Is it time to knock down schools and educate through iphone/ipad apps? (Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the ipad).

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keith taynton
5 April 2011

This debate is designed to look forward to the (near or distant?) future to envision what school will, should or could be like to take advantage of new technology, but also to redefine educators' responsibility to students so that they will be prepared for how to survive in a postindustrial information economy that has emerged.

First, please watch this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

Debate:

In the red corner, maintaining schools in their current form - groups of children the same age learning in classrooms with a curriculuum that uses prescribed textbooks with students working towards exams such as GCSE or A levels. Technology such as smartboards and PCs are used, but within the context of a "traditional" class format.

 

Now please skim http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WebQuest

In the blue corner, school redefined as a pshysical and virtual space for students to gather and interact with each other on their own terms in their own time, where teachers become mentors and guides, where learning is focused on using technology like ipads so students can interact virtually with students in any location and time, working alone or in groups, learning through tasks such as a websquest, and choosing their own form of assessment which is graded by peers and the teacher.

 

 

 

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Kaye Bachelard
7:37pm 6 April 2011


I believe that schools can and will adapt to a more flexible model of learning for school pupils.  It won't happen quickly and there will be resistance.

I know of a school in Essex, where the pupils are involved in the selection process for teachers. The pupils are asked to be candid in their assessment of the lesson delivered by the applicant.  The opinions of the students are taken into account as are the opinions of staff. Could this  help avoid the Boredom factor described by Ken Robinson? I suggest that the factory model of education described by Ken Robinson should change and is already changing.

keith taynton
5:13am 7 April 2011


Joseph,

"physical and virtual space" - i don't think that making everyone stay at home will work - but i can forsee a future where schools become more like open plan offices where students congregate to complete an assignment and "teachers" are available to mentor and guide those who need help getting started or proceeding. if the workplace is open plan, then why shouldn't school be? this is about updating school to reflect modern working practices which, as sir ken pointed out, is apparently not up to date.

i've been reading a bit about montessori education recently and find that approach quite interesting (both brin and page from google were educated this way...)

re: gadget fiddling, if people are going to do it, might as well capture that compulsion and repurpose it for education.

i recently met a colleague here in japan who is deploying ipads in his class, although i dont have any idea about his strategy for use or indeed availability of applications. when i see him soon i'll get an update of what they are being used for.

 

Michelle Hickland
12:11pm 7 April 2011


I would like to play a little devils advocate here, is the structured learning taking place at school the only thing that pupils are learning.  Schools offer identity, freindships, rules and boundaries, social activities, team activities, how to behave and survive in a community and  opportunites outside of some peoples social and economic norms to name a few.  I can hear many of you saying that so could schooling over technologies, but it is never fully the same.  Demolishing schools would completely change the structure of these formative years in our society. 

Would it sovle many of the educational challenges like truancy and bad behaviour?  I don't think so, people who don't get on well with technology are going to become the truants and the badly behaved, disruptive students. 

There will never be a one size fits all educational establishment.  Do I think our schools are wonderful and providing the best educational experiences for all students, no, I don't.  We need to look at increasing the appropriate use of these new technologies into schools, enhance the learning experience and modify the system accordingly, but lets not take away the amazing learning that can come about by f2f classrooms, in the process.

Kaye Bachelard
1:04pm 7 April 2011


Michelle, I agree with you in that I don't think that truancy or bad behaviour is going to be solved by technology.  But I think it can be solved to some degree by the buildings that we school people in.

Take a look at this article about a new school build in South London:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/7658278/The-future-of-schools.html

The first thing they did was get rid of the corridors and the Victorian notion of how schools should look. The new environment has changed the way of working and has a direct link to the increased achievement in the school.

I also think that if we can give learners more responsibility for organising their work in a more open, less controlled model of education, it will help increase motivation, retention and achievement.  I have an example of this in a college where young apprentices use google docs in a motor vehicle workshop to plan and organise their work.  Tutors say their motivation has increased because they are being treated as adults with the tutor there to advise and help when needed.

Michael Thomson
12:23am 8 April 2011


I don't think the plumbers, joiners, builders, electricians, labourers, drivers (etc) that drink in the pub my dad drinks in give two hoots about how to survive in a post-industrial information economy.  Surviving in any economy is all that matters. 

If we can't provide school age pupils the means by which they can earn a living then how is the economy going to be sustained.  We can't all be Aristotle or Plato.  Someone is going to have to occupy the jobs that philosophers don’t want.

We can educate students in better schools, but we don't necessarily need to offer a 'Google' type of open plan ‘freedom’ workspace.  It may just turn into chaos.

I visited schools many years ago when I was a social worker.  One particular school had an open door policy.  The students took every advantage of this open door and walked in and out at various times of the day.  In and out of class without even letting anyone know where they were going.  Surely this 'freedom' to take control of one's own learning only works if a student can be inspired to do so.

If we can do that by providing tablet PCs then great, and if we can throw in the odd inspirational teacher, then even better.  But, we do not need to reinvent the wheel, and we surely don't expect that excluded students will somehow include themselves just because we have an open plan or ‘virtual’ school with mixed ages groups and a variety of 'apps' for that!

