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How to Integrate AI in Everyday Teaching 

The digital landscape in education is an ever-changing entity that is being shaped by technological advancements and cultural shifts. What we think of as ‘cool tech toys’ today, like virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI), are becoming as essential to learning as books and pencils, writes Adil Hussain, digital teacher at Keighley College.  

 In the further education classroom, the role of technology has long since become pivotal in shaping the teaching and learning experiences of educators and students. But with the number of emerging technologies and the rapid growth of artificial intelligence (AI), we have come a long way in a very short time in what feels like a whole new transformation of our work.  

  Over the past 12 months, I have been exploring and utilising AI in different ways in the classroom and have seamlessly incorporated it into my everyday teaching practices. Leveraging a range of tools to help me organise, plan and teach my students has not only changed the way I teach, it also underscores the immense potential AI holds for the whole sector. 

Bringing simple ideas to life 

At the heart of my approach is Scribble Diffusion, a powerful tool catering to my Level 1 students studying English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) and foundation courses. Through this platform, students are encouraged to sketch a drawing and provide a prompt, showcasing how powerful generative AI is and how it brings their concepts to life. 

For example, the students were tasked with sharing a word to develop a narrative. This was further developed through Scribble Diffusion as a photo story. As a result, it not only boosted their confidence but also put their language and creative skills to the test, stimulating creativity and nurturing a deeper understanding of visual representation. 

Fostering innovation and creativity 

As a games design tutor, I have found the use of Leonardo AI helpful in fostering creativity and problem-solving skills among my Level 2 and 3 students, enhancing their ability to develop innovative and engaging game concepts. This free, token-based generative AI tool is versatile across various vocational courses, demonstrating its potential to cultivate a wide array of skills. 

I have also been utilising Quizalize which has become my go-to resource for creating engaging quizzes – particularly useful for new starter/student activities or session recaps. The integration of ChatGPT within Quizalize has helped me streamline the quiz creation process, showcasing the collaborative potential between educators and AI to enhance teaching methodologies. 

Streamlining processes for efficiency 

Another area I have been exploring is TeacherMatic, which has rapidly become an essential tool to streamline my workload. By automating routine tasks and providing easy access to educational resources, it has allowed me to focus more on instructional activities and student interaction.  

However, while it holds promise in reducing the burden on educators and has the potential to become effective if developed further, its widespread integration across educational institutions is yet to be fully realised. Gillian Keegan may be pinning her hopes on AI to reduce workload, but there is a long way to go to make this a reality. 

 In addition to all these tools, I have of course also invested in ChatGPT 4. Its personalised prompts feature sets it apart from the free version. Customisation will be significant in maximising AI’s effectiveness in the classroom and meeting diverse needs, but the cost implication is certainly something policy makers need to be aware of. 

Soft skills are vital in our day-to-day interactions and perhaps even more so in the working world. As a result, I have recently explored an app called Body Swaps for soft skills training. This innovative tool utilises VR to simulate interviews, providing individuals with a unique opportunity to refine their interpersonal skills. 

AI has revolutionised the way I work, making my teaching more personalised, efficient, and responsive, both in my day-to-day activities with students and in how I plan lessons. It has helped me facilitate seamless communication and resource sharing among my peers and students, fostering a community of continuous learning and professional development. 

All of which is truly beneficial for early adopters like me. (And there’s no reason you can’t become one too very quickly, no matter how inexperienced you feel.) The challenge now is to make this revolution systemic. 

Adil Hussain, digital teacher, Keighley College.  

The Sustainable Development Goals logo

Sustainability award for Luminate Education Group

Members of Luminate Education Group have had their sustainability credentials recognised through a Green Gown Award.

The group was part of a successful entry that showcased the collective impact of action by West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges’ (WYCC) seven members.

The bid outlined the scores of varied initiatives that each of WYCC’s partners have been undertaking to promote Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – the 17 global targets adopted by the United Nations to tackle poverty and protect the planet.

