Breaking down the walls of the classroom
Thursday 20 January 2011
by Nik Peachey
In this posting I would like to argue that in order for technology to really enhance learning and for learners to achieve their full potential, we need to fundamentally rethink the relationship between learning and the classroom and to rethink the role of the teacher.
As things stand at the moment the most common scenario is that students have a scheduled class which they go to, the teacher comes along, the lesson ends and they get some homework, some might even have access to some online self access materials in and attempt to implement some form of blended learning.
Personally I feel like this isn’t really good enough anymore and it isn’t realising the full potential of what technology can now enable us to deliver.
In the questionnaire that appeared in the very first posting in this series. One of the questions I asked was “ Is the paradigm of the classroom as the predominant means of education outdated?”
The response was that 64% of those who voted thought that it was outdated, so I’m assuming that many of you agree with me, but what do we replace it with?
Alvin Toffler in an article entitled ‘Reshaping Learning from the Ground Up’ argues that it’s not enough to reform education, but that we need to totally rethink the entire system from scratch. He argues that the existing model of education was designed for the post industrial revolution world. A world in which the main requirements of society were that we have a well trained work force that arrives on time and works obediently, but now in a world where jobs in large scale factories are largely disappearing , we need to develop a new educational model which will produce people capable of working in the digital age.
I think a really good example comes from one of the teaching suggestions made by Phil on my last posting. In his comments he describes an activity he did with students using technology to reach beyond the defined limits of the lesson time and the classroom and how it kept students engaged and interacting with each other after and between classes.
I think this is exactly the kind of thing that technology should be enabling and what we should be focusing on. There are many arguments against using technology in the ELT classroom, not least that the students need classroom time for their spoken face to face interaction and I can see some logic in this, but I do think we need to reconsider the way technology can extend this beyond the lesson and the classroom.
There are however problems that would come with this, not least that as a teacher you could then be expected to be available to all of your students 24 / 7. How could you cope with that?
Well you probably could cope with it, if it were factored in to your working ours and you got paid for that time. The fact is that at present most schools pay for ‘contact hours’ and any time you spend as a teacher adding value to your lessons and providing students with greater opportunities to enhance their language abilities is pretty much down to your own dedication.
The other problem of course is that if we use technology to extend learning beyond the limits of the classroom and the lesson time, we need to have trained teachers who are able to cope and keep up with the technology as it changes and course materials that are designed for this kind of approach.
- At present most standard ELT teaching qualifications only really deal with what teachers do in the classroom and very little credit or demand is put on how they extend learning beyond it.
- At best most course materials only offer self-study activities for students to do online after and between classes. They don’t offer environments or tools that can extend social interaction with peers, teachers or the real world of language speakers beyond the classroom, and yet technology can make all of these things possible.
So isn’t it time we started to rethink the role of the teacher and extend the bounds of the lesson beyond the time the students spend in the classroom?
What do you think?
- Do mainstream teacher training courses need to change the way they address and evaluate the role of the teacher?
- Is it reasonable to expect all teachers to be digitally literate?
- Should teachers be finacially compensated for the learning oppportunities they provide beyond the classroom lesson time?
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