Across the world, technology is transforming the way schools are teaching our children. And, with global spending on IT in schools estimated at £17.5 billion every year, it’s become big business too. So what will the classroom of the future look like?
Teachers may have spent years trying to get students to turn off their phones and concentrate on their lessons – but no more. In the classroom of the future, laptops, tablets and smartphones will be as essential as a clean, pressed uniform.
In France, the connected classroom came one step closer to reality last year. After a national consultation, the education minister launched its plan for digital education – with the ambitious aim of ensuring that all children aged 11-15 have a tablet or laptop, as well as access to new forms of digital learning.
One laptop per child
It’s one part of an worldwide drive to reach the ‘one laptop per child’ milestone that organisations like European Schoolnet hope we can achieve – ensuring all children, regardless of background, have the opportunity to engage in the classroom of the future.
When describing this new learning environment, Karenne Sylvester, Digital Development Officer at New College Group paints a picture of a classroom powered by tech – and of children inspired by that: “Our students are mostly young adults so technology is a big part of their normal daily lives. [We] incorporate their mobile phones and tablets into the lessons through interactive games.”
Teachers, too, are harnessing the power of tech. “It makes lessons much more interactive. If something comes up in class it can be immediately explored, making things dynamic and interesting,” Sylvester adds.
The classroom of the future is, in part, made possible by the massive reduction in the cost of modern tech. A laptop powerful enough to run cloud-based software can be yours for less than £150: Lenovo’s Ideapad 100S being a perfect example. Tablets and smartphones can be even cheaper, opening the whole range of technology to those with modest budgets.
Cheap tech may power the new classroom, but it’s being run in the cloud. Programmes like Office, Open Office and Google Docs offer low-cost access to productivity suites that in the past cost many hundreds. Online photo editors and design programmes like Canva enable students to produce professional quality work, and everything can be stored and shared using resources like Dropbox.
The focus of the classroom of the future is in cultivating the next generation of ‘digital natives’, who will increasingly live their personal and working lives online. But the process is not without its risks, as Steve Hill, Technical Director at Opendium, infers: “Schools have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for students of all ages.”
Opendium is working with schools and colleges to create this safe environment for online learning. “Teachers can use our systems to alert them to any concerning behaviour, and either address it with individual students and their parents directly, or feed back this information into the school’s curriculum,” Hill pursues.
It’s an exciting time in education, but will the classroom of the future just be endless rows of children staring at screens? Not at all. “Real learning simply isn’t linear. Instead it is kind of messy, noisy, and spontaneous,” concludes Karenne Sylvester.
So, while technology might well be transforming education, in many ways, the classroom of the future sounds an awful lot like the classroom of the past.