Classrooms of the Future?

Blacknoard with chalk arrows and THIS WAY“Technology has the power to transform how people learn – but walk into some classrooms and you could be forgiven for thinking you were entering a time warp. There will probably be a whiteboard instead of the traditional blackboard, and the children may be using laptops or tablets, but plenty of textbooks, pens and photocopied sheets are still likely and perhaps most strikingly, all desks will face forwards, with the teacher at the front.”

Not my words but those from a BBC news story published post BETT 2015, Technology in schools: Future changes in classrooms that examined the whole notion of “Flipped Classrooms” with the renowned educationalist and author Marc Prensky. However, whilst the rest of the story and Prensky’s varied writings on technology in education make for very interesting reading, I want to bring the question closer to home: Are Irish classrooms caught in this time warp too? Undoubtedly, and one could argue that we are even further behind the curve as unlike our near neighbours, technology integration here has been blighted by underinvestment for two decades now. However, “We are where we are” and if we’re serious about change we need to first accept that real change won’t happen overnight and that there’s no quick-fix solution out there. That said, if we know where we trying to get to, then at least we’ll be able to quantify progress and ultimately know, when we’ve reached the destination. This kind of roadmap is essential for any real change as planning is pivotal and I believe the Digital Strategy for Schools, published last October provides the framework for schools to develop such a plan.

Digital Strategy report coverThe specifics of strategy were covered previously here but I think the fundamental questions that need to be asked are…
What change will look like? and where does technology come in? As the strategy outlines, ICT integration is complex and there’s no one-size-fits-all. Developing teacher’s capability and capacity in this space will take time but every teacher must consider how ICT can support teaching, learning and assessment in their classrooms. We need to start with the curriculum and then get the technology to fit (rather than the other way round). Far too often in the past we have been preoccupied with the technology in itself, be it the brand of whiteboard, the type of device we should use or the speed of the connection. These are of course valid (and important) questions but not the most pertinent, surely this has to be… How can I use the technology I have access to in my classroom to enhance learning outcomes?

Maybe, I’m being over simplistic but sometimes we need to ask the obvious questions? There are of course a myriad of other factors that will strongly influence whether radical classroom change can happen in time, be it adequate planning and investment, continuous professional development, research, leadership and more. However, I hope my musings are at least food for thought? Change takes time so let’s think long and hard about those all-important first steps along the road…

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