Sometimes, as I strain my eyes to see or hear young students from around the world on my laptop, I dream of the ideal Skype classroom of the future.
Haiti students learn English over Skype video with volunteer students thanks to Teach the World Online
In this classroom, a teacher would no longer stand before rows of students as they did in the one room schoolhouses of the 19th century. Nor would masses of students swarm back and forth throughout the day in crowded, factory style buildings where little is learned and even less is remembered.
My dream-world classroom would be more like a TV production studio, with perfect lighting, no external sounds and circular or at least U shaped seating. The teacher would wander among the students always ready to start a power-point program, a video or a slide show synced to the day’s lesson plan from one of several monitors throughout the room. A visiting teacher, a puppeteer, a magician or interesting person would appear for a short message via Skype video to involve the students in verbal answers or perhaps even a texted response over group IM.
There would be no need to discipline bored students because there would be too much going on, with all five senses being bombarded with sights, touches, sounds, and even smells, all coordinated with the theme of the day’s lesson. Learning would be….yes, entertainment. Synaptic responses in the pre-frontal lobe of each student’s brain would be firing at top speed because the neural path ways would be open and receptive to the new information being presented in this ideal classroom. Their participation in all of these experiences would be constant. Interactivity would be the classroom mantra, whether it be encouraged face to face, online or both. Blended learning would be seamless, constant and effective.
The success of my ideal classroom would not be judged by computerized testing and terrified teachers struggling to prep their students for upcoming exams. The students in this classroom would be judged by their ability to think and reason within the confines of
a well-crafted essay, verbal response or even debate among fellow students. They would know the art of reading a book and assessing its’ contents. They would know how to communicate through film, music and theater as well as words. A myriad of skills and knowledge would be imbued in their minds because they had learned to love the experience of learning in a classroom devoted to providing them with the skills needed for survival and success in a modern world.