Future of education : Schools of tomorrow- What could they be?

Long long back, schools were a way to define what kids could study, so, teachers gave points or marks on their performance, which were treated as the goal . The best of kids became lawyers and doctors, the weak ones had to study a craft. Still we give points,still we treat test scores or grades as judgement of a child’s gaining of knowledge. All  because teachers are used to it and they don’t like giving up what they know best. These points however, only evaluate knowledge .This, is just a conclusion of what you know and not what you have learnt.

Most schools other than some in the metros are mostly set in the above ways with teachers, students and parents- all reluctant to move out of their comfort zones as they see no reason to do so. Parents have no complaints because they know no other kind of education and teachers themselves have never ventured out of their routines.

After observing for almost a year the goings on in the Primary school I joined a few years back, I reached a conclusion that we have to do something to move out of the rut of rote learning classrooms right from nursery grade to grade V. I had visions of students actively engaged, finding things, excited about learning possibilities, teachers teaming with ideas interacting among themselves and with students .Visions of a variety of technologies to ignite passion,, dialogue, exploration, creativity and action.

This was around 8 years back. My vision of what a school could be (which had  an excellent opportunity of being realized to a certain extent due to a very cooperative management) was a bit ahead of its times for the location I was in, has since grown and taken leaps towards what a school can be in the ‘tomorrow’ of a hundred times faster changing world.

However what has remained unchanged over the years and which will remain a constant forever is the importance of ‘A Powerful Learning Environment and What Makes It’.

The thought after much pondering over from me was seen in a nut shell, after a small everyday encounter I had with a baby, all of six months old. The elder sibling of the baby started dribbling a small soft ball .The baby, quite dull before that was suddenly uncontrollable in her laughter and eagerness to follow and copy the action. Even a baby wants to learn when her attention is caught.

So any  School of the future  still, HAS to have A Powerful Learning Environment central to its conception.

As years have gone by, my purposeful  interaction with school going children -all ages, right from toddlers to the senior secondary all knowledgeable ones and Teachers –again all ages along with my experience as a teacher and a parent has made me put the following three elements at the head of a Powerful Learning Environment:

  • Student engagement-My interaction with various students has given me ample reason to believe that environments where students were themselves involved in doing things or were actively discussing their learning with teachers or where teachers actively used aids/marvels of technology were the most engaging ones.
  • Teacher’s interest and enthusiasm-Teacher in all roles ,be it a facilitator to acquiring knowledge(as is fast becoming THE role for a teacher to don) or a deliverer of facts is THE MOST important game changer in the cycle of acquiring ,applying and constructing knowledge. The learning process will be as powerful as the teacher (in addition to subject expertise) is enthusiastic towards the process.

In fact Student Engagement is not possible without Teacher Engagement
ie Students are as interested in their class and learning as the teacher is excited and interested about the content being taught.

My brush with Student Engagement started when during teacher training we were required to make our lessons interesting, only to realize later to my great disillusionment that the teaching world is split into two parts-one is, things meant for inspections, workshops and the other, the talk-chalk-talk world of the real classroom.

However, when I look back on my experiences and satisfaction I have had from my teaching -learning experiences it is clear that the instances of student engagement which I have experienced were all such instances when I as a teacher was literally wonder stuck with the content I was to get my students to cope with perfectly and there was a large part of the learning outcome which each time was a surprise to me too.
I take as an example, my latest brush with the same when in fact I became the student and then the teacher. It was just a few days back , when I came formally in contact with Augmented –Reality(AR) learning apps . The newness and the sheer extent of unexplored possibilities by me, its usage for teaching had me engaged for hours. This minuscule instance has reiterated my belief. Definitely, student engagement is a critical part of the teaching-learning process.

Hence, any School Of  The Future must have Engagement of – Students and Teachers -central to its vision.

The current education scenario stands firm with its foundation strongly and gradually entrenching deep in its dependence on technology .So at least Student Engagement is definitely not going to be possible without technology. In the light of the above (Student Engagement is not possible without Teacher Engagement) the classroom of the Schools of the Future cannot remain same.

The changing Classroom dynamics brings visions of highly interactive technology aided teacher-student sessions with plausible Knowledge Creation rather than only Knowledge Gathering taking place.

Technolgy :The story so far…There was a time (and in some places it still is)  when technology in the classroom of a school meant either having a room equipped with audio visual devices, usually a tape recorder and a VCR or advertising your school as a smart class equipped school with some classrooms fitted with projectors connected to a new generation writing board called the smart board. It all started with using these facilities in regular periodic classes showing children educational content.

Those  were the days when teachers were to be coaxed and sometimes forced to make use of the topic wise available electronic academic content at least for a fixed mandatory  number of hours .The content sometimes not up to mark but not easily recognizably so, did serve the purpose of a break from monotonous class schedules for both students and teachers. Teachers mostly stuck with the idea of anything to do with the computers being an automatic referral to the computer teacher! Real beneficiaries of the set up being the top level students with the gap between there content clarity and mastery of a topic being bridged.

A good start no doubt ! What now ?

Today  the ability to use technology is not under a scanner at all!  Use of smart phones, social media and fondness for making home videos and picture collages  have very easily taken care of that hurdle! Most good schools today are in a position to use technology as an instructional tool rather than just a subject of instruction. However, complete seamless integration is still a far cry generally.

Need of the Future Schools therefore, is for teachers  to introduce technology seamlessly into the school lessons and  school work, for both themselves and students. Teachers must comfortably be able to shift from digital to traditional and vice versa as and when required .Students must employ technology daily in the classroom using a variety of tools to complete assignments and create projects that show a deep understanding of content.

Some of the ways of Technology Integration in a School Classroom-Some already in use in top schools and some on the verge of entering the classroom

  • Teacher specific tools
  • Online learning and blended classrooms
  • Project-based activities
  • Game-based learning
  • Learning with mobile devices
  • Instructional tools like interactive whiteboards and student response systems
  • Web-based projects, explorations, and research
  • Student-created media
  • Collaborative online tools like wikis or google docs
  • Using social media to engage students
  • Flipped classrooms
  • AR and VR

Technology, is here to stay and students today are coming to class with more and more technical know-how, whether a teacher likes it or not. There are still many educators, less familiar and less comfortable with technology than their students, struggling to seamlessly integrate a growing list of technology tools into their regular curriculum. So it’s high time educators came out of their comfortable stupor, stemming out of a superiority claimed due to experience.

  • Last but not the least we have another very important element instrumental towards the Creation of a Powerful Learning Environment and hence A School Of The Future –The presence of a Head with a vision of taking his/her institution towards achieving established learning goals keeping alive the joy, spirit and attitude of learning.

The Schools Of The Future have the ability to connect students with teachers and teachers with teachers all over the world with Technology. The filter has been lifted, so if you are not enthusiastic about a topic find someone who does. Skype them into your learning space and let them help you fill the space with enthusiasm. However remember Techno is Savvy but is not able to give or inculcate EQ aided IQ, so educators you still have to be the most brightly shining stars.