Isabelle (Year 9) looks at the potential of quantum computing, delivering an informative video and article outlining this fascinating innovation.
We need to know the potential of quantum computing, the powerful approach to computation that our world is moving into.
There are endless ways in which we can use quantum computing. The first is from a biological aspect. A mysterious aspect of this subject are enzymes and understanding these can help to produce medicines for various major diseases. However, we don’t know a lot about enzymes due to their incredibly complex structures. Normal computers are also unable to model such a complex structure, so we need a different solution: a quantum computer. Quantum computers could predict this structure, along with several other properties.
This is just one example, but quantum computers could resolve so many problems in healthcare and can be applied to several different industries such as finance, transportation, chemicals and cybersecurity. The promise is that quantum computers can solve problems which we have pondered for years in a matter of a few hours.
And yes, it will take years, perhaps decades for this to develop in a way where the value is significant enough for many businesses, however it is important to know how it would work and what it could solve. Then, businesses can truly use quantum computers to their full potential.
How does a quantum computer work?
It is hard for the ‘normal’ computers that we use daily to solve complex problems. But this quantum computer has to potential to be able to solve specific, very complex problems, fast. It won’t replace our ‘normal’ computers; it will improve research. But here are two differences that make these quantum computers so powerful:
1. Our ‘normal’ computers use binary numbers – bits. They are made up of two number (one and off): one and zero. But these quantum computers are designed to use ‘qubits’, which can also represent a combination of one and zero.
2. 2. Our ‘normal’ computer can manage one calculation and one input. But the quantum computers can manage more. This gives the quantum computers their speed – they will be able to process multiple calculations simultaneously, with several inputs.
So, let’s combine this: if we have ‘n’ qubits, then the quantum computer is able to process many at once. That is fast and powerful.
Classical computing has the skill to find one particular result. However, a quantum computer is able to bring it down to a small range, which is so much faster. Afterwards, we can then use a classical computer to find one particular result, but it would take much longer to only use classical computers. The idea is there, but there are challenges which stop us from developing this so far.
We describe something as volatile if something is unstable. Qubits are volatile. In the ‘normal’ computers today, we have a bit which is 1 or 0. It is important that this bit on a computer chip does not interfere with other bits on the same computer chip, and we have managed to do this. However, the quantum computers would need to develop a structure where the qubits can interact with each other, so that they can process several calculations and inputs at once.
What then makes these qubits so volatile is that we need to be able to control these interactions. We need to allow them to interact, while still ensuring that no inputs are changed or deleted, which would harm the accuracy. This is a technical difficulty.
So, what happens now? The idea of quantum computing has been around since 1980, but only at the end of 2019 was there proof that it was really possible.
Recently qualified MIEEs and Wimbledon High teachers Nicola Cooper, Nicola Higgs and Alys Lloyd discuss the impact being ‘WHS Digital Champions’ and part of the Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) community has had on teaching in their departments.
The concept of ‘Digital Champions’ – classroom teachers with a particular interest in exploring new and exciting ways of using technology to enhance classroom practice and student learning – really arose in response to a whole school initiative around innovation in the use of technology. With this aim and along with the introduction of BYOD, it was soon realised that in order to truly exploit the potential of ‘digital’, we needed the people using it, namely the teaching staff, to become the ‘experts’. From small beginnings, the ‘Digital Champions’ is now a team of 23 teaching staff from across the school. As well as regular meetings to discuss strategy with our Director of Digital Learning and Innovation, the group has also been involved in carrying out small scale action research projects looking into amongst other things; collaboration online, AI in learning systems and using hardware.
The Microsoft educator community, which is open to anyone, has been a great resource for all of us in our role as ‘Digital Champions’ providing as it does a vast range of professional courses that focus on helping teachers integrate technology into their teaching. Furthermore, qualifying as a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert gives us access to a global forum of educators through which we can connect with colleagues working in a broad range of settings, drawing on their experiences and learning from them.
Nicola Cooper – Teacher of Biology
For me, being an MIEE and ‘Digital Champion’ has, most crucially, given me a platform through which to really engage with technology. Collaborating with colleagues across departments, observing and discussing concrete examples of how they use applications such as Office Mix and Sway in their teaching, has been inspiring and helped me to think more creatively about my use of the same. And the benefit isn’t limited to use of technology, indeed any vehicle that gets teachers together sharing ideas is immensely powerful. As a digital champion I’ve had numerous conversations around tech, that have digressed to talking about curriculum overlap and collaboration in other areas.
My particular area of personal focus has been the use of OneNote. Through completing online courses, available through the Microsoft Educator Community, I have been able to use the application to give more meaningful feedback to students; the record to audio function allows me to give verbal feedback (of which there is a permanent record), using the inking tools I can pose questions to students and thus enter into a dialogue that would be much harder to do offline. This is expertise I have been able to take back and share with my department. I have been in a position to reassure and encourage colleagues with their use of technology so that we are now in a position where the Biology department has wholly embraced OneNote. Not just in lessons with our students, but also as a means of collaborating with each other and sharing good practice. Imagine this replicated across multiple departments and it is clear to see the positive impact Digital Champions are having throughout the school.
Alys Lloyd – Teacher of Maths
Being a Digital Champion last year really allowed me to utilise my enthusiasm for and love of technology that works well. I wholeheartedly embrace technology which improves teaching and learning both in and outside of the classroom, but I would rather have no technology than tech which makes life more difficult. I saw a number of areas within the school where technology could be used better, and as a Digital Champion I was given the opportunity to add my voice to influence the way it could be improved.
I chose to be part of the team investigating hardware in classrooms, to influence decisions made about the next generation of hardware to be installed in classrooms. We created a questionnaire using Microsoft Forms, which asked all departments across both Senior and Junior schools about how they currently use the hardware in classrooms, things that worked well, and main issues they found with it. Additionally, I was part of the team who went to The BETT Show, where I was able to make positive contributions to IT decisions, giving my opinion on which hardware would work well in the classroom, for a teacher in our school.
Working with the IT Team, I was persistent in pushing for an improved way of accessing shared files and resources. Taking them a variety of different ideas eventually lead to an approach which seemed that it would work in a way that would be futureproofed and consistent with being a Microsoft Showcase School. A few departments trialled different ways of connecting last year, which lead to it being successfully rolled out school-wide this year.
