Anthony Salcito on stage at Bett 2018

Bett 2018: Technology is changing the world and schools must change too, says Microsoft Vice-President of Education Anthony Salcito

Governments and schools need to change the way children are taught as technology creates more learning opportunities outside the classroom, the Vice-President of Education at Microsoft has said.

Anthony Salcito (above), who oversees the worldwide execution of the company’s vision for education, added that the world will need “amazing teachers” who can guide students’ learning inside and outside schools, as more content and information becomes easier to access and share online.

Salcito was speaking on the first day of Bett, the London education conference that also featured speeches from Anne Milton MP, the Minister of State for Skills and Apprenticeships, and Ian Fordham, Director of Education at Microsoft, as well as chief executives of edtech companies and teachers.

“The way we think of students and the way they see themselves and their place in the world is fundamentally different,” Salcito said. “We often describe these students as ‘phygital’ – they don’t see the difference between the physical world and the digital world. They want to create, make and use digital tools in new ways

The Microsoft stand at Bett

Microsoft had a large stand at Bett

“The way students learn, share ideas, get access to content, create and collaborate is fundamentally different. Their mindsets are different, and the workplaces we are preparing them for are different, so we have to recognise there has been a lot of change. What we’ve now got to do at a system level, the institution level, is not only embrace that change but use it in a purposeful way to drive a different dynamic in classrooms.”

Speaking about new ways of working, Salcito pointed to Microsoft’s recent announcement of a cutting-edge mixed-reality partnership with British education company Pearson, which will see pupils and nurses learn by interacting with holograms.

In her speech opening Bett at the ExCeL, Milton pointed out that while the UK is at the “forefront” of edtech, many of the “best and brightest” companies were struggling to recruit the digital talent they needed. Technology can be used to make education more accessible and inclusive, she said, including using cloud services to allow teachers and students to share work.

“We need to make sure the enthusiasm that students have for digital skills and learning continues into the workplace,” Milton added.

Anthony Salcito on stage at Bett

Anthony Salcito on stage at Bett

Last year Microsoft launched a UK-wide digital skills programme that aims to ensure the country remains one of the global leaders in cloud computing, artificial intelligence and other next-generation technologies.

Milton’s view was later echoed by Salcito, who believed technology can “extend learning beyond the classroom” and will shake up the traditional educational model of a teacher standing in front of a class. Pupils will be able to work more closely together, on more projects and occasionally be in control of their own learning while at school.

“Technology is an amazing tool, and one of things it can do, which we have to harness, is the extension of learning beyond the classroom,” Salcito said. “Teachers can spend less time going through content chapter by chapter – chapter one, chapter two, test, chapter three, chapter four, test – and leverage this world of digital content and learning from others, learning by connecting students to work on projects outside the classroom. What does that mean for how people work inside the classroom? It means they can connect students, who can work on problem solving and new projects. They can have flip classrooms where students are in the driving seat.

“The size of the learning world for teachers has got bigger. They can influence a school student in the classroom but really guide their learning journey outside it, so we need amazing teachers now more than ever before.”

Learn more about Microsoft’s Digital Skills Programme

Girl using Microsoft Surface Book

That will also create an education system in which students learn different things and at their own pace, he said. “We are going to move from a world where students get an A, B, C or D and move on to the next thing, to one in which students progress when they master a concept and put it into practice. Students will learn at different paces, they will learn different things, and that creates a need for more dynamic teachers.”

This new approach to teaching will prepare children for a world of work in which people will no longer move to find work, as technology will bring jobs to them.

“There is no shortage of talent in the world, it’s a matter of opportunity. We’ve got to bring that opportunity, with technology, to every classroom.”