How to respond to the disruptive threats heading in the direction of the unsuspecting independent secondary school world? What should be our philosophy in coping with a world full of MOOCs, blended learning, gamification, appification, Twitter, Voxer, Duolingo, Edmodo, etc.? How do we embrace technological change in order to stay relevant without losing our identities and our souls? A year spent thinking about this problem has led me to a new motto: Classroom First — Classroom Everywhere.
The idea is to acknowledge the primacy of the physical classroom. This is a place where a real, human teacher interacts with students (hopefully in small classes) in a way that reaffirms the value of community and the face-to-face. The classroom allows for discussions in which we can read verbal cues and body language. We can do group work in which we can hear our partner’s breath come up short when a flash of insight occurs. The teacher can read the flagging attention of her pupils from a million little behaviors. There isn’t a web-based interface between the participants in the class, and that means that students are learning important social skills at the same time that they are learning content and academic skills.
Of course on the back of the traditional classroom comes extension via technology and experiential learning. A class might be supplemented by a back channel, or a Twitter chat during homework hours, online video, or web-based exercises. “Classroom Everywhere” also reminds us that the athletic field is a classroom, and your service-learning trip brings you to an unfamiliar locale that is also, in its way, a classroom. The group of friends studying together at Starbucks after dinner make that space a classroom. Walking through a museum on a field trip (or vacation) can turn that space into a classroom, either via a docent or a smartphone.
I’m not sure where my “Classroom First — Classroom Everywhere” mindset is going to lead, but at least I have found a way to articulate one possible approach to the challenges of these times. In the coming days, I’ll try to flesh out more of what this slogan is saying to me.