I hope that being an MIEE will allow me to continue to build on my enjoyment of good tech that works well. I look forward to training more members of staff, individually and departments, in optimising their use of the technology we have, improving their experience of technology, and therefore positively impacting students’ learning experience.
Nicola Higgs – Head of Geography
Since the adoption of BYOD, staff have been given great freedom to try out the newest of technologies, to be innovative and take risks, which is part of the ethos of the school and something we try to model for our students. A colleague in the Geography department had an interest in reaching the quieter, ‘less seen’ student, those for whom participating verbally in lessons was more of a challenge. I was keen to see how technology could give a voice to those pupils. Through my role as a Digital Champion I have been so fortunate to develop a truly collaborative relationship with the Director of Digital Learning and Innovation, who suggested that Teams, which was introduced for all staff and students last academic year, might be a platform that could achieve this goal. We devised a ‘silent debate’ for Year 8 who argued for their position solely using Teams. We were blown away with the results; all pupils were able to articulate their point of view, drawing on excellent research, incorporating examples to support and using terminology that we might expect of a GCSE student. Students’ feedback showed how much they enjoyed the opportunity to create and respond to specific points of argument in a timely but unpressured way.
I am now exploring more ways to amplify student voice both in the classroom and the wider school community. I look forward to learning more from other educators through the Microsoft platform and collaborating with my colleagues at Wimbledon in the Digital Champions group.
As MIEEs, we are planning to visit Microsoft’s store during the Christmas holidays where we will meet MIEEs from other UK schools, as well as representatives from Microsoft who want to hear all about what we are doing at Wimbledon.
The Digital Champions met a couple of weeks ago to agree the vision for the academic year ahead. It was thrilling to see colleagues bringing their own ideas and areas of interest as foci for research this time around, and our working groups are already getting stuck in to reading and trying out new ideas. We will report back to colleagues later in the year to share best practice and hints and tips.
The technological journey at Wimbledon High feels like it really is beginning, and we would urge all colleagues to consider becoming a member of the Digital Champions, it is an uplifting and ambitious group, and we always have tasty biscuits too!
Claire Boyd, Head of Junior School, reflects upon the emotional response pupils, teachers and parents may experience as artificial intelligence, big data and augmented reality looks sets to change the educational landscape.
It seems to me that we can be in no doubt that the educational zeitgeist of the moment is the potential that artificial intelligence, big data and augmented reality holds for education. As Ben Turner, Assistant Head Pastoral, explored on the pages of this blog last month, the take-home message from the keynote speakers at September’s Grow 2.0 conference, was the unprecedented scope of new technologies to create a bespoke, tailored learning experience for individual learners.
The same sentiments were echoed by Priya Lakhani, CEO and founder of Century Tech, on stage at the annual conference of the Independent Association of Prep Schools in central London a fortnight ago. Patel evangelised on the capacity AI holds to democratise education and remove silos of learning from classrooms around the world.
Much closer to home, my path across the playground from the Junior School to Senior School each day serves as a compelling reminder of the exciting and progressive space Wimbledon High School is giving to pursue a new, non-binary approach to teaching the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, art and maths; creating space for new approaches of innovation and collaboration to flourish through Project Ex Humilibus. The cumulative effect of these realities cast a different landscape of education with which many parents and teachers in our school community will identify. Whilst recognition that the traditional ‘factory’ model of education, in which knowledge and skills are played off against one another as learners are spoon-fed a linear curriculum of discrete subject teaching, is outmoded and anachronistic, there is little clarity on the reality of what an AI, data-led education system will offer is not yet certain.
With wearable technologies and virtual home devices such as Google Home and Alexa becoming increasingly commonplace in households around the country as well as ‘customers who bought this also liked’ recommendations par for course of our online shopping experiences, the creeping pervasiveness of data driven AI devices is changing the face of many of our everyday transactional experiences beyond recognition. Heralded for the part these developments play in increasing convenience and expediting smart-living, the contribution these new products are making to modern life is widely celebrated across mainstream society. When the capacity and functionality of these data-driven technologies are applied to the educational realm, I wonder how closely the positive reception will be matched? How comfortable are we with the diagnostic skills of AI-driven learning technologies being applied to the classroom environment, taking up residence in the learning space traditionally driven by the expertise of the teacher as the professional?
Throughout history, schools, universities and other educational institutions have provided space for progressive ideas to germinate and new approaches to intellectual and emotional development to evolve. With this in mind, can it not be that the advantages afforded to us in our personal lives by big data and AI can be replicated in the spheres of learning and education? The potential for AI to collect, collate and analyse the data of individual learning profiles and build personalised learning pathways of attainment, progress and development is so large in scale that the possibilities for bespoke education is infinite.
The advent of AI in education should also not be feared because of what it represents for teachers and the teaching profession more widely. Instead of viewing this new frontier with apprehension or scepticism, we should, as school communities, feel excited and energised about what lies ahead. This is because, when most people are asked to consider the favourite teacher of their school days, their responses will most commonly focus upon the way that teacher made that individual feel; the way the believed in them and empowered them to achieve an ambition or succeed at something they would not otherwise have achieved. It is this capacity for relationship creation, based on the nuances of emotional intelligence and the domain of human-specific skills such as meta-cognition and social intelligence that human and the artificial hold the potential to equip the children of today with the springboard for the unfettered success in the future. In the words of UCL’s Prof Rose Luckin, the “holy grail for education in the future is accurately perceived self-efficacy”.
On Saturday 21st September we host our second Grow Pastoral Festival. The theme for this year is an examination of what it is to be human in a machine age. What questions should we be asking about the way technology affects our lives and what are our hopes for the future? More specifically, how will our young people develop and grow in a fast-paced, algorithmically driven society and what might education look like in the future?
In the morning session Professor Rose Luckin and Professor Robert Plomin will be giving keynote addresses, and then talk with our Director of Digital Learning & Innovation, Rachel Evans. Prof Luckin specialises in how AI might change education; Prof Plomin has recently published Blueprint, a fascinating read about genetics and education. We can’t wait to talk about how education might get personalised, and how that change might affect our experience of learning.
