On the brink of a classroom revolution

Are we on the verge of losing traditional classroom learning asks Dr Kevin Burden at Hull University’s Faculty of Education

Britain’s schools and universities are on the brink of a mobile technology revolution that will see the death of traditional classroom learning. iPads, tablets and smartphones will massively change the way students will be taught in the future.

The days of classroom teaching – firmly rooted in 19th Century education techniques and beliefs – are numbered.

In its place a global classroom will develop, with students collaborating with experts anywhere in the world through their mobile devices. Textbooks will be replaced by interactive, continually developing, multi-media online teaching aids.

However, this raises new challenges. At the moment too many teachers are failing to grasp the real benefits of mobile devices. As a result, some educational establishments aren’t getting anywhere near the full value of their investment in technology.

This is about change dramatically – despite opposition in some quarters to the use of tablets and smartphone devices in teaching. It will change because we are starting to question the whole way we teach and learn.

Technology doesn’t change anything. Simply giving every student an iPad won’t alter anything. It’s the use of technology to enable new experiences that will make the difference.

What’s the point of giving someone a tablet, if they just use it to ‘cut and paste’? That’s low-level work that can be done on a PC. And what’s mobile about that?

The new technology we are seeing now, gives us the opportunity to rethink how we learn and are taught. It allows us to do much more.

We have to cast aside the old traditional model of everyone being in the same classroom, sharing the same space with the teacher at the front of the class, as the font of all knowledge.

Students need to be able to work outside the classroom environment. Once that happens, we will be able to exploit these technologies more fully.

We’ll also see an education system developing that is in itself mobile and not classroom-bound.

Collecting and sharing information, collaborating on projects, challenging and discussing issues and interaction between the experts and the novices – that’s what technology can bring.

In a project in Scotland I’ve been involved in, primary school pupils received a masterclass from an artist based in New Zealand, using Skype to discuss the work they had produced.

That’s the road we need to go down in the future. Take textbooks: the book of the future is likely to be very different, online, interactive and developing continually.

GPS functions will allow people to come together collectively to give feedback. People will be able to organise virtual reading clubs. These are the things technology will help to bring.

The work I am currently involved in is exploring how teachers of the future will need to be equipped to think, not only about the use of these devices as teaching and learning tools, but how they create a completely new global way of sharing knowledge.

Dr Kevin Burden is an international authority on educational technology. Based at the University of Hull’s Faculty of Education, he is leading a European-funded Erasmus+ project looking at ways in which teachers of the future will work in the new digital era and its impact on higher education.