Here’s a picture of the pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury tales, sitting at The Tabard In at the start of their journey to Canterbury. This is the late 14th. century but technology has conspired to make this layout the way the general classroom will look like in the immediate future. We have gone full circle (or perhaps horseshoe shape). The only thing lacking here for a modern classroom is evidence of a stinking good WiFi and each diner having a portable device to support or illustrate their contribution to collaborative learning.
We know that teachers and students are more and more carrying their portable devices, content and technology and software with them in a bag.
The square ‘rank and file’ classroom requiring all to face one-way for instruction, questioning and answering has gone. We can sit and face our students as can each other and we now all address each other as we discuss the application of learning. All this undertaken on-line, in our Flipped classes, with the ability to use the Wifi to find content and share in support of turning our student’s knowledge into personal understanding.
It isn’t a new idea to teach in this way; it’s just that technology is what now makes this method possible.
This won’t work of course in workshops and studios, kitchens and salons, where authentic learning is still the order of the day but the same principle applies to all general learning where the space itself isn’t the object of learning.
What is the classroom for?
- To meet like-minded students and turn common knowledge into personal understanding
- To practice and manipulate ideas, shared on-line before the class.
- To ask difficult questions and tackle issues where their are no direct answers
- To practice new skills and express new ideas in a safe place.
- To benefit from the experience of others in the class along with a wise guide in the shape of the teacher
In short, and perhaps too simplistically, all the affective and psychomotor domain considerations that follow on from the cognitive domain work completed on-line.
There are also social elements at work in a sense of it’s immediacy and learning confronted ‘in the moment’, in a way that asynchronous learning is less affective and profound.
- Classes provide a stronger sense of pace and progression and direction.
- Learners use the classroom for mutual support and encouragement.
- To share praise and rewards and reinforcement of learning.
- To have a teachers endorse their ideas and suggestions.
- Classes add to the sense of ‘effort’ needed to make learning worthwhile.
- To share common resources such as a Library, tutorial help, a canteen full of like-minded others.
- To enjoy an atmosphere where learning is valued and praised.
Specialist classrooms provide for authentic learning and places to practice skills.
Some of these things are quite ephemeral, but every teacher sees these at work in every successful class and they are not easily dismissed and the stronger there things are the better the class.
So, point no. 1, we still need classrooms to meet in though not as many (unless we offer more learning opportunities) and they don’t need lots of technology to make the learning work, beyond Wifi because everyone will have their own devices and software and content. We don’t need money to buy this as it is how we behave rather than what we spend.
Learning technologies are only one part of e-learning. There are two further types of technology in the mix, and the other two have been neglected, forgotten or, in some cases ignored.
- Vocational technologies – The technology used in a particular profession or vocation that are skills in the industry
- Structural or general technologies – The technology the college uses in its organisation and in its dealings. Preparing people for the digital world as active citizens, social connected, mature users, (see Digital Literacy). It leads to having a Digital reputation.
We need to provide students with access to all three types to support their learning, to prepare them to work in their chosen industry and to be fully digitally literate. Colleges should not just teach technology but they should do technology in all their dealings so that students see no difference int the way a college conducts itself compared to other businesses. It turns the way a colleg works into a learning landscape itself. This is what I mean about the use of structural or general technologies that replace paper, letters, forms and cash.
One added benefit of this is that learning technologies are not that expensive because it sits on four pillars of a VLE, and ILP, a personal Portfolio structure, and the use of social media. All of this driven on personal portable devices with personal applications that teachers and students carry with them. All these things are now in place and we have reached a point with learning technologies where real gain comes from how we change our way and pattern of learning using these basic technologies that are already available. e-learning expenditure has moved from the college to the individual, so colleges can spend that money instead on vocational technologies.
This leaves us free to really put our resources into Vocational technologies. Consider the growth iff technology in every part of industry such as in the use of on-line software, GPS tracking, personal applications that are industry specific and software for planning, estimating, billing, reporting and hanging clients for the self-employed. Every land-based student should explore the use of drones, tracking technologies in animal care, estimating and billing applications in construction, publishing on personal websites and selling products in creative courses, using microscopy and learning to research in networks in science.
So in these classrooms, without the need for PC towers or IWBs, no whirring of fans, or chattering of printers, UV lighting, comfortably furnished in circular rather than square styles, classrooms will be welcoming for enquiring minds with access to vocational specific software.
Geoff Rebbeck – February 2016