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'Learning has left the building': Teaching goes digital

Just the other day I visited St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Cairns. While I was there, I spoke to Principal Gavin Rick about what the advent of high speed Internet meant for teaching.

He talked about two concepts which I thought were quite thought provoking:

1) Learning has left the building; and,

2) "Uber" (for) teachers

Now, I’m the first to admit that I tend to be somewhat resistant to change, but both of these concepts have a lot of merit in my mind.

Learning has left the building

"With the onset of digital learning and Internet - where students have access to learning material, anytime, anyplace, anywhere, and with anyone - we use the idea of 'learning has left the building'," Rick explains.

"Students used to come to school, into a classroom to learn. Now they can learn anywhere and collaborate with friends, including in the home and that’s where the nbn™ network will be really valuable for parents".

What an exciting view for the future!

Essentially, this means an end to the old "content-and-teacher" model that existed when I was still fashionably wearing my sandals and socks together at Aitkenvale State School.

With the nbn™ network making fast broadband available in the home, students will be able to easily access a range of technologies to learn, and teachers may take on more of a facilitator, a learning-enabler or a coach role.

This is good news, because according to the nbn™ Digital Parenting Report, the majority of parents (75 per cent) are ready to embrace this new way of learning - also known as the “flipped classroom”.

The “flipped classroom” is a term used to describe the reversal of traditional teaching methods.

Students research and learn from home, usually via online tutorials, videos and research on the Internet and bring their key learnings to the classroom.

This reduces the amount of teacher “talk” and instead leads to increased class discussion, with students not having to learn stuff they already know and teachers assisting students who require additional support.

Another important facet in this equation is that children need to learn 21st century skills and capabilities - meaning that to be successful in their career, they must upskill themselves on digital.

I would even argue that digital literacy is equally as important as reading, writing and arithmetic, and with the advent of the Internet of Things, children can learn these skills both at home and in the classroom.

On-demand specialist teachers

Rick also spoke of a future where we might see students who are interested in taking special tuitions requesting specialist teachers in an "on-demand" setup.  

The on-demand economy is about monetising ”spare resources”, such as empty cars on Uber, or empty apartments on Airbnb.

Could this then be extended to monetise the spare time and the brain power of educators? Potentially!

Curio, an Australian edu-tech group, is working on an on-demand service for sessional academics.

According to The Australian, in October last year there were nearly 1800 academics listed online, with seven universities having recently signed up to trial the system.

The company hopes to have as many as 20,000 casual academics listed this year.

Another example is Kram - a service that pairs students and top tutors within the same university, on demand and at the push of a button.

All you have to do is search for a specific course or subject, and you can view and message available tutors. Even better, you can sign up to become a tutor.

Looking at these concepts, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to imagine a time when students would be able to request a teacher in a specific field through an app, check their ratings and reviews, and avail their services if it suits.

Imagine the possibilities! Students in Australia could access specialist teachers all over the world and design their own custom-fit education and tutoring.

Last updated on 16 March 2016

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