The members’ work over the past year has spanned all of the SDG categories which include Climate Action, Affordable and Green Energy and Responsible Consumption and Production as well as Reduced Inequalities and Quality Education.

Environmental action across the group

Some key examples included:

  • Leeds City College, Keighley College and Harrogate College taking part in Planet Earth Games – with Keighley, which produced an indoor greenhouse and a suit of armour welded from waste metal, being crowned the national winner

  • Running an array of sustainability-focused courses, with 86 including specific net zero or sustainability content, across multiple fields including digital, business, motor vehicle and travel, food and drink

  • Harrogate College embedding sustainable practice across all of its provision, while consolidating its position as a green skills leader

  • Leeds Sixth Form College’s staff and students leading litter picking sessions and community clean-ups, using the gathered rubbish to create a sculpture at Park Lane campus

  • Engineering students visiting DRAX power station to learn about the sustainable biomass it now uses as its primary fuel and the company’s research into carbon capture technologies

Inspiring first steps towards net zero

Luminate Education Group’s Deputy CEO, Bill Jones, said: “Lessening the impact of the climate emergency is one of our top priorities and something we can only effectively do through collaboration with our partners.

“There is a huge amount of work to be undertaken to make all of the changes we need to become, as we have pledged, net zero carbon by 2035. So it has been inspiring to see the commitment, passion and professionalism of our staff and students – along with those of our partner colleges – as they’ve thrown themselves behind this.

“We’ve made a great start and winning this Green Gown Award is a testament to that and will motivate us as we forge ahead with more sustainability improvements.”

The power of collaboration – and estate-wide improvements

Luminate Education Group Consultant, Jennifer Miccoli, added: “We did a huge amount of sustainability work as part of the WYCC bid, which was led by Shipley College. The collaboration with other colleges, and sharing of resources, was great and enabled us all to pick up some fantastic ideas.

“Our efforts included everything from small student-led community projects right through to reviewing our group-wide processes, particularly regarding our buildings, so we can target what will make the biggest difference in terms of our carbon footprint.”

In terms of the group’s buildings, a new advanced management system has been set up across each site to record and drive efficiencies in the use of energy, water, and heating. A range of multi-million pound infrastructure / rebuild schemes are also in the pipeline, including at Harrogate College and Leeds City College’s Mabgate campus, where the work will be completed to meet the BREEAM (Excellent) sustainability standard.

The installation of solar panels at Leeds’ Printworks campus meanwhile, due to be completed by this summer, is expected to save some 370,000 tonnes of annual CO2 emissions. Leeds Conservatoire is also, thanks to a £1.6m award from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, on course to slash its carbon footprint by upgrading its heating and cooling systems, windows and lighting.

Luminate and Whitecap Consulting collaborate to boost Finance and Professional Services (FPS) skills in West Yorkshire

We have joined forces with regional strategy consultancy Whitecap Consulting to enhance finance and professional services skills in West Yorkshire.

The project, funded by the UK government’s Local Skills Improvement Funding (LSIF), seeks to address current and future skill priorities in the region and is a direct response to the recommendations of the Yorkshire and Humber Financial and Professional Services Skills Commission.

The project will also benefit colleges within the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges, specifically Calderdale and Shipley College who are also receiving investment for fintech from LSIF. Together, the colleges will utilise the research to develop new learning opportunities using a suite of new equipment and technology.

The partnership will contribute to the development of new courses and curriculum to meet the evolving demands of the FinTech sector.

Rebecca Fores, Associate Dean of Higher Education at University Centre Leeds, said: “This is an important programme of work via which we seek to develop a shared understanding of what skills are required by the region and a vision for how businesses, education providers, local government, and others can work together to develop them.

“This collaboration will play a key role in enhancing skills, fostering partnerships and driving economic growth in the region.”

She added that the key objectives for an increasingly competitive sector would include increasing skill levels, involving more FPS workers in training programmes, improving employment levels and attracting and retaining staff.