In the afternoon we’ll dive into some provocative debate with Natasha Devon, Hannah Lownsbrough and Andrew Doyle, addressing questions of identity, wellbeing and community in an online age with our own Assistant Head Pastoral, Ben Turner.
So what kind of questions are in our minds as we approach this intellectually stimulating event? Ben Turner brings a philosophical approach to the topic.
Is our ever-increasing reliance on machines and subscription to the ‘universal principles of technology’ eroding our sense of empathy, compassion, truth-telling and responsibility?
Our smartphones give us a constant connection to an echo-system that reflects, and continuously reinforces, our individual beliefs and values. Technology has created a world of correlation without causation, where we understand what happened and how it happened but never stop to ask why it happened. Teenagers are understandably susceptible to an eco-system of continuous connection, urgency and instant gratification. It is these values that they now use to access their world and that inform them what is important in it.
Are tech giants like Amazon, Google and Facebook creating a monoculture that lacks an empathy for its surroundings? If we all become ‘insiders’ within a technology dominated society, pushing instant buttons for everything from batteries to toilet roll, are we losing the ability to see things from a fresh perspective? By raising children in a world of instant access and metropolitan monism are we creating only insiders; young people who will never gain the ability to step back and view what has been created in a detached way. How as parents, schools and communities do we keep what is unique, while embracing the virtues of technological innovation?
Is social media destroying our free will?
If you are not a determinist, you might agree that free will has to involve some degree of creativity and unpredictability in how you respond to the world. That your future might be more than your past. That you might grow, you might change, you might discover. The antithesis to that is when your reactions to the world are locked into a pattern that, by design, make you more predictable – for the benefit of someone or something else. Behaviourism, developed in the 19th Century, believes in collecting data on every action of a subject in order to change something about their experience, often using punishment or reward to enact the change. Is social media, through its algorithms, gratification systems and FOMO, manipulating our actions and eroding our free will?
Social media is pervasive in its influence on the beliefs, desires and temperaments of our teenagers and you do not have to be a determinist to know that that will lead to a disproportionate level of control over their actions. Does social media leave our young people with no alternative possibilities; locked in a room, not wanting to leave but ignorant to the fact that they cannot?
Is social media the new opium of the masses?
Social media has changed the meaning of life for the next generation. The change in human contact from physical interactions to those, arguably superficial, exchanges online is having not only a well-documented detrimental effect on individual young people but also on the very fabric and makeup of our communities.
In addition to the ongoing concerns about privacy, electoral influence and online abuse, it is becoming increasingly obvious that social media has all the qualities of an addictive drug. Psychologists Daria Kuss and Mark Griffiths wrote a paper finding that the “negative correlates of (social media) usage include the decrease in real life social community participation and academic achievement, as well as relationship problems, each of which may be indicative of potential addiction.”
That is not to say that everyone who uses social media is addicted. However, the implications of the ‘heavy’ usage of social media by young people are increasingly painting an unpleasant picture. The UK Millennium Cohort Study, from the University of Glasgow, found that 28% of girls between 13 and 15 surveyed spent five hours or more on social media, double the number of boys survey who admitted the same level of usage. Moreover the NHS Digital’s survey of the Mental Health of children and young people in England, which found that 11 to 19 year olds with a “mental disorder” were more likely to use social media every day (87.3%) than those without a disorder (77%) and were more likely to be on social media for longer. Rates of daily usage also varied by type of disorder; 90.4% of those with emotional disorders, for example, used social media daily.
However, there is more to this than just the causal link between the use and abuse of social media and poor mental health. With the march of technology in an increasingly secular world, are we losing our sense of something greater than ourselves? Anthony Seldon calls this the “Fourth Education Revolution”, but as we embrace the advances and wonders of a technologically advanced world do we need to be more mindful of what we leave behind? Da Vinci, Michelangelo and other Renaissance masters, not only worked alongside religion but also were inspired by it. Conversely, Marx believed Religion to be the opium of the people. If social media is not to be the new opium, we must find a place for spirituality in our secular age. Even if we are not convinced by a faith, embracing the virtues of a religious upbringing seems pertinent in these turbulent times. Namely inclusivity, compassion and community, because if we do not, then very quickly the narcissistic immediacy and addictive nature of social media will fill the void left in our young peoples’ lives, becoming the addictive drug that Marx forewarned against.
 Michael Bugeja, Living Media Ethics: Across Platforms, 2nd Ed. 2018
 Online Social Networking and Addiction – A review of Psychological Literature, Daria J. Kuss and Mark D. Griffiths, US National Library of Medicine, 2011
Toward the Unknown Region– Mr. Nicholas Sharman, Head of Design & Technology looks at whether integrating STEAM into the heart of a curriculum develops skills required for careers that do not currently exist.
The world of work has always been an evolving environment. However, it has never been more pertinent than now; according to the world economic forum, 65% of students entering primary school today will be working in jobs that do not currently exist.
As educators, this makes our job either extremely difficult, pointless or (in my view) one of the most exciting opportunities that we have been faced with for nearly 200 years since the introduction of the Victorian education system. The idea of relying solely on a knowledge-based education system is becoming outdated and will not allow students to integrate into an entirely different world of work. Automation and Artificial Intelligence will make manual and repetitive jobs obsolete, changing the way we work entirely. Ask yourself this: could a robot do your job? The integration of these developments is a conversation all in its own and one for a future post.
So, what is STEAM and why has it become so prominent in the UK education system?
The acronym STEM was (apparently) derived from the American initiative ‘STEM’ developed in 2001 by scientific administrators at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). The addition of the ‘A’ representing the Arts, ultimately creating Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths. Since the introduction of STEM-based curriculums in the US, the initiative has grown exponentially throughout the globe, with the UK education system adopting the concept.
So why STEAM and what are the benefits? STEAM education is far more than just sticking subject titles together. It is a philosophy of education that embraces teaching skills and subjects in a way that resembles the real world. More importantly, it develops the skills predicted to be required for careers that currently do not exist. What are these skills and why are they so important?
Knowledge vs Skills
When we look at the education systems from around the world there are three that stand out. Japan, Singapore and Finland have all been quoted as countries that have reduced the size of their knowledge curriculum. This has allowed them to make space to develop skills and personal attributes. Comparing this to the PISA rankings, these schools are within the top 5 in the world and in Singapore’s case, ranked No1.
