrina Logie 29:54

Right. So it is becoming more, as you said, sharing and collaborative. But what about in places where they don't have easy access to education? I mean, they don't have access to tablets, they don't have access to technology? How can we how can you help them?

 

Roberto Hortal 30:14

We help them by making the access available. So we have to be creative about how to do that. There’s some examples where actually technology is able to leapfrog the paper model. In places that have nothing it’s easiest to take the latest version of something. And again, when I was working at Nokia, all those years ago, we saw that places that had no landlines were the first ones to adopt to mobile phones, because they didn't have a landline to disassemble and dismantle. And you'll see the same thing in some areas of education, where technology is opening up the door to new ways of learning that weren't there before. You'll see that a lot in further learning and continuous learning, you know, lifelong learning. Professionals that keep learning new ways to do their job or retraining into new jobs. Things like code camps, which have enabled a lot of people to pivot into becoming technology workers in areas that had no access to an academy that could tell them how to code, out in the middle of somewhere.

 

Katrina Logie 31:29

Teaching them how to code?

 

Roberto Hortal 31:30

Yeah, so there's something called Free Code Camp, which is a really good model, because everything is online, everything's free, it’s run by volunteers. It's really high quality engineering courses. And there's been a lot of people that have either learned to code and then got a career in technology, out of school, or had a job, you got fired, you retrain as a technologist, and then you start a new career in technology. And in both cases, the limiting factor was, ‘Well, where do I go learn?’ Because there isn't a university or there isn't a college that can teach me how to be an engineer. Or it’s so expensive, it’s very high risk, when if it's not the thing for me? But this environment, which makes it extremely accessible - all you need is a computer and not a very high speed connection, or not a very new computer, and is free or almost free. So it reduces the risk. It reduces the access barriers, and it turns this new career opportunity to people that didn't even know existed a while ago. So this again, is that kind of model is not obviously a replacement for primary and secondary education. This is more about further in life. It's about professional qualifications. But it's really a good example of democratising access to opportunities.

 

Katrina Logie 32:54

Great. And what do you think is missing? And what do you think in education right now, what do you think could be improved?

 

Roberto Hortal 33:03

I think there are a couple of things. First of all, we need a good shared understanding of what the opportunities for education are, in general. How could education be different, better, more accessible, more effective? And then we need to find out which of those opportunities can be accessed through technology? Because technology is not the answer to everything. I like to start conversations with people with a question: if you had a magic wand, what would you do? So describe your perfect education system, and then let's try to build it together with technology as one of the tools but not the answer to everything. We have to have that conversation at the national level at the global level, you know, what is education for, in the 21st century? And how do you make it better?

 

Katrina Logie 34:00

Yeah. And how do you bridge the gap?

 

Roberto Hortal 34:04

And then the second thing is, how do you bridge the gap? Because, you know, as we always say, in technology, the future is already here. It's just not evenly distributed. So a lot of educational establishments have got the right technology, and the right skills and training and material to use the technology effectively. But at the moment, there's a big disconnect between those and the majority. And so it's like, how do you bridge the gap and you bridge the gap in the same way that you bridge the gap for a lot of other desirable societal transformations. You invest in it, you make sure that there's enough money so the money is not a barrier. You make sure that you are partnering with the right people. So for instance, to solve connectivity problems, you need someone perhaps that is able to provide connectivity to satellites. That is a very different partner than the one that manufacturers you know, cheap, reliable laptops at scale. So again, it is for government or for the people that invest in education to understand the bigger picture and to partner with the right group of people that are going to be able to solve the entire problem. We saw some examples of investment in technology during the pandemic in the UK, some really good examples where laptops and connectivity were available to people that needed them. We need to wait for a global pandemic for those kinds of large scale investments to happen. And then it's a question of everyone involved in this change being curious. And don't get your new laptop or your new tablet and put it in the drawer and decide that this isn't for you. Be curious about how can I use this in a way that I enjoy that I can embrace? You know, how do I make this work for me, as a teacher, or as a student, or as an administrator? Who can I go and talk to who has gone through this transition and is now the world's biggest fan of this technology? What can I learn from them?

 

Katrina Logie 36:07

My other question is, what, you know, can we what is it that we can't replace with technology?

