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Time for schools to embrace the digital revolution, says head.
What a great first few weeks of term we have had at Teesside High School! Interactive technology seems to have been the focus since we returned from the summer break. The staff spent our first training day of the year immersed in apps, google docs and virtual learning environments.
We now have many of our textbooks as electronic books on ipads and homework is being set using interactive apps with access to written information, diagrams, video clips and images. It is great to remember that we the staff are lifelong learners too and although some of us are nervous about using these devices and applications in classrooms we are ready to give it a try as we believe that it will engage our young learners and help us to raise academic attainment even further.
Already we feel much more like a cutting edge school in terms of being in touch with the real world. During our training day staff also had the opportunity to discuss the 'you tube' film 'Shift Happens' which really puts what we are doing into context. The presentation reminds us how rapidly the world is changing and how we need to prepare our young people for a world of rapid flux, a world where many of the jobs they will do, have not yet come into existence. The delivery of a bank of knowledge and facts is no longer an adequate preparation for the next generation of children and harks back to the 19th century model of education where children sat in serried ranks and rows listening to the 'sage on the stage', otherwise known as their teacher, reading from notes he or she would re-hash year in and year out. We are now in the 21st century and this traditional model of education alone is defunct. The young people we have in our care use new technologies all the time in their daily lives to socialise, organise themselves, listen to music and watch films. As schools if we do not keep up with these technological opportunities and their pupils' modus operandi we will become irrelevant. Consequently when I read an article recently in the Daily Telegraph by Allister Heath I was rather disappointed. Although he has the same view as I do about the need for modern schools to deliver a relevant education to their children, engaging with interactive technologies, he appears to accuse ALL schools of being technophobic and resistant to modern ideas. He opens his article; "Few industries have been left unscathed by the digital revolution. But there is one glaring exception waiting to be disrupted by technology for the benefit of its long-suffering customers, and that is education. It has changed very little since the 19th century or indeed since the days when Socrates imparted knowledge to his students in Ancient Greece."
He is of course referring specifically to schools and universities in the UK. However, he does acknowledge that internationally the focus is changing and that a quiet revolution is starting to take place. In the US the Khan Academy backed by Bill Gates is promoting a 'back to front' learning experience otherwise known as the Flipped Classroom. Traditional teaching would involve the teacher imparting information during a lesson and then asking children to go home and complete exercises or write essays based on that knowledge. In other words, they were being required to carry out complex cognitive processing of this new information, unaided by any trained professional. The Flipped Classroom idea is that students can watch a presentation or listen to an explanation of some new theory, idea or topic online prior to a lesson and then carry out the processing activities in class with the teacher present or in some cases online again but with an interactive tutor who would support them as they work through examples or embed and understand the knowledge. The teacher's role is in this model no longer to be didactic but to act as a catalyst for learning.
Virtual learning environments can help teachers to interact with their learners at all times.
Recently, at the weekend, one of my students posted a message on our VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) to ask for further guidance with some homework I set him. I was able to reply and this means that we will not now waste the opportunity of moving on his learning in the next lesson because he had to wait until then to understand the previous lesson.
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