I am sure we cannot wholly attribute this to a skills-focused curriculum; however, it does ask the question – what skills are these schools developing and how much knowledge do we need?,
Mental Elasticity – having the mental flexibility to think outside of the box, see the big picture and rearrange things to find a solution.
Critical Thinking – the ability to analyse various situations, considering multiple solutions and making decisions quickly through logic and reasoning.
Creativity – robots may be better than you may at calculating and diagnosing problems, however, they are not very good at creating original content, thinking outside the box or being abstract.
People Skills – the ability to learn how to manage and work with people (and robots), having empathy and listening
SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) – learning how to use new technology and how to manage them
Interdisciplinary Knowledge – understanding how to pull information from many different fields to come up with creative solutions to future problems.
All of the above skills are just predictions. However, the list clearly highlights that employers will be seeking skill-based qualities, with this changing as future jobs develop and materialise. So do we need knowledge?
Well, of course we do – knowledge is the fundamental element required to be successful in using the above skills. However, as educators, we need to consider a balance of how we can make sure our students understand how important these skills will be to them in the future when an exam grade based on knowledge could be irrelevant to employers.
What subjects promote these skills?
As a Technologist, I believe there has never been a more important time in promoting and delivering the Design & Technology curriculum. The subject has for too long been misrepresented and had a stigma hanging around it due to previous specifications and people’s experiences, comments such as ‘so you teach woodwork then?’ really do not give justice to the subject.
With the introduction of the new curriculum, allowing students more opportunity to investigate and build these future skills, the subject has never been more relevant. Looking at the list of promoted skills, I cannot think of another subject that not only promotes these skills but also actively encourages the integration into every lesson. Do not get me wrong, all subjects are as equally important. Design & Technology is a subject that is able to bring them all into real-world scenarios. If we think about the knowledge that is developed in Science for example – where students can look at material properties and their effect on the user’s experience, or Religious Studies and how different signs, symbols or even colours can have different meanings in cultures affecting the design of a fully inclusive product – they can all be related to Design and Technology in one way or another.
Comparing the Design & Technology curriculum to the future skills list, we can break down the different skills it develops. It encourages mental elasticity through challenging student’s ideas and concepts, thinking differently to solve current and real-life problems. It allows students to develop critical thinking, through challenging their knowledge and understanding; ensuring students develop the ability to solve problems through investigation, iteration and failure, ultimately building resilience. It goes without saying that the subject not only encourages creativity but allows students to challenge concepts and ideas through investigating and questioning. Furthermore, it teaches the concept of ‘design thinking’ and collaborative working, allowing students to develop people skills, understanding how people work, interact and think; enhancing empathy and understanding. As technology progresses the subject follows suit, permitting students to implement and understand how new and emerging technologies are embedded, not only into the world of design but the Social, Moral and environmental effects they create. Lastly and probably most importantly, is how the subject teaches interdisciplinary knowledge. I like to describe Design & Technology as a subject that brings knowledge from all areas of the curriculum together, the creativity and aesthetics from Art, the application of Maths when looking at anthropometrics, tolerances or even ratios, how Religious Studies can inform and determine designs, how science informs and allows students to apply theory, or even the environmental impact Geography can show. I could go on and explain how every subject influences Design & Technology in one way or another, although, more importantly, it shows how we need to look at a more cohesive and cross-curricular curriculum; when this happens the future skills are inherently delivered in a real-world application.
Looking back at the question at the start of this article, we can start to conclude why having the concept of STEAM at the heart of a school environment is so important. However, it is not good enough to just ‘stick’ subjects together, there has to be a bigger picture where knowledge and skills are stitched together like a finely woven tapestry. Ideally, we would look at the primary education system, where we remove subject-specific lessons, develop co-teaching, learning that takes place through projects bringing elements from all subjects in to cohesive projects; teachers would become facilitators of learning, delivering knowledge not in a classroom but in an environment that allows more autonomous research and investigation. However, until the exam system changes, this is not going to fully happen.
So what could we be doing more? I believe we should be focusing on more cross-curricular planning, developing skills application and using knowledge to enhance learning. By developing a curriculum centred around a STEAM approach, we can start to develop the skills required for our students and the careers of the future.
Kira, Year 13, looks at the Turing test and how criticisms of it bring new ideas and concepts into the philosophy of mind.
As emerging areas of computer science such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) continue to grow, questions surrounding the possibility of a conscious computer are becoming more widely debated. Many AI researchers have the objective of creating Artificial General Intelligence: AI that has an intelligence, and potentially a consciousness, similar to humans. This has led many to speculate about the nature of an artificial mind, and an important question arises in the wake of this modern development and research: “Can computers think?”
Decades before the development of AI as we know it today, Alan Turing attempted to answer this question in his 1950 paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence. He developed the famous Turing test as a way to evaluate the intelligence of a computer. Turing proposed a scenario in which a test subject would have two separate conversations: one with another human, and one with a machine designed to give human-like responses. These conversations would take place through a text-channel so the result would not be affected by the machine’s ability to render speech. The test subject would then be asked to determine which conversation took place with a machine. Turing argued that if they are unable to reliably distinguish the machine from the other human, then the machine has ‘passed the test’, and can be considered intelligent.
At the start of his essay, Turing specifies that he would not be answering “Can computers think?”, but a new question that he believed we are able to answer: “Are there imaginable digital computers which would do well in the imitation game?” However, Turing did believe that a computer which was able to succeed in ‘the imitation game’ could be considered intelligent in a similar way to a human. In this way, he followed a functionalist idea about the mind – identifying mental properties though mental functions, such as determining intelligence through the actions of a being, rather than some other intrinsic quality of a mental state.
Many scholars have criticised the Turing test, such as John Searle, who put forward the Chinese Room Argument and the idea of ‘strong AI’ to illustrate why he believed Turing’s ideas around intelligence to be false. The thought experiment looks at a situation where a computer is produced that behaves as though it understands Chinese. It is, therefore, able to communicate with a Chinese speaker and pass the Turing test, as it convinces the person that they are talking to another Chinese-speaking human. Searle then asks whether the machine really understands Chinese, or if it is merely simulating the ability to speak the language. The first scenario is what Searle calls ‘strong AI’, referring to the latter as ‘weak AI’.