 

Roberto Hortal 36:18

Oh it’s the people, it’s the theatre, and it’s the social interaction.The classroom is the place where you learn how to participate in society as a student, and that cannot be replaced. We don't want to end up in a world where everyone's walking around with 3D goggles, ignoring the person sat next to them. That makes fantastic cinema in Wall-E, but we don't want that society. It is a cultural construct, the school has been successful over time, because it is a very successful cultural construct. It’s where you learn to be with other people. And in fact, if anything, we need to keep investing in that and make sure that they are more diverse and more interesting, more of a reflection of the society in which we will be adults in. So that's not going to be able to be replaced and the teacher as the curator of that experience that combines academic learning, societal learning, safeguarding, caring for the child. Where they are under their care, challenging some of the preconceptions that they may develop as they talk to other people in the school, helping them develop critical thinking skills, and helping them dream big, and have good ambitions for themselves in life, and make choices that work for them. And that not everyone needs to be a university professor in life. The teacher has a fantastic role at being that role model that says the world is a much more complex, much more interesting, much more beautiful place than perhaps you thought. We don't want to replace that, we don't want to challenge that. We want to enhance that. We want to give teachers superpowers.

 

Katrina Logie 38:11

Mm hmm.And bridging the gap between education and real life. 

 

Roberto Hortal 38:19

Absolutely education, academic education is very important. It's very useful to know a lot about a lot of things. Because you can put your hand in your back pocket when you need an example. And if you're working in innovation, that's what we do every day. We look at examples in different practices and try to apply them in the practice we're looking at now. So I am very much a supportive of academic education. But that's only the tip of the iceberg. You know, you need to learn how to behave, you need to learn how to design. Being a human in a two, three, four thousand year old civilization is very complex. And that complexity is beautiful, and learning how to be good at that is such a rewarding thing. And you keep learning every day, but you start in school.

 

Katrina Logie 39:12

Definitely. So just to sort of round it off, there's so much happening today with technology and how it’ sort of enhancing education. Where do you see it going?

 

Roberto Hortal 39:27

I think the right technology is due to become ubiquitous in the classroom. So you know, the ability to give people a tangible experience that really helps illustrate what you're talking about now. If you think about success, successful educational programmes for instance, something like Horrible Histories. Wouldn't you like to be able to be in a Horrible Histories play in the classroom as part of that, and can we make that happen with a combination of projection and computers and you know, clever things, without having to invent any new technology. Maybe VR, maybe not VR, because VR is a little bit isolating isn't it? You are in the water, you're no longer next to the person next to you. AR or simply projecting on some sort of screen. You've seen these projectors that project water on the ground and when you step on it, that creates ripples. That is fairly basic stuff, but that creates such an amount of engagement with the classroom, when you want to do some of that stuff. And some of the things will fall in the cracks because they're not useful. So you know, a lot of the things that we're trying to do, to see today, we still see a lot of office type work, office productivity suites, be imported into the school and some of those will actually be really useful. But a classroom is not an office, and some of them will find something else that that works better for students. I think the right technology will become more ubiquitous, because a little bit like with everything else, our life has become more technological. We all have a phone, we all take for granted that you can have a video conference with anyone in the world at any time in the world for free. And that is the way that people choose to communicate these days. And there are other things that are also possible that no one does, because they don't solve a real problem. So when people like me find that real good solutions to the problems that we have seen out there. And those technologies will get adopted and embraced. And they will, it will be a slow but constant change. And it will be one of these hockey sticks where at some point, technology adoption will accelerate because it will be truly useful. And so it is up to people like me to make it really useful. And then it's down to the people that create the walls to remove the obstacles that need to be removed. Not every obstacle is there for a reason. Some of them are there for reasons of history or for reasons of tradition. So make sure also that the people that want to try these things and to help make them better, are able to do so and then we'll see the right technology come into the classroom, and we will not remember a time where that wasn't the way we did things.

 

Katrina Logie 42:19

Amazing, amazing, Roberto. Well, it's been really great talking to you about the expanse of technology and how you are sort of helping innovate it, and make it accessible and empower education in many ways. So thank you very much for joining us today on Tied Together and talking to us about education and innovation in education. You're obviously very passionate about it so it's been great having you.

 

Roberto Hortal 42:50

It’s been great being here and hopefully, someone has heard something that makes them just have a go.

 

Katrina Logie 42:58

Thank you. Thank you