By Ellen Richards

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Recently, I was fortunate to attend EduTECH’s Future Schools 2014 in Sydney, Australia. The event examined how the changing technological landscape in today’s schools is driving a transformation of physical and virtual learning environments. There were many topics presented, all of which had merit, but two that resounded with me.

The first was the presentation by Eric Mazur a Harvard physics professor who explained and provided examples of how he discovered that his success as a teacher “was a complete illusion, a house of cards” and challenged the audience to view the use of peer instruction to flip the classroom as critical to ‘Future Schools’. Eric Mazur says learning interests him far more than teaching, and he encourages a shift from “teaching” to “helping students learn.”

The second presentation that caught my focus was from Rolfe Kolbe, ICT Facilitator from Newington College who asked a panel of students “Which learning styles and environments do today’s students want?”.

What stood out in both of these presentations was the ability for the students to choose their way of learning, collaborate and access information anywhere, any time and on any device. It is very clear that the old standard of 30 students in a box is making way for contemporary learning spaces that are more engaging and effective for all.

The evolution of technology in education is forcing the rethinking of the classroom and ‘Future Schools’ need to examine the creation of inspiring new physical learning spaces, as well as supporting the move toward online classrooms and the use of mobile technologies.

Forward-looking statements on the future schools, online and blended learning that struck a chord with me included:

  • We need to help make learning contagious.
  • Personalised learning is not students coasting along at their own pace.
  • The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.
  • Don’t ban social media, learn to manage impulsivity!
  • Teach by questioning rather than telling.
  • Open learning environments create accountability and responsibility for students.
  • If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.
  • Engage me or enrage me! Make learning engaging, contagious and seductive.
  • Learning isn’t achieved through teaching. It is achieved when they are free to let their own curiosity take them on a journey.

here are a few shots from the event and various presentations

Teach the way they learn Learning diagram Students reading together Future Schools 2014 conference room

From my perspective, the reality is it’s fast becoming a ‘mobile world’ and there is no question that mobile devices are changing the way we are learning forever.

This doesn’t mean classroom-based or formal e-learning is going away, it just means the mobile movement is demanding a rethink as to how teachers teach and create learning programs especially for mobile devices.

It also challenges us to think how students learn now and will be learning in the future and how self service capability will become more and more an important feature of an LMS.

There is nothing new in that new technologies are changing the way we teach and learn the trick is keeping up with these changes and adapting to the evolving needs of today’s and future schools.

Technology is transferring power to individuals and this shift has huge implications for K-12 leaders who as a result will be forced to adapt. Likewise software’s to support these technologies will also need the flexibility to adapt and quickly.

To provide a clearer picture of exactly how widespread online and blended learning have become – when you get some spare time, I would encourage you to read the Harvard Magazine article ‘Twilight of the Lecture’, the trend toward “active learning” may overthrow the style of teaching that has ruled universities for 600 years. Also ‘Using peer instruction to flip your classroom’ both by Eric Mazur.

After the event, I was stimulated to learn more and discovered that the Pew Research internet Project and Elon University’s Imagining The Internet Center recently tried to cast light onto what online life will look like in 2025 by publishing a series of predictions about the internet from academics and scientists. Ignoring for a moment the folly of looking into the crystal ball, these are some of the most interesting guesses at what the future of the internet holds. They predicted that by 2025…You’ll Forget The Internet Is Even There.