Deja Vu

In 2009 I entered a writing competition. The concept was simple. Tomorrow’s teacher from Teachers TV. 

I wrote an entry and submitted it. But then realised that the competition was only open to UK resident teachers. So I withdrew.

A few days later I received an enthusiastic email from Teacher’s TV. I had won. 

But I hadn’t. I wrote back with much apology. Disgruntled embarrassment may also have been part of the impact on me. Then I buried the story I had written. 

This week, I’ve been mulling over a few things. I decided that I should publish what I wrote here instead. 

I’ve been thinking about whether my idea of tomorrow’s teacher still holds water. 

What could teaching look like in the future. How would that impact on learning. It’s an exciting concept. Here’s the story. 

Teaching tomorrow?

I arise in the morning and switch on my interface before heading for the shower. After a fresh breakfast of croissants delivered to my house each morning, I enter the interface room and get settled. As normal on a Monday, I log into a portal from this space to see each of my pupils smiling faces in their homes. We can look at their work together and at different intervals through the day we work in groups across the band width. The students themselves can break away to explain and demonstrate things to each other. They can also prepare for their three days in the school building that start on Tuesday through to Thursday.

We finish our on-line interaction at 11.30 so they can all engage in audio visual projects that they will show in school on Wednesday, checking in with me if they get stuck. Each pupil has a parent that works from home on Monday and Friday too so they can both talk to me through the web cam interface if they have any concerns.

Mrs Smith wants to know how often her son should be practicing his spellings from the on-line game we use. Sam explains to her that he wants to do it three times a week and to concentrate on his reading in between. I think this a good suggestion and we write the intention into Sam’s work plan.

Mr Jones asks me if I can look at the blog that he and Jane have been keeping, that records the progress of the seedlings that we all planted at home two weeks before. Jane’s younger sister, Janet, looks in too, as she is quite excited by the tiny spots of green progress. Janet’s teacher comes on line and asks if she could send in some photos for her class.

Meanwhile I have preparation time in between conversations with each of my pupils and their parents. Their work is stored and the programs they use are accessed from the cloud, each workstation has very little hardware, and links through the TV screens. The systems are sponsored by local industry so each pupil has easy access. During our shared lunch break we talk about the foods we have for lunch. Then some of the children decide to add their apple cores to the wormeries and compost bins in each garden or balcony. Josie decides to take the temperature in her family bin wit ha sensor she borrowed from the school and discovers that it is hotter than yesterday. She adds this data to our class database.

At 2.00pm each child sends me a request for a skill they want to follow up tomorrow or Thursday so I can plan their learning for the rest of the week. It looks like we are going to be busy with editing skills and finding out more about plant growth. Hari wants to see what recipes are available for the beans he hopes to grow. I hope he’s not being too optimistic about the harvest but we plan a cooking lesson for Friday at home and tasting sessions after that.

At 2.30 Suzy, Germaine and Evie ask if they can show the music project they’ve been doing. With music they composed in the background they make their living rooms a stage each working to the same beat and moving in time. Everyone is impressed judging by the applause that echoes from my speakers! I suggest that they are strong contenders for the live end of term concert that is being planned. They send a video to the auditions committee.
Tuesday sees my class and I heading for the school together on the community bus. Cars are not used for the whole week any more and our special bus allows us to check in with family members that live far away over video links on the move through wireless connections. I sit with colleagues in a section at the front for a team meeting. At school we work in a space with laptops and interactive whiteboards for each group. Sam and Jane’s group play back their video diaries and merge information so they can present it in assembly next week. Assam, a former pupil contacts us on-line at 10.00 so that we can meet his new teacher, Mrs Teller, and share some of the project work he did before he changed schools. She sends us information from a project that he has started with his new class and his former classmates can contribute to this later on.
Wednesday this week will be different. This week, our bus takes the whole year group straight out to the outskirts of the city along with some parents collected on the way. We use GPS to send pictures of a local nature reserve back to the school and the directions are generated by our hand held devices. Mrs Harrington finds a ladybird and Jamie sends a picture of it to each device so we can all look for more. Some of the children have never seen one before. The next red and black creature found has far more spots. Jane checks the internet to see if this is normal. A yellow and black beetle causes confusion so Jane does some more research only to find that this one is not actually a ladybird and that it could be quite nasty.

Thursday gives us a chance to create a documentary of our trip together. Each group starts in the school editing suite by reducing their material to two minutes. When each team is happy they put their final piece on the portal. An editing team representing each group combines all the pieces together. We watch them as a class and our afternoon work involves making the voice over and background music for the final shot.

On Thursday afternoon we start a new maths project using Hari’s suggestion to weigh and measure the ingredients that the pupils will need for the test bean recipes. Our technician has already sourced the ingredients on line and they were delivered this morning. Hopefully the tasty dishes that the children create at home tomorrow will be a success and then the school canteen will use them in the menus shortly.

On Friday our parents gather with their children at home. The broadcast of our work is transmitted at 10.30 to all the children in the school community and the parents are very impressed. I remind the children that they need to submit a review of the film on Monday but that it should be a draft that we can discuss in the morning before they improve it in the afternoon. They’ll need to include an interview with a parent or sibling as well so they can use their web cams for that part but there should be a text submission too.

After the broadcast, Mr Taylor, parent and local businessman, sends a digital greeting card to all the families to tell them how impressed he is. He invites a group of children to visit his television company on Monday next week to find out more about how films are made in real situations. It may be that the pupils can do a story for the local evening news next week.

I publish the attendance record for the week on the portal and I soon get a message from the Harrington’s that she and Jamie will be off-line next Monday morning because of a dental appointment but that he will be back on in the afternoon. Hopefully no fillings this time! I will remember to expect his review a bit later in the day.

The afternoon session today is pretty relaxed. Painting is so much easier in kitchens away from the school! The school tries to ensure that the children in each household work together on an art project rather than separately, so today I’m looking in on 20 children from year 1 to year 4 as well as some of my own pupils. The others from my class are working in groups with other teachers so that they get to know other ways of working. Kuldeep’s family have made a beautiful picture by adding collage to the paint work. They made great choices from the equipment supplied at school. She can show other families how they did it. Some of the other designs get more complex. We can display this work in the main gallery area at school next to a screen playing the video of their processes during next week. Mrs Amir’s laughter is really contagious in the back ground of their video
We’ve had a busy week.

So what do you think teaching could look like? 

In True Star Trek fashion, When I wrote this I only had a tablet PC and my imagination. Now some of these ideas are reality. 

It’s interesting to imagine another learning world. 


 

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