Will education as we know it change because of technology?
I certainly hope so!
Where and how will you be teaching in 5, 10, 15 years time?
I know my teaching practice has changed in the last few years. 3 years ago I might not have seen the value in bringing in noisy, blinking, programmable and modular robots* (*a month ago I didn’t really know what that meant, either) into an already chaotic classroom, but now I do!
2 years ago, would I have considered maintaining a class blog or joining, let alone joining and extending a High School blogging challenge (An Open Invitation to Collaborate) or co-creating a global collaboration with my young students and several others groups on the other side of the world? (Little Ideas Swap)? Probably not. (Thank you Coetail for the kick in the pants). The article A Communiqué from the Horizon Project Retreat describes the top ten trends from around the world, with the number one trend:
“ The world of work is increasingly global and increasingly collaborative.”
Even 1 year ago–would I have been seen as “The IT expert,”–where people come to me with their tech problems and questions. All of these changes in my teaching and my career have evolved because of new technologies. And as we are beginning to grasp that technology advancement is exponential, I can only wonder at what is around the corner.
One thing that is incredibly slow to change (at least in all school’s I’ve worked in), and a thought I’ve had over and over is how we are still teaching in (mostly) isolated, individual classrooms and almost exclusively by age cohorts. Prakash Nair, in The Classroom is Obsolete: It’s Time for Something New, addresses these issues:
“Almost without exception, the reform efforts under way will preserve the classroom as our children’s primary place of learning deep into the 21st century. This is profoundly disturbing because staying with classroom-based schools could permanently sink our chances of rebuilding our economy and restoring our shrinking middle class to its glory days….
“As the primary place for student learning, the classroom does not withstand the scrutiny of scientific research. Each student “constructs” knowledge based on his or her own past experiences. Because of this, the research demands a personalised education model to maximise individual student achievement. Classrooms, on the other hand, are based on the erroneous assumption that efficient delivery of content is the same as effective learning.”
The article mentions that Environmental scientists have published dozens of studies that show a close correlation between human productivity and space design. Classroom design is something I have always found to be both intriguing and challenging (in another life I would love to be an interior designer.)
I know how a space looks and feels goes a long way to making me feel a certain way (my crowded, cluttered office doesn’t make me feel particularly creative) but if it is indeed so closely linked to productivity, shouldn’t there be a lot more care and effort ($) put into our Learning/Working/Living Spaces?
What could these revamped learning spaces look like?? The answers to this depends on your answer to these questions:
How should students learn?
Where should students should learn?
With whom should students learn?
Nair says, “We may conclude that it makes no sense to break down the school day into fixed “periods,” and that state standards can be better met via interdisciplinary and real-world projects….
How often have we as teachers, pulled children away from work that they are completely absorbed in, have found their “flow,”simply because it is time to go to music class?
Nair says “we may not necessarily get rid of classrooms, but instead redesign them to operate as “learning studios” alongside common areas reclaimed from hallways that vastly expand available space and allow better teaching and learning. In many parts of the country, limited classroom space can be significantly expanded by utilising adjacent open areas while simultaneously improving daylight, access to fresh air, and connections to nature.”
When discussing forward thinking considerations towards space, the Reggio Emilia approach cannot be omitted. Google “Environment as the Third Teacher” and you will find dozens of blogs and pictures showing beautiful arrangements of materials and gorgeous, light filled spaces.
ISZL’s Early Years approach is certainly Reggio inspired, in terms of our consideration of materials, time and space. Our Swiss environment and the local culture place a huge importance on playing outdoors, so the children have upwards of 2 hours a day outside in fresh, mountain air, with regular visits to a nearby forest.
Our youngest students’ walls have expanded as their teachers have carefully considered and chosen to allow all of their students to mix and mingle and choose freely to visit the different classrooms, each set up with a different focus: The Role Play Room, Art Studio or Construction Room (typically with a STEM focussed provocation).
I see this model spreading to other parts of the school (kindergarten has reclaimed a boot room and transformed it into a shared Art Studio) and can only hope the trend continues.
Another hope for future change is a move away from a focus on grades and other external rewards. Our current practice, according to Dan Pink’s research, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, has serious implications. His research finds that rewards can improve performance when it is a mechanical skills, but when a task requires “Rudimentary cognitive skill,” performance is impeded when reward is introduced. “When a task is simple, algorithmic, if you do this then you get this…yes works, but when task is more creative…rewards do not work.”
If future success requires our students to be creative and use more than “rudimentary cognitive skills” then we need to seriously reconsider our reporting and grading systems.
There are numerous obstacles, but I see the future of school as bright, but change is necessary and incredibly slow.