In order to answer his question, Searle illustrates a situation in which an English-speaking human is placed in a room with a paper version of the computer program. This person, given sufficient time, could be handed a question written in Chinese and produce an answer by following the program’s instructions step-by-step, in much the same way as a computer does. Although this person is hence able to communicate with somebody speaking Chinese, they do not actually understand the conversation that is taking place, as they are simply following instructions. In the same way, a computer able to communicate in Chinese cannot be said to understand the language. Searle argues that without this understanding, a computer should not be described as ‘thinking’, and as a result should not be said to have a ‘mind’ or ‘intelligence’ in a remotely human way.
Searle’s argument has had a significant impact on the philosophy of mind and has come to be viewed as an important argument against functionalism. The thought experiment provides opposition to the idea that the mind is merely a machine and nothing more: if the mind were just a machine, it is theoretically possible to produce an artificial mind that is capable of perceiving and understanding all that it sees around it. According to Searle, this is not a possibility. However, many people disagree with this belief – particularly as technology develops ever further, the possibility of a true artificial mind seems more and more likely. Despite this, Searle’s Chinese Room argument continues to aid us in discussions around how we should define things such as intelligence, consciousness, and the mind.
In this way, both the Turing test and Searle’s critique of it shed new light onto long-standing philosophical problems surrounding the nature of the human mind. They serve to help bring together key areas of computer science and philosophy, encouraging a philosophical response to the modern world, as well as revealing how our new technologies can impact philosophy in new and exciting ways.
Mrs Jane Lunnon, Head of WHS, looks at the impact of digital learning on education, linking this to recent examination reforms at GCSE and A Level.
Imagine this: you are watching a production of Hamlet online. Gertrude is betraying her son, Ophelia is going mad. Claudius is hiding things and Hamlet is doing (or rather, not doing) his thing. And you, the viewer, are not only watching this on your computer, you are also, right there, in the show, a reflection in a gilded mirror – daubed with blood and looking pretty ropey. (Your part is the ghost of Old Hamlet.)
And so, you are there and not there. You can see yourself – as watched and watcher. How brilliant, how extraordinary, how game-changing is that? This is happening, right now. In the US, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company have teamed up with Google: so VR tech teamed with great creativity, enabling viewers to inhabit the text – to literally become part of it. That’s what’s happening in learning today.
And it’s not just some exotic, transatlantic experiment. The impact of technology on the way we learn is seminal and astonishing. In our last staff meeting, our Director of Innovation and e-learning (imagine even having such a job title in a school ten years ago), was heralding the arrival of a brand new set of VR Headsets. As a school, we adopted BYOD (bring your own device) several years ago and this, when combined with the headsets and Google Expeditions, means that our pupils can journey to Africa, to Jerusalem, to Tudor England, to the inside of a black hole, to the inside of their own bodies… The impact on our students, when they do, is immediate and palpable. It’s not just gimmicks and game-playing; this is sentient, dynamic, visual learning in ways those of us who became excited by the potential of power-point in the late 1990s, could barely have imagined.
But the technological revolution in education is not just about the flashy, painting with coloured light sort of stuff (although it’s very hard not to get terribly excited by all of that). As a Microsoft Showcase school, we have adopted wholesale software like Microsoft Teams (useful baskets to keep all our meeting/lesson/admin resources), Onenote – seamless collaborative working/library spaces, and Onedrive – shared document folders. Like many schools, we have found that the truly revolutionary and transformative development in education IT was the Cloud and the way it has made accessing and sharing learning seamless and straightforward. The learning environment is no longer just in the classroom or the library. It is now, quite simply, everywhere: in the playground, on the bus, at your mate’s house, in the kitchen…and this has made a real difference to the way children learn and the way we all teach. My Year 7 English students, for example, work online – using their class TEAM. They do their homework in their own folders stored in that TEAM basket and I can then mark it (using the clever pen that writes on the screen) as soon as they do it. That means, that I can see at once if they are not quite getting the point about enjambment or the impact of verse form on the meaning of a poem – and I can adapt my next lesson plan accordingly. No more waiting around for a week for the work to be done, the books to come in and the homework to be marked. So nothing radical there; just more efficiency, more pace, more targeted planning. Which of course leads to more opportunity for stretch and fun and better outcomes all round.
We are not simply operating as advertisers for Microsoft products here, although earlier this term we were thrilled to find ourselves acting as a SW London outpost for the BETT Conference, with 40 or so delightful Swedish educators, joining us, keen to find out what we were doing and how we were doing it. I suspect that’s the largest number of Swedes we have entertained in this building at any one time in the 140-year history of the school! It was a real pleasure to share our experiences, to learn what they are doing and to celebrate together the range, power and versatility which technology has brought into the classroom and beyond it.
And this is important because technology doesn’t just allow us to do things in a more colourful or more efficient way. It also, clearly, changes the way that children approach learning. Much of their work in the classroom, for example, is collaborative. It is as much about team-building and communication, about effective listening, careful research and powerful articulation of ideas, as it is about the causes of the First World War, or how to integrate fractions. The skills our world now requires (as the Hamlet example above suggests) is not just technical expertise and versatility, not simply the acquisition and application of key facts, analytical thinking and problem solving but creative flair, the ability to connect and link ideas and fields of knowledge and curriculum areas often in surprising, unexpected ways. And then there’s the capacity to communicate all this persuasively and effectively both in person and on paper. These are the skills necessary for a dynamic, technological, connected and highly protean workplace and it matters that our young people are encouraged to develop them in school.
That’s why we are developing our STEAM programme so enthusiastically at WHS. Our Steam Room, staffed by scientists in residence (SiRs), is not just the base for our girls to engage in scientific research and inquiry (with external partners
as well as internally) it is also a symbol of our cross-curricular approach. The job of our SiRs, is to facilitate inter-disciplinary connections. (RS meets Science when Year 7s try to make the dyes in Joseph’s dream-coat, English meets Psychology when A Level English students engage in the psychological exploration of the characters in ‘To The Lighthouse’, Geography, Physics and Technology combine when Year 9s design wind turbines… the list goes on.)
