Some of my work recently has been with groups of teachers and principals thinking about how they may plan for and design schools that prepare students for the future, so it was with interest that I read this publication titled Learning Technologies and Schools of the Future (pdf) published by the British Council for School Environments. The introduction sets the scene for considering the role of ICT as a part of the changing school environment:
ICT is increasingly described as the fifth utility, the point being that we pretty much cannot live, work or learn efficiently or comfortably without an ICT infrastructure. National expectations of the social role of schools are also changing; hot-housed in climate of concern about youth disaffection and family breakdown.
The publication provides a succinct and useful overview of the characteristics of the Net Gen (or GenY) and the social context for change that is impacting on education, before exploring what this all means for schools:
Discussions on the digital divide tend to be concerned with (home) access to broadband connectivity. However, if scientists are right and cognitive processes are influenced by regular creative engagement in the online environment, our schools need to address the quality of online provision they make. An aspect of tackling the digital divide will be to ensure that all young people gain access to and guidance on the use of more sophisticated tools.
and quotes the BECTA target for 2008 for all learners to have access to a
personalised online learning space with the potential to support e-portfolios.
The document addresses a range of ways in which schools might address these ICT issues, and canvases the role and use of VLEs, PLEs and Web2.0 technologies – as well as the impact of mobile technologies and changes in the very nature of the learning process itself (for which it provides a useful table that contrasts 20th Century Pedagogy with what it calls 21st Century ICT-enhanced pedagogy.)
For those familiar with what has been developing in this space over the past few years there’s nothing particularly new in the document, but it does provide an excellent and very accessible “Big Picture” view of the issue that could usefully inform many school charters and curriculum plans.
Still on the topic of the Future of Schooling – I was also reading the question Elliot Maisie posted on his blog regarding the classroom of the future, in which he invited readers to describe what will the classroom of the future look like in 2008? The lengthy list of responses makes for some interesting reading. There’s a worrying emphasis on describing the addition of a whole heap of technologies, with fewer descriptions of changes to pedagogical practice. Perhaps it’s the sort of response the question invited, but it does concern me in many forums I’ve participated in that as soon as we begin asking about what the classroom of the future might be like we focus on the technologies that may be introduced, as if somehow these on their own are going to transform what happens. Reminds me of the introduction of video conferencing technologies into a number of NZ classrooms over recent years – in a number of contexts I’ve observed all that occurred was that the style and nature of teaching that was occuring in the face-to-face classrooms got transferred to the video conference environment. Further, video conferencing was regarded as the primary medium of instruction, rather than one of a mix of technologies that can be selected from to suit the pedagogical intent.
In his reply, Gregg Festa, Founding Director of the ADP Center for Teacher Preparation & Learning Technologies at Montclair State University, points to an article describing the development and use of some innovative learning spaces in his school district, and also points to a YouTube video that takes you for a tour through these spaces. While the classroom you are taken on a tour through is essentially another (rather barren) oblong box, in the commentary at least it reflects an attempt to address the diversity of teaching and learning activities that may occur within it, and the variety of technologies that may be selected from to enable that to occur.
Somehow I still think we need more fundamental discussions on the nature and purpose of schooling, its role in a 21st Century society and the needs of 21st Century learners before we get too heavily involved in imagining what the classroom of the future might look like. Perhaps the sorts of reflections and discussion that Sheryl has on her 21st Century Collaborative blog might be more useful in this regard?
In the meantime, the Learning Technologies and Schools of the Future publication will be useful in the hands of the many principals, BOTs and senior staff in schools who are wrestling with creating policies and curriculum statements that reflect the increasing use of ICTs in their school.