Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Classroom of The Future?

I was taking part in this weeks #BettChat and a question cropped up that got me thinking about something I was supposed to write months and months ago. So here we go - what would 'my' classroom of the future look like?

A space to let your curiosity run wild
Space in any classroom is always at a premium and it usually is in a building that was built on a traditional method of teaching - the Victorian model. Most of our schools are still organised with the children ordered, as Sir Ken Robinson puts is, by their manufacturing dates. Why do we do this?


Why do we group children by their ages? With the younger children in one area of the school and the older in another. They progress through primary school and never really interact with anyone outside their year group.  

Why can't children work with younger or older children on subjects or skills which they are equally skilled at.  We sometimes see this in sport with younger children playing in older groups, but rarely do we see it any other subjects 'within' school.

The walls and structure of our schools are preventing us from achieving this. I have seen over recent years schools beginning to tackle this with EYFS and Key Stage One, but I haven't come across a school completely integrating ALL age groups. Please tell me there is one so I can go and visit.

What does it look like right now?
At the minute we still see (particularly at high school) teacher at the front, sometimes behind a desk (I've never had a desk - just made me think then) talking to a class for twenty or more minutes and then having children set to work completing a task based on the knowledge or skills they've just been 'told' about.


Why do we still do this? I have blogged extensively about flipped learning and the impact this has had on my primary classroom and I know we can take this model further throughout the school.

Let's imagine for a moment that I was wasn't here to 'tell' children things, but to question their understanding more, probe for mastery of a skill and then push them further to do something with the skill. 

At the moment we haven't got the time in our schools to do this using the outdated model of teaching in the classrooms we have in our traditional schools.

So what would it look like?
The use of technology to drive this flipped model, in my opinion, is essential.  Too many times in schools we see technology introduced into schools and the teacher using the technology to benefit them, rather than the students.  Great for the teacher, but it may not suit that child.

Technology is becoming very personal, almost an extension of oneself.  Just watching how the children in my Year 4 class use their own iPads is fascinating.  They have their own ways of finding apps, their own positions of working with it; they have truly personalised their device.


Let's strip away the walls, open it up. Let's have learning areas for children to sit, lie, sprawl and collaborate in different learning areas.

And, essentially there are no classrooms as such. Children are free to work with older or younger children on problem solving activities and be as creative as possible.  Their own personal device being used to answer questions they may have. 

So what do teachers do?
A very valid question.  What do we do when that tiny device in their hands holds the knowledge of the entire human race. We no longer need to be fact knowing machines and feel like we should know everything.

Many times in my class, I'll say: "I don't know, let's find out." In fact, "just google it," is a phrase that is common place in schools and homes around the world now. Great, so that's knowledge ticked off.



Sugata Mitra, the professor of educational technology at Newcastle university talks about the ability of children to absorb information from computers with no guidance at all from adults.  Children can access knowledge easily with the most basic of technology, but they understand and articulate what they are absorbing. That's where we come in.

Relationships
Teachers will always be needed to help guide students on what to do with the information they are receiving. To inspire and be creative with the knowledge, to apply and refine the projects they are working on. But most importantly, we need to have a good learning relationship with the children in our care.  

In my experience this part of the classroom is the most important - the children need to trust you to allow them to take risks to learn.  We will always be needed to be there for the children in our schools and I'm sure that won't change for the next 100 years.

The look and feel of classrooms and schools need to change to allow a more flexible, creative approach to learning because our schools are still too rigid to allow this.  Knock down the walls! 

Embracing the Technology
Could we not create a school based around the Khan Academy approach? A whole curriculum of skills online, accessible whenever or wherever you might be.  Using a flipped model of learning, the children can access the information in a 24 hour online school.  The only reason a child needs to come to school is to learn what to do with those skills in the real world through blended or real life learning.

Imagine the children waking up and logging into their own 'personal learning tapestry' and then finding their next steps, "Ah, this is what I need to do today." They could then watch a short video before coming to school, or on the way to school. Then arrive at school, complete the work and then submit it online.   When a certain bank of skills have been mastered, a project is set to complete. This could help to prove that they fully understand the skill and how to apply it.  

Built into the tapestry is a list of online videos to help support the acquisition of the skills or a link to a live lecture somewhere in the world to learn from. Links to experts in the field they are studying - actual email address of universities that are researching that subject. Allowing children to ask questions like "How do we know what we are going to think next?" 


Teaching children how to collaborate in the real world as well as online will become a critical part of school life with children and teachers from all over the world contributing to one child's learning journey.  The use of apps like Edmodo and Showbie will become the hub for online collaboration throughout the school and social media enabling children to make connections with experts in a variety of fields across the world.

I currently have 1:1 iPads in my classroom and I've been trying hard to knock the novelty factor off them and reduce them down to what they really are - just another tool for learning. Recently I have seen this starting to happen. People have stopped talking about them being in my room, the children just get them out without asking, and they use them because they need to, not because they sparkle.

I want them to become invisible in my classroom, not for people to ask, "so what have you done on the iPads today?" Expecting that because they cost a lot of money I must be creating books, films and new apps on a daily basis.

Unplug the Children!


There will be time for physical education, recreation, and most importantly the social aspects of school life throughout the day. These children need to unplug from the world for time during the day.  The teaching of forest skills, gardening, cooking will all play a vital role in creating healthy children for the future.  

The use of technology has a role to play here as well.  Wearable technology will help children understand how their bodies work and how best to look after yourself. Reading the book 'Spark,' by Dr John J Ratey has really changed my thinking about fitness in schools and how it has an impact on the brain. 

Possibilites?
These are just ideas that have been flowing round in my head for a while now and some I hope to put into practise at some point in the future.  There are huge obstacles and problems with all the models offered above, but what remains central to all of this is the pedagogy must be sound for the children to learn.

Technology will be a part of our classrooms whether we like it or not and the quicker we find ways to fully understand how this will become seamless and almost unnoticeable in our classrooms will be when the learners begin to benefit from the technology, not the teacher.

Plenty to ponder, plenty still left to think about. Let's start with the learning environments and  break some walls down.


Both my books are on sale on Amazon Kindle, Google Books and Kobo for digital download. 

Amazon - Pause, Rewind My Teacher: A Flipped Approach to Learning

Amazon - Technology is a tool to be used not an outcome

The books detail all my work to date around flipped classrooms primary schools.  


I've also been invited to present at The Digital Education Show in London on Tuesday 30th June alongside some great names like Sir Ken Robinson, Sugata Mitra and many others - Find out more.

1 comment:

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