When technology enters the classroom
“That’s it class – you’ll find the notes and the PowerPoint on the S-Drive and a version on Moodle, there is also some relevant info on my edublog”.
It was a Social Studies 10 class and the topic was “Exploring Twentieth Century Canada”. The teacher’s personal “edublog” included additional references, access to YouTube videos, and archived material on lessons for that class to date.
It was at that point that I realised how much the delivery of learning has changed, and how fast. Student access to a teacher guided world of information has revolutionised how, when and where kids are learning now.
Not in the future – now.
Edublogs accommodates and manages student and teacher blogs, and quickly customizes designs to include videos, photos and podcasts.
Moodle (an abbreviation for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) is a free source e-learning software platform.
As of 2012, Moodle had almost 58 million users in 215 countries.
Check those numbers again.
The traditional classroom, teacher at the front and the source of all information, blackboard, desks in a row is not obsolete but as Bob Dylan sang “it’s not dark yet but it’s getting there.”
To revisit an educational cliché that has been around for some time, the teacher role is evolving from “the sage on the stage” to “the guide on the side”.
And now access for learning is available for everybody, not just kids in school.
I had never thought about myself as a math student. Algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus just did not, as they say, float my boat.
But my leaky old boat righted itself a few weeks ago when, urged on by a math infatuated friend, I discovered the Khan Academy and an online lesson called “Simple Equations”.
I was hooked immediately. After looking at a series of other lessons I now begin to “get” math.
The Khan Academy is one of many online gateways to new knowledge that may be the early indicators of the directions in which public education will inevitably have to go.
With 131,047,045 free lessons delivered online as of this month the Khan Academy is just one of the not-for-profits changing access to learning for the better by providing free world-class education to anyone anywhere at no cost (so far) to the learner.
Khan Academy founder Salman Khan talks about his innovative approach to education in this TEDx Talk. Source: YouTube.
The relatively short lessons are well organized, visually interesting and relevant to much of what is taught in today’s schools grades 8-12.
And that’s just one example of free online learning.
Another increasingly popular knowledge source is “Ted Talks” – “Ideas Worth Spreading”. “Ted Talks” provides hundreds of lectures on a wild variety of topics freely available online. These days conversations over dinner or a glass of something in a restaurant are just as likely to begin with “did you see the Ted Talk about……?” as they are about the hockey game.
When change comes to public education and beyond that universal access to learning, that change will include everything from classroom technology and practice, building design, and the emergence of truly individualized learning programs.
All that has all been part of the conversation among educators since the unfulfilled promise of the Sullivan Commission Report of 1988 was essentially ditched in 1989 by a nervous government in the face of popular uncertainty.
But starting now, and in much the same way as online music changed peoples’ music buying habits and revolutionized the music business, online learning will inevitable impact the traditional delivery of public education.
Most organizational change ultimately comes from a sense that a business or organization either changes itself or dies. Pressure for change often arrives as some form of external innovation perceived as a threat by those inside the organization, - “we’re losing market share; we need to change”.
It seems reasonable to question why at least some of the energy expended both by government and the Teachers’ Union on the politics of public education might not be more usefully redirected towards working collaboratively in finding ways to use, fit, correlate or modify these online learning gateways and technologies to the benefit of B.C.’s students.
In fact all of this may signal the approach of a time when schools will move inevitably and exponentially towards creating and using online lessons to accommodate “individualized learning” and “class size” will become less of the load bearing central building block for old school contract issues currently confounding traditionally delivered public education.
Geoff Johnson is a retired Superintendent of Schools. email@example.com