Why I, as a Teacher, Will Be a Relic. Now Students Can Go to Harvard Online; an Eminent Head Teacher's Startling Analysis of How Inexorable March of the Internet Is Changing the Face of Education for Ever; COMMENT
Byline: ANTHONY LITTLE HEAD MASTER OF ETON COLLEGE
SCHOOLS as we know them could be redundant in a generation. That is the stark prospect facing parents and educators. The pace of technological advance is dramatically changing the way young people see the world. Adults can be bemused when they see children expecting to be connected to the internet all the time - it is becoming as natural as the air that they breathe.
But for schools to react against this by banning devices is instantly to displace young people from a habitat that to them is real and vital. To them, finding news by turning on television or radio at a fixed time is alien - both the concept of a fixed time and the idea news is something disseminated by a distant authority. The ground is shifting underneath adult assumptions. Teachers and parents are understandably worried by the threats and dangers of social networking and the internet - and it is true we remain in the infancy of our understanding of how best to educate our young to use electronic communications safely and well. But we should not confuse the medium with the uses to which it can be put.
To our young, tablet computers mean the internet is not something you go to, it is something you carry with you - the collective knowledge of the world, the library of Alexandria in your pocket. Google docs and other online collaborative workspaces mean work is always accessible and can be shared with others, just the kind of skills of teamwork, investigation and analysis that the marketplace demands. What price Mr Gradgrind in the world of Wikipedia? What 'Gradgrind Wikipedia So, why should students bother to listen to teachers?
In the traditional classroom a great deal of time is spent with the teacher telling them 'stuff' - so why waste valuable time when the same material presented by the best teacher in the world is at their fingertips? And this is just the beginning. Inventive new approaches are on the way: using teenagers' delight in gaming to motivate them in tasks they might otherwise find tedious. Or peer online marking, where a student writes one essay and contributes ideas to improve three others, grading them on the way and developing his own ideas and skills. Or a student checking on her own progress and being prompted to take on tasks pitched precisely to suit her needs.
The world of online shopping offers yet another route. 'People who bought x also bought y,' we are told, so why not the same principle as an educational aid? 'People who struggled to do x, found that y helped?' Using the distilled experience of millions of students gives far greater depth than one expert can achieve.
And here is the rub: the student of the future need have no reason to go to the physical space called a school to access these powerful ways to educate themselves. …