Written by Carl Morris, Principal of Carfax College and Co-Founder of The Online School.
Education pioneer David Thornburg famously said, “If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep getting what we got”. Broadly translated as, if we keep teaching the way we’re teaching, and we never rethink traditional classroom designs or reinvent teaching methods; how can parents and educators equip young learners for a rapidly evolving future and a world we can’t predict?
His idea is backed up by a recent HMC report that found current schooling systems were “Failing to develop the breadth of skills and competencies young people need to thrive in the 21st century.” The report also mentioned, “The challenges schools face and the framework within which they operate are very different from when GCSEs and A-levels were first designed.”
A 2021 research paper by PwC with UK employers found that whilst A-levels are essential in the recruitment process, lack of preparation for the world of work is more critical. They also sighted personal skills such as time management and communication among the biggest recruitment challenges, with 11% of employers saying young people’s digital and tech skills are not up to scratch. Laura Hinton, PwC UK’s Chief People Officer, said, “It’s not just about the grades but the broader experience of learning and participating. We’re looking for problem solvers with curiosity.” So how does this all start with the primary school classroom?
INCORPORATING EMERGING TECHNOLOGY INTO TEACHING
It’s well known that lecture-based classrooms stifle the attention span of children. If we want to capture their engagement, we need to realise that children need to be given tasks that engage them and honour their unique way of learning, rather than just putting this down to an inherent poor attention span; that is the critical element
For centuries educators have agreed on the need for creativity in the classroom and personalised learning. There are some fantastic examples from schools worldwide that are innovating in education. Some are utilising emerging technologies such as education platforms, including TikTok, YouTube, Metaverse, Web 3 and Blockchain, to transform a traditional classroom into creative digital spaces. EduTok has long been a trending hashtag on the leading social media platform TikTok, yet very few accredited institutions produce these viral educational videos. These new learning environments offer spaces where children are inspired to learn.
Researching digital learning spaces led me to the aforementioned David Thornburg’s Learning Spaces. Back in 1999, he said: “The 21st-century classroom will be wherever the learner has located a room at a school, on the bus ride home, in the park, at a museum, or on the playground.
Traditional tools (e.g., books, pens, and paper) will co-exist with the high-tech tools of the telematic era that is still in its infancy. The teacher’s role will be that of co-learner, an expert guide who helps students navigate the explored subjects but is open to new discoveries and pathways along the journey.”
ARCHETYPAL SPACES FOR LEARNING
Education futurist Thornburg outlines his four learning models: the traditional “campfire,” or lecture-based design; the “watering hole,” or social learning; the “cave,” a place to quietly reflect; and “life”—where ideas are tested with a project-based approach to learning incorporating technology into education to teach students how to think creatively.
Einstein famously said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Using this with Thornburg’s learning model, Eric Mazur, a Physics Professor at Harvard University, describes stumbling across an approach he developed known as peer instruction. Mazur was struggling to explain something to his students, and in a moment of despair, he said, “Why don’t you discuss it with each other”. And something happened in my classroom that I had never seen before. The whole classroom erupted, and in just two minutes, they had figured out what the correct answer was.”
EVOLVING FOR TOMORROW
With the endorsement of Parents, several schools and educators are creating new and exciting ways to teach and inspire students to discover their passion from an early age by utilising technological tools and applications. However, if we genuinely want to create a system that equips learners with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in a rapidly evolving future and a world that we cannot predict, we must do more than imagine what could be; we must build.
Carl is the principal of Carfax College and Co-Founder of The Online School – a project that aims to transform students’ education.