Facility with all of this, the ability to think flexibly, imaginatively and with resilience and integrity when confronted with tough problems, this feels like the urgent pedagogical focus for us now and it feels like the best way to prepare our children for the future. I had the great good fortune of hearing Sophie Hackford speak at the GDST Summit last summer. Sophie is a Futurist (which strikes me as one of the best job titles ever). Her job is to look at trends and projections and the dreams of techno-enthusiasts everywhere and work out what is likely to be coming next – and then to advise government and anyone else who will listen. She described a world in which fake and real blend imperceptibly, where the world becomes our screen and we become computers, where space is our playground and our new hang out. A world where asteroids could be bought and mined, Mars could be inhabited. All alarming and deliberately provocative perhaps, but also, exciting and reflective of the urge to think differently and to imagine the hitherto unimaginable. This again, is what the future requires of us.
What it doesn’t need, I feel sure, is for our children to show that they can sit in rows of desks and write, on paper, with a pen, regurgitating facts they have carefully learnt, for three hours at a time. And yet that, of course, is what our examination system currently requires our children to do. And indeed, has done, to a greater or lesser extent, for the last hundred years or so. Learn this, commit it to memory, show me you’ve done so by writing it out on paper. How absolutely extraordinary, that in a world which has made so much progress and right in the middle of a technological revolution, here we are, still fundamentally assessing our students’ talent and achievements at school, with a pen, paper and serried rows of desks.
We might, perhaps, take comfort from the fact that there has been significant reform in our exam system recently. More academic rigour has been brought in at A Level and at GCSE. And yes, A Levels and GCSEs are new(ish) – more rigorous, fatter – the modules you can endlessly resit are gone, so is the huge emphasis on coursework. They have, indeed, been reformed. But reform is not revolution. These specifications, these exams, this assessment system is not a radical re-think for a new(ish) century. It’s not even a radical re-think for the old century. These exams are not modern – as those of us who are old enough to remember the very old O Levels and A Levels can testify. Indeed, it’s all there, as it always was: little or no coursework, significant emphasis on learned material, assimilation of key facts and the ability to remember and apply those facts in writing, to time, in big exam halls with your entire cohort sitting around you, using (mostly) a pen. There’s not much there that we don’t recognise. Indeed, not much that we wouldn’t recognise if we went back to when our parents were young. Perhaps there’s more rigour, but in the context of Sophie Hackford and the Google school of innovation and reform, it feels more like rigor mortis than bracing, academic stretch and dynamic aspiration for our young people in a new century.
So, let’s not wonder (along with Hamlet) “why yet [we] live, to say this thing’s to do”. The assessment of our children need not be a tragedy if we can find ways to prepare them for examinations that require them to think and act differently and which make as much use as possible of the amazing new technological tools at our disposal. There are, indeed, “more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in [our] philosophy”. Time to embrace them, I think.
Miss Katie Butler, Performing Arts Assistant at WHS and professional composer, looks at the important role of being a composer in the 21st Century.
The role of the composer in society has changed a great deal over the centuries. Before the invention of writing and printing, music would have been passed down through oral tradition since time immemorial, but the first musical notation systems can be traced back to Ancient Greece. From there, the ability to notate music made it easier to create longer-form, more complex works, and through the centuries the process developed, from plainsong and early polyphony to the more defined periods of Western art music that we learn about in GCSE and A Level music (Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and Romantic, up to the present day).
From pen to screen: how has technology changed the composition process?
With the explosion of technology and readily accessible media that has happened in more recent decades, there are more ways to be a composer than ever before – meaning the competition is much greater, but at the same time, so are the opportunities available. Now that we have composing software like Cubase and Logic, and sample libraries (that is, plugins of pre-recorded instruments that allow you to recreate a realistic orchestral sound from your computer), composing is no longer exclusively for those with formal musical education and the ability to read music, or a big budget to record live musicians in studios, and the lines between composer, orchestrator, sound designer and producer are becoming increasingly blurred.
In an age where anyone with a laptop can be a composer, how does this affect the opportunities open to us, and how do we take the step from composing for ourselves to making a living from it?
A little history
Going back through the centuries, many of the great Classical composers were financially able to compose the volume of work they did because of aristocratic patronage. Rich families would appoint composers to write music for private performance in their homes, providing them with a regular income and guaranteed performance opportunities, in return for entertainment and improvement of their own social standing and influence. This Classic FM article will introduce you to some of the major patrons through history. The process was similar for performers and writers; actors and musicians would be affiliated to specific families, and without patronage, we would not have the majority of Shakespeare’s work. Musicians have been making a more sustainable living from composing ever since copyright was introduced (in its earliest form in the late 18th century, and in its present since the early 20th). With rights and royalties, the great composers of previous eras would be earning a great deal more today than they would have done when they were alive.
The power of the internet
Fast-forward five-hundred years or so, and it’s a concept that’s still present today. Now that music is so widely accessible, the modern day “patron” is just a customer that downloads an album, goes to a gig or concert or buys sheet music. Websites like Patreon and Kickstarter allow freelancers invite their followers and fans to fund their work, providing exclusive and personalised content for those that subscribe. The internet is also a brilliant platform for performers to advertise their talents, as we have seen with the explosion of the “Youtuber” and Vine artists – for example, Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Charlie Puth, who were all catapulted to stardom having been first spotted on their Youtube channels.
The same goes for composers. We can now market our work online with a website, and for all the Youtube videos, bloggers and adverts, there is music that get used in them, with many composers gaining a sizeable portion of their income from writing “library music”: individual tracks that could be used for all sorts of media, from adverts, corporate and educational videos to television and film. Library music companies will invite submissions from composers, where they will be professionally recorded and labelled for production companies to browse online, and composers are normally paid a one-off fee for the unlimited use of their music. One of the leading library music sites is Audio Network – take a look around the website to see the multitude of different styles that are available. Does it take the soul out of the process? Perhaps, but what it lacks in soul, it makes up for in flexibility, freedom and creative control, without the tight deadlines and clashing egos of film and television. Learn more from some composers who are making a living from library music here.
Film and television
Another strand of composing is for film and television, which has had a huge increase in popularity in recent years. It’s a career that relies almost entirely on building relationships with directors, writers and producers, and slowly working your way up. Film music has to fit a picture exactly, mirroring the movements onscreen, conveying emotion, and is very collaborative. It also involves working with directors who don’t necessarily know what they want, and requires such a broad knowledge and understanding of so many different genres of music that many people come to film composing later in their careers. While potentially hugely lucrative and undoubtedly one of the most exciting, rewarding composing careers, it is perhaps the most difficult one to break into.
