How classrooms are changing for the next generation of students

Lower School student using iPad to take photo of another student

The BBC recently conducted some research exploring ‘Grand Challenges’ facing humanity. It explored the growth in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the use of robots. A series of questions were posed including, will they steal our jobs? Who’s at risk, and what could your workplace actually look like in five years? Who did they decide was most at risk? 

The research noted the vital role of education in helping to prepare for the future:

“The concern is that we are not updating our education, training and political institutions to keep up,” warns Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Initiative on the Digital Economy. “We could end up leaving a lot of people behind.”

At ACS we see it as our duty to help prepare our children for an uncertain future, to be on the right side of whatever technology, workplace and cultural change they may face.

We use technology to help us deliver the most traditional of things, a first-rate education, which includes what teachers refer to as the three R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic.

But we also use technology to develop the four C’s: communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration, skills that have always been needed and will continue to be essential in our digital, fast paced world.

Our school has such a good reputation especially in robotics and AI, that we frequently receive visitors from schools within the UK and beyond to see how we use technology. During a recent visit, for example, Rhea, aged 12, showed how she had used SWIFT, the Apple Coding Platform, to code a fidget spinner. Myles, aged 16, demonstrated the school’s 3D printer kit and the coding he used to make it work. Maddie, 17 explained how we were using an iMAC museum and Plotbots to plot regular patterns onto a vertical surface.

High School student using a 3D printer
Lower School students doing coding

I mention these examples to illustrate how IT is used in practical applications and integrated into learning across all subjects at ACS. 

Each of our schools has an appointed IT Integrationist whose role is to ensure that every age group has an education where technology is constructively integrated into their school life, to enhance learning and produce beneficial outcomes.

At ACS Hillingdon we are fortunate to have, within our historically significant buildings, specialist technology labs designed to galvanise students’ creativity through the collaboration of traditional learning techniques with IT and mobile technology.

These are flexible learning spaces with adaptable furniture to allow students to work in any size of group. Sharing technology between students and teachers is easy with a built-in film studio and large wall mounted screens. Teachers of any subjects can use the labs for their lessons.

An example of how traditional learning and technology is combined is the 100 iPad wall project. Children from classes in Lower and Middle School, ages 6 - 13, collaborated to produce a piece of artwork.

Using a Proscope, a microscopic camera lens attached to an iPad, they each took pictures of the school; 700 images were collected and used to create a piece of art, streamed on the 100 iPads programmed together in one wall.

It was so technically and artistically inspired that a team of children from the school was asked to exhibit a small version of the iPad Wall at Apple’s Leadership Summit held later that year.

Our approach to technology is to empower children to use it to serve them. We don’t see it as the be-all and end-all and we recognise that there are plenty of occasions when nothing beats a simple piece of paper and a pencil. When something more sophisticated can be beneficial, however, we want that technology to be as available to the students as the paper and pencil are.

We take a proactive, positive view towards technology of all kinds. We want to nurture children who are knowledgeable and skilful enough that they understand not only how to use information from Google, but how to programme Google itself and how to develop it further. We do have ACS alumni working for Google, so this isn’t just a pipe dream!

If you would like to see how we have adapted our school and classrooms to meet the needs of the next generation of students, please come and visit our school.

Martin Hall
Martin Hall


About the author:  Martin Hall grew up in Scotland and gained his first degree in Political Economy and Philosophy from the University of Glasgow. He taught Economics, Business Studies, and History at highly regarded state schools in England, and then at a Tanzanian school for two years with the VSO. Martin served as Secondary Principal at the Inter-Community School of Zurich, and most recently, as Director of the International School of Tanganyika in Tanzania. Martin is committed to the culture of excellence in schools, setting high aspirations for students and encouraging critical thinking throughout the school community.