I'm with Michelle, schools are more than a place to get an A level.  They are where students should also learn why we need social skills and why we must all equip ourselves with a means to earn a living. 

keith taynton
12:49am 8 April 2011


hi Michael

"I'm with Michelle, schools are more than a place to get an A level.  They are where students should also learn why we need social skills and why we must all equip ourselves with a means to earn a living."

It's a good point - but isn't facebook et al redefining how we socialise? with global barries effectively removed instant communication with any of the billions of connected people - from the person sitting across the room to someone in siberia or sydney - is now possible. how does someone growing up in this reality conceive of the world, society, and their on and off line persona. 

wouldn't french lessons be more exciting skyping with people in french new guinea? cultural and lingual experiences - who needs a geography book when you can see and talk to people living there - wouldn't that be a motivation to learn about thier country and culture, and then from there into how geography is a useful approach to understanding the world.

as for the practical skills - isn't designing an engine or manipulating a plumbing system on a computer system to see the effects of variables (water pressure etc) interesting to see - (remember the reading where a cad system was taught through a video game). learning the principles of a trade could be done through software, while of course practical experience is also necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Thomson
8:54pm 8 April 2011


Keith - I think your last point is a very good one.  I'm all for using modern tools in a learning environment.  Using the tools that the practising engineers or plumbers use is essential if teachers are to make the lesson real.

Facebook et al is redefining social barriers alright!  It encourages people forget about the norms of social behaviour and it does not allow people to pick up on non-verbal communication skills. So before we even get to know someone people are telling the 'world' the life story, and the personal information that usually is confined to very close friends and family (i.e. the stuff you wouldn't want your boss to see).  Not only that other people can post pictures and videos of you without you even knowing about it!  No - we need to be very careful about Facebook et al.

French lessons with someone in French New Guinea.  I was once asked to leave my French class for inapproriate use of the language lab!  Fast forward 30 years and students will be being asked to leave the open plan 'skype' class for inappropriate use of an avatar! (or something).

All my cynisism aside, just because utopias do not exist, I see no reason why we shouldn't look or walk (gently) in that direction.  Just leave the schools standing for now.  We will only have to pay to build more if we go knocking them down too soon.    

Carole Kaqne
9:19am 9 April 2011


At the College where I work we have recently been setting up regular meetings about Curriculum Development.  We are a varied group from Lecturers, Directors, HE Co-ordinator, The Principal etc (approx 20 people) and we are given the opportunity to come up with creative ideas on different ways of delivering the curriculum, and there is an emphasis on flexible learning. 

Some of the ideas have been about knocking down walls of the College to create bigger learning spaces and mixing in different curriculums in with other as workshops.  In these workshops the lecturer will become the mentor to guide the students through their work.  Gradually the College is evolving and coming away from the factory model.

keith taynton
11:43pm 9 April 2011


Carole,

That sounds really awesome - please keep us posted as to how it's going...

 

Nnenna Osuji
9:28pm 5 May 2011


great debate - have to agree with  Michelle's comments re the greater social benefits of school  and with Kaye - there is no one size fits all solution but I would hate to see the loss of face to face contact (akin to the loss of the joy of reading a paper book!) .

My comment is more organiational and practical - while it may sound ideal to disaggregate students who are currently grouped by age etc is the new proposal for separation based on ability/sudy methods/peak learning times any less disengenious? It would also be difficult to achieve causing chaos in day to day schooling.

Sir Ken Robinson's comments on ADHD and divergent thinking are poignant and relevant - I do find myself penalising my son (10 y.o) but I am the one feeding him the many distractions on the basis that he needs to be technologically equipt and up to date?!

At the end of the day the future is uncertain and we do need to challenge the way we educate future generations - knowledge perse is no longer vital as it is abundant and easy to access. Perhaps the ability to change/adapt/think on their feet/consider many possible solutions (think laterally) is the way forward - as to where this can happen - a vritual or physical institution - not sure - as always the solution is probably in the mix of both.

Nnenna Osuji
9:30pm 5 May 2011


great debate - have to agree with  Michelle's comments re the greater social benefits of school  and with Kaye - there is no one size fits all solution but I would hate to see the loss of face to face contact (akin to the loss of the joy of reading a paper book!) .

My comment is more organiational and practical - while it may sound ideal to disaggregate students who are currently grouped by age etc is the new proposal for separation based on ability/sudy methods/peak learning times any less disengenious? It would also be difficult to achieve causing chaos in day to day schooling.

Sir Ken Robinson's comments on ADHD and divergent thinking are poignant and relevant - I do find myself penalising my son (10 y.o) but I am the one feeding him the many distractions on the basis that he needs to be technologically equipt and up to date?!

At the end of the day the future is uncertain and we do need to challenge the way we educate future generations - knowledge perse is no longer vital as it is abundant and easy to access. Perhaps the ability to change/adapt/think on their feet/consider many possible solutions (think laterally) is the way forward - as to where this can happen - a vritual or physical institution - not sure - as always the solution is probably in the mix of both.

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