The classroom of the future, according to the world’s best teachers

In many parts of the world, today’s classrooms are almost unrecognisable compared to those of a decade ago.

Technology is changing the way students learn and teachers teach. From interactive white boards replacing chalk boards to tablets replacing desktop computers, schools are becoming increasingly digital.

Looking ahead to 2030, greater internet connectivity and smarter technologies promise to radically reshape the classroom of the future.

We asked the Global Teacher Prize 2018 Finalists to share their views on how they feel the classroom will change in the coming decade, and what this means for the role of the teacher.

What do you think will be the biggest difference between the classroom of 2030 and the classroom of today?

Many of our Finalists predict that the trend of young people effectively teaching themselves will continue.

For example,  South African teacher Marjorie Brown points to models such as the “flipped classroom” which switches the traditional roles of classwork and homework. In this model, direct instruction is delivered by video content that students engage with before class. This frees up class time for activities that allow deeper exploration.

This exploration will happen in a far more collaborative way between teachers and students than it does today, says Brazilian Finalist Diego Mahfouz Faria Lima.

“The biggest difference in education in 2030 will be that the student and teacher will build knowledge collectively,” he says.

“This exchange of knowledge will have more impact thanks to new technological resources [in the classroom].”

The deeper exploration of content in classrooms is likely to lead to a breaking down of traditional subject areas as students’ learning becomes more project-focused, says  Barbara Anna Zielonka from Norway.

“It is my strong belief that in classrooms of 2030 teachers will be guides and mentors who are going to implement project-based learning, active learning and connections-based learning on a regular basis,” she says.

“I also believe that we will not divide students into grades and teaching into individual subjects.”

Subject-based teaching isn’t the only thing that will disappear as technology becomes more prevalent in the classroom, says Glenn Lee from Hawaii.

“Textbooks will no longer be needed and become obsolete,” he says.

What will be the most significant technological development in the classroom of 2030?

Could the biggest development in the classroom be that there is no classroom at all? Marjorie Brown thinks so, saying technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence could help bring about “simulated scenarios for self-study” and “isolated education – maybe at home”.

While Jesus Insilada from the Philippines also sees virtual teaching and augmented reality playing an important role, a genuine human interaction with a teacher, in the classroom, will continue to be vital for children’s development.

“We need to realize that kids need time, compassion, and wisdom of a teacher for them to be educated to become more human, to become productive, and to find meaning in human existence, and to make them feel fulfilled in their achievement,” says Jesus.

“These are essential learning experiences that only the ‘real’ teacher can provide.”

Assuming Jesus is right, and there are still real teachers and classrooms, the other big opportunity for change is a move towards either greater variety or greater uniformity in the way education is delivered.

For Turkish pre-school teacher Nurten Akkuş, the greater connectivity offered by digital technology offers the opportunity to standardize education around the world.

“I think that global classrooms and teachers will appear,” she says.

“There are many various educational methods in many states. By reviewing the different characteristics of those methods, a common global curriculum could be composed.”

However, others believe just the opposite – that the idea of set curricula will disappear altogether. Barbara Anna Zielonka sees classrooms becoming centres of personalized education – a concept championed by tech giants such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. In this scenario, online learning allows students to work through subjects at their own pace and specialise in the areas that interest them most.

“Students will be in control of their own education,” says Andria Zafirakou from the UK.

“They will have access to the most exciting technology that would enable them to access any course, lecture, theme, subject in a virtual way at any time and at a global scale.”

Can you think of an area of the classroom that currently hasn’t been changed by technology that will be transformed by 2030?

Following on from the idea of children receiving a personalized education in the classroom of the future, Andria says the idea of exams, which have held sway for centuries, may finally disappear.

“I’m wondering if in the year 2030, students will still receive paper examinations which are expected to be carried out with a pen and within one or two hours,” she asks.

“Is this the best way to capture a sense of a child’s knowledge, understanding and skills? Is this a true reflection of who they are?”

Some subjects that have remained relatively unchanged may finally succumb to technology’s influence.

Australian maths teacher Eddie Woo points to his own subject as one that could be transformed.

“A significant proportion of learning in mathematics has remained unchanged for decades because mathematical reality is timeless and its truths never change,” he says.

“However, we are poised to fundamentally change the concept of what mathematics even is by using technology to shift the focus of learning from calculation and mental strategies to the identification of patterns, posing of questions and interpretation of results.”

How do you think the role of the teacher will change between now and 2030?

With the rise of personalized learning, many of the Global Teacher Prize 2018 Finalists see the role of the teacher in 2030 being that of a coach, facilitator and mentor.

“Teachers will become more like a guide, helpdesk or mentor, pointing students in the right direction,” says Belgian teacher Koen Timmers.

Likewise, Marjorie Brown says “the role of the teacher will develop from not only being a subject specialist” but also “a life coach whose job would be to steer, guide and unfold the potentials within each being.”

However, this doesn’t mean teachers’ knowledge and expertise will become redundant.

As Glenn Lee points out, teachers will have to “prepare students for jobs that haven’t been invented yet”, and this will mean “the success of a teacher will only be as good as their ability to integrate technology into their classroom teaching approaches.”

While the role of the teacher may change, none of our Finalists think that it will be entirely replaced by technology.

In fact, as the world becomes increasingly virtual, Nurten Akkuş says a teacher’s most important role could be to form strong relationships and make students aware of the wider world, educating them to become truly global citizens.

“Teachers will have bigger importance in their students’ development and identity as world citizens,” she says.

Technology will help here, by connecting teachers and students across the globe far more easily, adds Nurten.

“Teachers and schools that can truly manage change and development and keep up with global adjustment will be one step ahead in bringing children up as good world citizens.”


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