Julian Wells, Director at Whitecap Consulting, emphasised the importance of the collaboration. He said: “This partnership is a pivotal step towards fortifying the skills base in West Yorkshire’s finance and professional services sector. The sector has been experiencing change on several fronts, and developments such as FinTech and LegalTech have gained significant momentum.

“By aligning educational initiatives with current and future industry needs, we can ensure a sustainable pipeline of talent that will help future-proof the region against the evolving landscape of the industry.”

The Whitecap team will commence research and engage with regional employers and key stakeholders to understand the current FPS skills provision in the region. The project will result in a comprehensive report and recommendations, with follow-up activities including Continuing Professional Development (CPD) workshops for college staff and external events, focused on emerging fields such as fintech, open to regional employers.

This collaboration builds upon Whitecap Consulting’s extensive work in the field, including multiple regionally-focused fintech, legaltech and tech ecosystem reports, including several in Yorkshire, and the FinTech Skills Framework 2023 report in the West Midlands.

The Department for Education’s Local Skills Improvement Fund is supporting nearly £7million of collaborative investment in digital innovation across colleges in West Yorkshire, including FinTech.

University Centre Leeds

Quality HE teaching recognised

Two of our members are celebrating achieving strong Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) results.

University Centre Leeds and Leeds Conservatoire both gained overall TEF ratings of Silver this year which the Office for Students (OfS), which runs the scheme, grants when ‘the student experience and student outcomes are typically very high quality’.

The TEF aims to inspire higher education providers to improve and deliver excellence in teaching, learning and achieving positive outcomes for students.

Dean of Higher Education at University Centre Leeds, Dr Sarah Marquez, said: “This is a tremendous achievement and a true testament to everyone’s hard work.

“The quality of our teaching and our commitment to delivering a first class learning experience is at the heart of what we do, so this recognition is heartening.”

University Centre Leeds has just received its final TEF results, while the conservatoire achieved its Silver rating in September.

Conservatoire Principal, Professor Joe Wilson said: “Leeds Conservatoire is a specialist higher education provider, committed to providing an excellent experience and outcomes for its students. The Teaching Excellence Framework 2023 ratings reflect this and endorse the hard work and dedication of staff across the institution.”

All higher education providers in England with more than 500 undergraduates had to submit data for this year’s TEF.

Luminate Education Group secures funding to accelerate digital innovation in education

We are among several education institutions to secure £6.9m from the Department for Education to digitise teaching and learning in key sectors.

The funding is part of the Local Skills Improvement Fund (LSIF) and will launch a West Yorkshire digital innovation project.

The West Yorkshire colleges benefiting from the funding include Bradford College, Calderdale College, Kirklees College, Luminate Education Group (Leeds City College and Keighley College), Heart of Yorkshire Education Group, Shipley College, and Leeds College of Building.

Working through the consortium, colleges and partners will collaborate for maximum impact. They will develop current and new digitised training provision and curriculum for key industries.

The colleges will open specialist hubs and academies offering high level curriculum using immersive and digital technology and Artificial Intelligence.

The capital investment will include equipment and resources needed to use virtual reality, augmented reality, Artificial Intelligence, and robotics to equip colleges with the means to develop relevant and in-demand skills.

Project director of the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges, Joanne Patrickson said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the region to advance the skills needed in technology to keep up with industry changes.

“Not only will the funding of new equipment help to improve the learning experience in colleges, the collaboration between our partners will grow the skills and knowledge of the teaching staff who can deliver relevant training to the current and future workforce.”

Bill Jones, Deputy CEO of Luminate Education Group said: “Being awarded this funding is fantastic news and will help to transform lives across the region.

“By creating more cutting-edge facilities and enhancing exceptional provision we will help to boost digital talent and meet the local skill priority areas needed for a successful economy.”

Over the course of the project approximately 5,000 learners will benefit from around 100 new courses, with over 7,000 learners using the new equipment purchased with LSIF capital funds.

