Technology is at it again.
Love it or loathe it, we are in the midst of another paradigm shift because of the power of ‘digital’. Education may have thought it had done all it needed to do to avoid the attraction of the ‘online’ revolution, allowing it to sit back and watch the hotel, taxi and television industries with curious interest. Education may have naively (or arrogantly?) assumed there’d be no Airbnb, Uber or Netflix equivalent to turn it on its head. If any element of this is true, then Education should try to rent a VHS movie from Blockbuster or hail a taxi and pay the fare in cash.
ALLOWING THE LIVE DEBATE AND DISCUSSION TO CONTINUE WHILST PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR PUPILS TO COLLABORATE IN REAL TIME.
Rather than focus on the problems however, I believe it is healthier and more interesting to hone in on the opportunity presented by a forced shift to remote teaching. At Bradfield, like so many schools across the globe, pupils and teachers have embraced the technology available to them. Here at the College the Microsoft 365 suite – particularly Teams and OneNote – have allowed live debate and discussion to continue whilst providing opportunities for pupils to collaborate in real time. Indeed, although some of the informal group discussion and sharing of ideas has needed a little more thought, OneNote offers a shared, live platform for collaboration in its true sense: the iteration of an idea with input from multiple sources, and now more than ever with multimedia contributions.
SOMETHING MORE PERSONALISED, MORE PRECISE AND MORE EXCITING.
Often, this type of experience is referred to as blended learning. At Bradfield however, we see this as the first dimension of blended learning, perhaps better referred to as hybrid learning. This applies to pupils’ current experience of the classroom because of social distancing: the teacher is present in the classroom – introducing material, facilitating discussion, feeding back – whilst pupils work online using various digital platforms because of restrictions that prevent movement around the classroom. Sometimes this is referred to ‘online-merge-offline teaching’. Blended learning can, however, mean so much more; something more personalised, more precise and more exciting. The second and third dimensions give pupils more autonomy over the pace of their learning and portfolio of courses they study.
Pupils learning at the pace most appropriate to their ability can be seen as the second dimension of blended learning. This is what we largely refer to as differentiation. And we are good at it, too. Fundamentally though, pupils’ access to information and ideas is dependent on their age i.e. their school year, a consequence of the industrial revolution’s influence on our education system. Two hundred years on however, and it is becoming increasingly clear that this no longer has to be the case. How exciting! Future generations of pupils will be drivers and not passengers, caressing the accelerator as and when they – as opposed to the system – see fit, consolidating their journey on the inside lane or consciously gliding into the outside lane in order to get further, faster. Again, how exciting!
AND THE TEACHERS IN ALL THIS…? AS EVER, THEY ARE CRUCIAL.
Dimension 3 focuses on what pupils will study. To extend the metaphor above, pupils will have more opportunity than ever to travel on different highways, and highways that link and intersect too. And the teachers in all this…? As ever, they are crucial. They will inspire and enthuse, guide and facilitate but as Bradfield looks to harness the power of IT, the idea that courses or aspects of courses are delivered by others outside the organisation, across the globe or by artificial intelligence is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Indeed, regardless of whether or not we can picture Winston Churchill ‘working from home’, AirPods in, his words remain visionary and perfectly capture where Education is on its own digital journey: “…this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”.