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The Classroom of the Future

The Australian has an interesting examination on a method of teaching that is starting to become quite popular.  It is known by several names such as “agile learning” and “personal learning”, and it is the polar opposite from the orthodox “chalk and talk” method of teaching.

Below is an excerpt of the article:

None of that happens at Our Lady of Lourdes, in Seven Hills, in part because the number of children flowing into the room hasn’t stopped at 30, or 35, or even at 50. On the contrary, the average “class size” is 120. The children here aren’t even required to sit in a certain seat or face the front of the room, in part because there isn’t really a “front” of the room. In fact, the school doesn’t have any four-walled classrooms. It has large, well-designed “learning spaces” with bits of wall here and there. There are no desks as such; there are round tables with tub chairs, an L-shaped lounge with scatter cushions, a tall table with hydraulic bar stools and a comfy, carpeted area designed for children who want to sprawl on the floor. “It probably looks nothing like the classrooms you knew as a child,” says principal Steven Jones.

That’s for sure. What lesson could these students – some of whom are tapping away at Apple Macs, some of whom are lying on their stomachs with their heads in books, some of whom are actually headed outside – possibly be taking? “I believe it’s ‘maths’,” he says, wiggling two fingers from each hand near his ears to signal that he doesn’t mean “maths” like you and I do. “But we don’t really have ‘lessons’. We teach the curriculum, but not in the way you would remember. The days where the teacher would stand there saying, ‘Everyone sit down and listen to me’, they’re gone.”

To be clear: the curriculum stays the same – all Australian schools are required to teach certain things – it’s how the children go about learning that is changing. Teachers work in groups, not to pour information into their students but to guide them as they set about finding things out for themselves. The rules for student behaviour in these spaces differ between schools. In some cases, children are free to get a snack from their bags; in others, they can roam from one part of the space to another or take their work outside.

Whilst I enjoy witnessing change in educational methods (as anything broken requires fixing), I worry about replacing one philosophy with its polar opposite.  In my view, every child is different and needs to be catered for according to the skills, learning styles and qualities they posses.  Some will thrive in a self-directed environment, some will need rigid routines, some will enjoy having freedoms and some will need imposed discipline.

I find myself tinkering my style to suit different classes and different students.  That’s my duty.  If I teach all classes and students in the same style, I will get nowhere.  But from my experience, it isn’t about revolutionary change but rather minor, incremental change.

My gut feeling with this new innovation is that when we have some real data about its effectiveness we will find that it works brilliantly for some students whilst failing to ignite others.

Which was basically the problem this method sought to address.

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One Response to “The Classroom of the Future”

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