The project runs until March 2025 and is part of the Government’s drive to transform skills training so more people can secure good jobs close to home.

Ann Marie Spry

Making the sums add up on the nation’s numeracy challenge

Maths is high on the current political agenda, with a focus on the young. But a lack of basic numeracy is blighting the lives of millions of adults, writes Ann Marie Spry, Vice Principal of Adults at Luminate Education Group.

Numeracy, the ability to understand how maths works in the real world, influences most aspects of our lives – from budgeting for shopping to mortgage choices.

Yet a shockingly high proportion of adults in the UK really struggle to deal with numbers – with a 2022 report finding that, in West Yorkshire, more than half – 52% – had numeracy skills at ‘entry level and below’.

This problem is limiting countless people’s lives, not least by closing off work opportunities across all kinds of sectors. Because a grasp of basic maths, as part of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skill set, is vital to so many jobs – and not just the ‘usual suspects’ like finance, accountancy or computing.

Our numeracy woes are also causing real economic damage which, according to research by National Numeracy, could be costing the UK up to £25 billion a year. A new YouGov survey commissioned by the same charity found that there are currently 15 million people in the UK with ‘low skills or confidence’ in maths – with lower paid workers, the unemployed and part-time workers worst affected.

So how do we go about reaching, and helping, those who need it?

The benefits of a functional approach

That is a question that the government’s Multiply programme, which invests in courses for adults that focus on functional, rather than theoretical, maths was set up to help answer. The scheme involves working with educational and skills organisations, like ours, to boost people’s confidence with numbers and gain qualifications.

We were delighted earlier this year to be awarded nearly £480,000 for two of our group’s members, Leeds City College (which was awarded £434,000) and Keighley College (£45,500), to deliver Multiply training in West Yorkshire.

This funding is enabling us to put on new courses for adults that are tailored to fit around their busy lives, while training more staff to teach numeracy.

These sessions are concentrating on topics like banking, borrowing and interest levels to highlight the practical benefits of numerical skills, and targeting adults who don’t have a Level 2 qualification – roughly equivalent to a GCSE grade 4, or the old C grade – in maths.

We hope that through delivering the programme we can help adults in all walks of life develop improved financial skills: from planning their meals, or creating shopping lists and budgets, to understanding taxes, pensions and interest rates. This should help them to feel more secure as they plan for the future by enabling them to feel more in control, and give them confidence to explore new challenges.

In a way our aim is to correct a historical wrong, as so many of our young people have left – and are still leaving – school feeling intimidated, and fearful, about numbers. That can have far-reaching, negative consequences throughout life: unless we reach out and try to remedy the problem.

Practical skills for the cost-of-living crisis

Our work is still at an early stage but we know, from other schemes around the country – including in Staffordshire – that Multiply courses are delivering very tangible benefits: not least by empowering individuals to cope with the many challenges that are being thrown up by the cost-of-living crisis, through managing their household budgets, bills and debts, better.

The government has been in the headlines this year for talking, as part of its wider push to update a whole raft of educational qualifications, about the importance of getting everyone to study maths until the age of 18. That idea was referenced again, as part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s proposals for a new Advanced British Standard, in the November 2023 King’s Speech, which stated that the new qualification would ‘ensure every young person studies some form of English and maths to age 18, raising the floor of attainment’.

That idea, given the link between numeracy and future life prospects, certainly has real merit – though proper funding will be needed to recruit and retain the maths teachers required to deliver it.

But we also, as a nation, have to make sure we don’t forget about the millions of people who have already been through the school system and yet don’t have the skills needed to help them fulfil their potential.

That is why the Multiply scheme, and the work further education providers around the country are doing thanks to its funding, is so important. Too many of our citizens, for far too long, have had to struggle due to a lack of number skills and this is costing them, and our economy, dear.

Whichever way you look at it, that just doesn’t add up.

This thought piece was recently published in The Yorkshire Post.

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