From the days of classical patronage to today, in order to earn a living as a composer our output is largely controlled by whoever is paying us – be this a patron, an advertising executive or a film director – but an area that allows more creative control than usual is musical theatre. Having monopolised the West End for decades, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s more recent original productions have been relative commercial flops (for example, the Phantom sequel Love Never Dies (2010), and the bizarre Stephen Ward (2013) that closed after three months), and he is now channelling his focus into helping the next generation of musical theatre writers and composers.
Love Never Dies – a musical failure? Or the catalyst for promoting young composers?
In 2017, he purchased the St James Theatre and renamed it The Other Palace, with the main purpose of bolstering new musicals, and they host regular open mic nights as well as workshops and showcases of new work. Off the back of this, composers can then earn money from licensing shows for amateur performance, or from a transfer of a show to a bigger theatre. Because the process from page to stage takes a great deal of time, other forms of income are still vital. Commercial song-writing allows this freedom to an extent, and there is a faster turnover of projects, but there is still the pressure from record labels to write hits that will sell and the competition is greater than for any other medium.
What can I do now?
As for where to get started while at school or university: GCSE and A Level Music courses will introduce you to the techniques used for composing and give you a chance to try it out, before specialising in university and postgraduate study, where you have the creative freedom to explore your own personal style without worrying about the mark schemes and hoop-jumping that comes with passing exams. You can also come along to our various composition clubs that take place during the week, where you have the freedom to work on your music. Early composition assignments can feel like creativity by numbers, but as they say, you have to learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist…
It’s harder to get started making an income composing than in a lot of careers, but once established, there is essentially no cap on how far it is possible to go. It’s about finding your niche and a way of making it work for you, and new music (particularly by female composers) is being championed more now than ever. Here are some links specific to young female musicians:
If you think composing might be your thing then immerse yourself in learning more about your craft – go to gigs and concerts, see films in the cinema with the high-quality speakers and surround sound, explore both the West End and Off-West End theatre scenes (many shows have cheaper ticket lotteries or day tickets, and seats at the back for as little as £20). Seeing how others do it is the best way to learn how to do it yourself, and as Wimbledon residents with central London practically on our doorsteps, there really is no excuse not to! Most importantly, be brave and put your music out there so that people can see what you can do.
Maya (Year 11), discusses the uses of nanotechnology in medicine, thinking about how far it has come and helped doctors. She also considers the dangerous aspects of using such small technology and the future benefits it may bring.
Technology in medicine has come far and with it the introduction of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is the action of manipulating structures and properties at an atomic and molecular level as the technology is so small; it being one-billionth of a metre. This technology has many uses such as electronics, energy production and medicine and is useful in its diverse application. Nanotechnology is useful in medicine because of its size and how it interacts with biological molecules of the same proportion or larger. It is a valuable new tool that is being used for research and for combatting various diseases.
In medicine, nanotechnology is already being used in a wide variety of areas, the principle area being cancer treatment. In 2006 a report issued by NanoBiotech Pharma stated that developments related to nanotechnology would mostly be focused on cancer treatments. Thus, drugs such as Doxil, used to treat ovarian cancer will use nanotechnology to evade and surpass the possible effects of the immune system enabling drugs to be delivered to the disease-specific areas of the body. Nanotechnology is also helping in neuroscience where European researchers are currently using the technology to carry out electrical activity across dead brain tissue left behind by strokes and illnesses. The initial research was carried out to get a more in-depth analysis of the brain and to create more bio-compatible grids (a piece of technology that surgeons place in the brain to find where a seizure has taken place). Thus, it is more sophisticated than previous technologies which, when implanted, will not cause as much damage to existing brain tissue.
Beyond help in combatting cancer and research, nanotechnology is used in many areas in medicine from appetite control to medical tools, bone replacement and even hormone therapy. Nanotechnology is advancing all areas of medicine with Nano-sized particles enhancing new bone growth and additionally, there are even wound dressings that contain Nano-particles that allow for powerful microbial resistance. It is with these new developments that we are revolutionising the field of medicine, and with more advancements, we will be able to treat diseases as soon as they are detected.
Scientists are hoping that in the future nanotechnology can be used even further to stop chemotherapy altogether; fighting cancer by using gold and silica particles combined with nanotechnology to bind with the mutated cells in the body and then use infra-red lasers to heat up the gold particles and kill the tumour cells. This application would be beneficial as it would reduce the risk of surrounding cells being damaged as the laser would not affect them as much as the chemotherapy would.
In other areas, nanotechnology is further developing with diagnostics and medical data collection. This means that by using this technology, doctors would be able to look for the damaged genes that are associated with particular cancers and screen the tumour tissue faster and earlier than before. This process involves the Nano-scale devices being distributed through the body to detect chemical changes. There is also an external scan by use of quantum dots on the DNA of a patient which is then sequenced to check if they carry a particular debilitating genome, therefore providing a quicker and easier method for doctors to check in detail if a patient has contracted any illnesses or diseases. Furthermore, doctors will be able to gain a further in-depth analysis and understanding of the body by use of nanotechnology which surpasses the information found from x-rays and scans.
While this is a great start for nanotechnology, there is still little known about how some of the technology might affect the body. Insoluble nanotechnology for example, could have a high risk of building up in organs as they cannot diffuse into the bloodstream. Or as the nanoparticles are so small, there is no controlling where they could go, which might lead to Nano-particles entering cells and even their nuclei, which could be very dangerous for the patient. The science and technology committee from the House of Lords have reported concerns about nanotechnology on human health, stating that sufficient research has not been conducted on “understanding the behaviour and toxicology of nanomaterials” and it has not been given enough priority especially with the speed at which nanotechnology is being produced.
Nanotechnology is advancing medical treatment at a rapid rate, with new innovative technologies approved each year to help combat illnesses and diseases. Whilst more research needs to be conducted, the application of Nano-medicine will provide a platform of projected benefits that has potential to be valuable. Overall with the great burden that conditions like cancer, Alzheimer’s, HIV and cardiovascular diseases impose on the current healthcare systems, nano-technology will revolutionise healthcare with its advances techniques in the future as it progresses.
