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The future classroom: part 2

The first article in this series took a look at the future classroom and explored some of the effects that technology might have upon the teaching and learning environment. This second piece discusses how the roles of those involved in teaching and learning might evolve in response to these changes.

The physical environment of a school is only one aspect of the education system. It is the interactions of all those involved and the relationships between them which play a key role in ensuring that the teaching and learning experience is both productive and positive. But, changes to the learning environment will have an impact on the nature of these relationships and the way schools manage them.

In this article I shall be looking at:

  • How we use data
  • The roles of teachers, students and parents
  • The ways in which learning takes place will change
  • How we define learning in the future

Using data to inform teaching and learning

The use of data is becoming an all-pervading facet of today’s society and, despite the current concerns over its use, will continue to become more significant in our day to day lives.

However, the collection and use of data does not have to be seen as a bad thing. Schools and teachers already collect large amounts of data about their students, but this information is not always easy to use to best effect, largely because of the way in which it is collected and stored.

In the classroom of the future, data is likely to play an even more important role as technology makes it easier to collect, collate and analyse. This in turn will allow teachers to guide the activities of their students such that learning becomes a much more individually tailored process.

On a much grander scale, big data will allow educators to collaborate much more effectively at both a school and national level in order to understand the impact of teaching strategies and pedagogies, allowing teachers to work smarter and learn from each other. The insights offered by these deeper data sets opens up the possibility of some truly ground-breaking strides forward in understanding to not just how we learn, but also to how best we facilitate and support our learners.

Role of the teacher / student / parent

This intelligent use of data will have impact upon how the roles of teacher, learner and family are perceived. The importance of a positive relationship between these three groups is well documented, but the home-school partnership can still be a challenge to establish and maintain. Nevertheless, the increasing ease of communication and the possibilities of continuous reporting should mean that learning will become more of a collaborative process involving all three groups.

Consider the way that this relationship has changed already: from bilateral family and school link, with the student moving between each, to the triangular model that we see now with the teacher, the student and the parents working together. With this change, it is reasonable to assume that the development of communications and ongoing updates will make these relationships even closer.

I believe that we will reach a point whereby we talk about a ‘learning unit’ comprising all three parties as a much more holistic and joined up entity. This may in turn see a move away from the current student-centred learning, to more learning-centred activities with the roles of those involved becoming far more integrated with each other.

Flexible learning

Another significant change we have seen to working practice is in the place people work. The concept of being in an office, 9 till 5, Monday to Friday is becoming more and more obsolete as we see a rise in the degree of flexible working practice.

Technology makes it much easier for remote working and it would not be surprising to see this have some sort of impact on teaching and learning. Already we are seeing changes to the concept of homework with the rising popularity of flipped learning and the blended classroom. These approaches recognise and encourage the ability of students to study outside the traditional classroom environment.

There are many activities that learners can carry out independent of the teacher which ensure that valuable face to face time can be used far more effectively for those activities that require collaboration between students and teachers. Interestingly, the biggest challenge here may well be in how we now manage homework with a move away from blocks of homework time for specific subjects, but rather each homework being completed in a number of smaller tasks over the course of the week.

Ubiquity of ‘knowledge’

Information is now far more accessible than it has ever been and whilst there is still a place for remembering facts that we use on a regular basis, there is an argument that simply memorising information to regurgitate during an exam is not really learning.

The key skills that our students will require in the future will be the ability to take information, critically analyse it and then use their findings to come up with conclusions and actions to take forward. This ability to analyse will become more important as the amount of information available from sources of differing credibility becomes even greater. If students are not to drown in the ocean of ‘knowledge’ out there, teachers will need to show them how to sift out the truth and then use it to best effect. Rather than being the gate-keepers to knowledge, teachers will be guides who point their students in the right direction and help them to select and use relevant information wisely.

However, amidst all of this potential upheaval, it is important to recognise that the one thing that will not change is the importance of the teacher. Ultimately, successful teaching and learning is a uniquely human process relying on the interaction between student, teacher and parents; it is the relationship between these parties that underpins everything that education is trying to achieve.

Unfortunately, this can all too often get lost in the day to day admin and activities of school life. The classroom of the future should allow us to focus on this important human part of the process; rather than technology creating a barrier to face to face interaction, it will ensure that we are better able to use this time more effectively for everyone concerned.

The real classroom of the future will take place inside the mind of the student, wherever they happen to be.
Thomas Frey

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