A few years ago we gave in to my eldest son’s request to have a house party for his 16th birthday. Not a course of action I’d recommend, but we survived the evening. Whilst he and his friends took over the house the rest of us confined ourselves to the front room and then quietly slipped away to bed in the hope the damage wouldn’t be too great. I woke early. Before I had descended the stairs to take in the sight, pictures documenting the evening and ensuing debris had been viewed hundreds of times already online! An event in my own house had been seen across the Internet before I could witness the reality first hand.
More recently my son’s band were preparing to play a gig and I commented to him that I hadn’t seen them rehearsing at all. He explained to me that they had been rehearsing for a while but it all happened online. They sent each other sound files, worked and re worked parts, sent them back and forth to each other and only played together when they performed. A new way of working collaboratively, in a virtual world.
Just a couple of months ago, my son, now at university, asked if I could help him with some modelling work he had to complete for his special effects course. I told him I really didn’t know if I could help but I’d do my best. He said he was pretty clear about what to do but just needed a bit of support. He gave me a detailed account of what he intended to do right down to the tools he would need. I asked if his tutors had gone through the idea with him and he said no. I asked how he could be so sure about what he was doing and how his model would be successful. He said he had found a tutorial on YouTube, made by an American student. She explained everything in great detail making her instructions very straightforward and easy to follow.
These three short anecdotes are typical of today’s learners and their use of technology. We live in an age where they are bringing more and more expertise to the table. More learning goes on outside the classroom than ever before and it is for us in education to embrace this or risk making school a hindrance and irrelevance to our children’s real learning experiences. How do we harness this extraordinary speed of communication? What challenges and opportunities do such online collaboration present? And how will such a flipped approach to learning, accommodated by YouTube, the Khan Academy and the like, impact on the pedagogical approaches of future generations of teachers?
Michael Shepherd is the Headteacher of Hawes Side, a large three form entry Primary School on the North West coast of the UK. He is also a consultant Headteacher for the Schools Network.
Image courtesy of Flickr, spykster