Monday, March 19, 2012

Integrating the classroom into ICT and the rise of the virtual pedagogue - #change11

For years now we have been talking about integrating ICT into the classroom. At first this meant using applications like word processing, spreadsheets and databases to do traditional classroom tasks. This was quickly followed by the use of the Internet to do traditional research tasks. Then along came YouTube to replace the VCR. And lately we have social media and the like to replace the traditional classroom discussion.

None of this transforms education. It merely automates and digitises it. We are trying to put a round peg into a square hole.

Thinking outside the box which is the classroom, we can see a plethora of learning opportunities. But what we fail to see is the teacher outside this box. The moment a new tool becomes available teachers quickly build fences and walls around the tool to create learning spaces and then place themselves firmly in the middle, demanding attention and control.

What if we truly flipped the classroom and put it out into the real world? What if teachers acted more like celebrities and less like prison guards, gathering followers instead of corralling charges? They could become teachers to a thousand Emiles, taking them on virtual journeys through the landscape of knowledge. Parents could assign their children to virtual pedagogues that escort them between virtual and physical learning spaces.

The traditional classroom reflects the industrial society of the 19th and 20th centuries. There would be a place of work for them to attend each day as adults, so there was a place of work for them to attend each day as children. They would be told which tasks to perform and how to do it at work, so they were told the same at school. The work would be procedural, so the learning was procedural.

For the modern "classroom" to reflect society today it must be accessible anywhere, exist in the cloud, be able to be navigated and allow for both impromptu and planned gatherings. Learning must happen as it is needed. In this learning space the teacher looks at scenarios, both real and predicted, and creates assessments that capture learning gaps and directs students to learning resources. These learning resources would be created specifically for the situation or linked to by the teacher. Further assessment refines the learning as needed.

Just as the bells, classroom layout and lesson structure of the traditional classroom taught the processes of work, the modern classroom must reflect the ad hoc nature of today's society. At the very least this means that timetables for learning cannot be set at the beginning of the year. They will probably need to be set, at a minimum, daily, and reflect the learning needs of the child at that point in time. The learning spaces the child attends will vary according to their learning needs at the time, with various adults in attendance (ie. parents, teachers, non-teaching supervisors), in various locations (home, school, library), and with various learning tools (teachers, experts, devices, simulations).

Movement between these spaces will need to be coordinated, which is where the true transformation of education can take place. This coordination role can be in the hands of either a central education authority (as it is now) or it can be returned to the parent (as it was in pre-industrial times). If it is returned to the parent then we will most likely see the return of the Athenian pedagogue, the person who escorts the child from teacher to teacher. Except this time, the escorting can be done online, or at least the organisation of the mode of escort (taxi, buses, website, Google Hangout) can be done online.

And it can all be automated. A virtual pedagogue could emerge.


  1. This is one of the best arguments I've read about how and why we need to transform our educational model. Up until now, I've been uninspired by others who've discussed why and how we should do this. Their arguments were vague and seemed out of reach, and there was no tangible reasoning as to why we needed to rethink our educational model. You've put it in a way that makes me think the change is indeed necessary. Thank you for this thought provoking post!

  2. Good post. I particularly like the reintroduction of people into the educational system. What defeats me in imagining the future of education is the presumption we will build just the right application to suit each child's learning needs and somehow "personalize" the system with responsive robots geared to a student's every need. There's also the shadow of childhood alone attended by objects here.

    We have an overabundance people on this planet. People who are oddly adept at caring for kids while teaching them. The problem? We think we can manage machines better than we can manage people so we populate our future with gizmos to transform our children into... Not sure we know.

  3. I like the concept of integrating the classroom into the web instead of the other way around.

  4. Thanks for the positive feedback. I'm thinking should develop the idea further, not sure how at this stage. Stay tuned!