If you haven’t been in a classroom since the 20th century, it’s easy to assume the education system hasn’t changed much. Rote learning from blackboards used to be the time-honoured way of imparting knowledge, with trips to the school library a welcome (if infrequent) distraction.
Modern day schools are somewhat different. Some campuses are doing away with book-based libraries, and blackboards are becoming a thing of the past. A digital revolution is replacing outdated methods of teaching, equipping even primary school pupils with the skills they’ll need in a world powered by the Internet of Things. Instead of the three Rs, academic focus is switching to the three Cs – collaboration, communication and creativity.
Digitally Equipped Pupils
The biggest catalyst for this sea change in classroom technology is the affordability of standalone devices. Some schools are implementing a 1:1 programme of Google Chromebooks, while others are equipping every child with an iPad or tablet. Rather than laboriously transcribing a teacher’s monologue, pupils can download PDF factsheets and take pictures of key points on the interactive whiteboards that have replaced blackboards. Tablet-wielding teachers can share files across a class with a couple of swipes, and Bring Your Own Device policies are being trialled following successful experiments in countries like Finland.
The abolition of libraries might seem controversial, but they are being replaced with modern multimedia hubs hosting PCs and tablets. As well as the endless resources of Google and YouTube, these devices offer intranet connections to online subscription content platforms like Twig World. This academic resource contains hundreds of bespoke .MOV files for teachers to broadcast and discuss, covering topics from the siege of Troy to the principles of cloud computing. Why hand out thirty textbooks when an animated video will impart the same lessons more affordably and engagingly?
Joining the Revolution
The importance of classroom technology has been recognised around the country. In Scotland, the Digital Schools Awards were launched last year to encourage the adoption of digital technology in primary schools. An award-winning school in Glasgow runs coding classes for five-year-old pupils, who will have built their own web page by the end of the course. Wales is closing its attainment gap with the rest of the UK by rolling out an academic framework from nursery age onwards, introducing digital skills to every lesson to ensure students do more than passively consume multimedia content.
There is a great deal of debate in academic circles about the merits of traditional exams and assessments nowadays. Some experts believe exams should identify areas of weakness, rather than be used to grade academic achievements. Others argue weekly timetables could sacrifice some class-based lessons in favour of research periods or interactive real-world activities. Though project-based learning will always be opposed by traditionalists, education is inexorably moving away from passive classes of offline dictation. Teachers might baulk at technological assistance supplanting handwriting and verbal instruction, but the use of classroom technology is far more reflective of modern society. Plus, there’s no need to construct lesson materials when high-quality content is abundantly available through teaching portals and search engines.
Preparing Children for the Future
Perhaps surprisingly, Estonia provides a glimpse into the future of classroom technology. This small Baltic nation regards internet access as a human right, teaching every child programming skills. Estonia also trusts its teachers to shape their own lessons, incorporating a wider focus on emotional and social abilities. Exams take place once every three years, and school results are only published for final-year students. It’s a system that many parents, teachers and children in the UK can only aspire to, yet it’s surely more beneficial than cramming for exams which fail to provide practical experience or future life skills…