Marcia Phillip, Head of Design and Technology, discusses some of the projects relating to changes to the D&T curriculum.
“We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.”
14 Jan 2016 Klaus Schwab Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum Geneva
A new approach in delivering a 21st Century D&T Curriculum
The aim at WHS is to equip students with the new skill set that they will require for the predicted ‘Fourth Industrial revolution 2020’ and to meet the shortage in UK Engineers, especially with women. We needed to change the approach to how Design and Technology is taught in response to a changing world.
As part of my research I came across a project called ‘Designing Our Tomorrow’ (DOT) which was being developed by the University of Cambridge and linked perfectly to where I wanted to take D&T. I made contact and the initial results have already had a significant impact on the students’ learning and experience in Year 7 with WHS now playing a major part of the University’s research. We introduced these projects to our sister schools on 26th June at the annual GDST D&T Conference held at WHS, in the hope that GDST will take the lead in changing how D&T is delivered in schools.
The ‘DOT’ Box ‘Unpacking Asthma’ is the first project trialled at WHS. The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining ran the competition on behalf of the University of Cambridge via their Schools StarPack Awards, where our Year 7 students walked away with the top prizes, despite the project being aimed at Year 9 and Year 10 students. We had a range of textiles and card outcomes which were innovation and responded well to the brief.
Designing Our Tomorrow is an initiative from the University of Cambridge that brings together expertise from the Faculty of Education and the Department of Engineering in order to research and develop resources for teaching STEM and secondary level D&T as part of the mainstream curriculum. It puts authentic challenges and engineering practice at the heart of the learning experience.
Unpacking Asthma Project
Sponsored by Peter Brett Associates LLP, and developed by The University of Cambridge in conjunction with the NHS and Asthma UK. Peter Brett Associates LLP (PBA) are an award winning development and infrastructure consultancy consisting of 700 engineers, planners, scientists, and economists delivering major development and infrastructure projects.
The DOT Challenge is a new award that focuses on solving a real world problem. This year’s challenge focuses on the problems with treating asthma with children who are under 6 years old. Solutions that best address this problem received the StarPack Award and their ideas were taken forward for implementation within the NHS, giving students the experience of seeing how ideas are developed and realised in Industry.
Working with Designers
On Thursday 8th June 2017, five of the WHS Award winners had an initial interview by Bill Nicholl, a Cambridge University researcher and Lecturer in Design and Technology Education who has been working on the research and public engagement so that the whole process could be tracked and accurately portrayed in their research paper. The girls were then giving an opportunity to work with international packaging design company D S Smith at their Derby branch on Tuesday 13th June 2017.
The students had an amazing day. There were 10 trainee teachers also present who were looking at how they could implement this in their teaching as well as a parent who has a child who suffers from asthma and wanted to share his traumatic experience and how a child friendly solutions could make a difference to many parents and young child.
The day started with introductions and our girls presenting their concepts to all who were present. They then worked 1 on 1 with a designer, discussing their ideas and further developing them based on the new constraints given by NHS. They all made several iterations before it was time to leave. The day ended with the girls presenting the improved concepts with their designer. However, this was not the end of the story only the beginning, all 12 girls who were entered were shortlisted and achieved an award which they received on 28th June at a special celebration ceremony held in London at the IOM3 offices. The five selected students had another day out on 30th June to present the ideas at the British Paediatric Respiratory Conference.
Presenting at the NHS British Paediatric Respiratory Conference
This was another valuable opportunity where the girls stood and presented their concepts. They responded extremely well to the questions from various delegates who were very impressed with their ideas. After their presentation a number of delegates had further conversations about how the ideas developed and took closer looks at the latest iterations developed in conjunction with DS Smith. A number of delegates were keen to see it progress and one in particular, Sara Nelson RGN from Healthy London Partnership based at the Evelina Hospital at St Thomas, was very interested in running a pilot at her clinic with the textiles monkey bag design created by Sascha. A great day was had by all.
Sascha was asked by Cambridge University to develop her design further over the summer holidays ready for 15th September HLP Asthma Campaign launch. She had adapting her design to made in card to make it more cost effective as the NHS as we know has a tight budget. Her ideas were then forwarded to DS Smith who work on the next iteration.
On the 15th September, our 5 students were asked to work once again with designers from DS Smith in a collaboration with some students from Grieg City academy, who had also entered the competition. This was a partnership of our 5 girls who, were now in Y8, and seven Y10 students from Greig City. The new challenge was to work alongside designers and educational experts to improve the winning monkey card mask design, generate concepts for the supplementary information to go with the mask, to launch the prototype idea and integrate with the Healthy London Partnership Asthma campaign. Students also had to consider making aspects such as the inhalers more inclusive by consider the issues associated with ageing, as one of the stakeholders in this brief was Grandma.
This was an amazing experiencing seeing our students taking leading roles, in the teams they were allocated to, and engaging with a real world context applying their problem solving skills which will make a real difference to young people’s lives. Working alongside industry and educational professionals allowed the girls to experience all aspects of a design process and broaden their horizons through the effects of their efforts in genuine practice.
Evelina Children’s Hospital visit
Sascha, with her winning design, was invited to present her concept to the NHS Lead for Paediatric Respiratory conditions, Richard Iles, and Sara Nelson, ‘Ask About Asthma’ Programme Lead at Evelina Children’s hospital, St Thomas, London on Wednesday 20th September. It was a very exciting opportunity where Sascha was able to discuss her idea with clinicians, had a photo shoot and presented it to a young patient to trial. We were able to see developments of the spacer by industrial companies which were more efficient and could work extremely well with Sascha’s design.
We await the results of the trial period and the next steps. The journey does not stop here for Sascha…
The Asthma competition will run again this year, as Cambridge University and the NHS would like a number of possible solutions that would appeal to different children’s requirements who have asthma. We will be running it with our Year 9 students so watch this space…
The DOT team are in the process of developing other DOT boxes. I have hosted another training session with a project that focuses on Inclusive Design and our ageing population, in the hope that our ‘Designers of Tomorrow’ can empathise and develop commonly used products which cater for the majority of our population without special adaptions.