Learning instead of teaching – the roles are changing in the school system

Education 4.0 - Theses and Topics on the Digital Transformation of Schools

Digitization is changing our learning as well as our school system. What will the roles look like in the future and where is the school system going as a result of digitization?

Something basic in advance

Is school a reflection of society or is society a reflection of school after all? In this question, it is more or less like a chicken and an egg, because on the one hand, school is shaped by many parts of society, and on the other hand, these parts themselves originate from the school system. This symbiosis already legitimizes the tough and sluggish change. School is an artificially created construct and, at least from a biological and historical point of view, was created in the last second of mankind. In large parts, it is a remnant of industrialization and has certainly served it. And although we know that many of these rigid structures will no longer exist in future forms of society and the world of work, this construct has remained virtually unchanged to this day, and we have held on to it for several centuries in the mistaken belief that it can do justice to everyone. School is just an institution, actually it is about what should have space and time there, about learning.

6 theses on digitization in schools

The opportunities presented by digitization and, above all, the resulting transformation processes for changing learning and the education system are innumerable. The range of topics is so large that books can and do be filled with them. The search entry “digitalization school” at NZZ and FaZ generates about 180 articles in the last 365 days (as of August 1, 2019). In these two newspapers alone, an article on the topic of digitization in schools has been published on around every other day within the last year. No topic has pulled schools out of a deep sleep as much as digitization or digital transformation. This clearly shows that we can’t hide from this change, that we can’t lock ourselves in the basement and hope that it will pass and everything will be the same afterwards. I would therefore like to start by provocatively posing 6 theses. My goal is not to prove them, because that would not be possible. They are assertions concerning the future of school and learning. They are therefore intended to stimulate thought in an irritating way.

Now, before I get to the point, the promised theses. They are fundamental. They may hurt our idea of school. They may not be read with pleasure by many eyes. To some they may sound prophetic, but I think they are evident:

  1. In digitization, the school is the most important subsystem that must transform itself, but the last one that will transform itself.
  2. Everything that can be digitized will be digitized – including schools.
  3. School as we know it today will do away with itself.
  4. Digitization is nothing new, it has somehow been around for decades.
  5. Digitization is never finished – school is never finished.
  6. Change through digitization means change in everything, including schools.

In order to cope with the theses listed above, schools must change radically. This sounds complex and, at first glance, often generates fear among many involved in schools. In the process of transformation, however, it is not the upheaval per se that is the problem, but our own attitude in thinking and acting yesterday, as well as the lack of courage to leave the safe and comfortable comfort zone.

But to what extent is the digital transformation now changing the school system, or what demands does it place on the school system? Let’s focus on the sub-areas, surfaces and patterns of schools together and courageously transform them with the possibilities of digitization, while not losing sight of the bigger picture and “visioning” the future.

Learning instead of teaching – the roles are changing

Kindergarten children who are four years old today will still be active in the working world of tomorrow when the 21st century draws to a close. Almost all jobs will have changed by then, many will disappear, others will be created that we can’t even begin to imagine now. So we should start thinking about what we should give these young people for their future. How must the roles of teachers and learners change?

Responsible means being able to consciously hand over responsibility

Will teachers now be replaced…by robots? Yes, they will be replaced, I’m sure of it…but not by robots, but rather by people who have mastered the sensible handling and use of media and intelligent technologies, and who can integrate contemporary forms of learning and work into openly designed learning spaces. How the profession of these people will be titled in the future remains to be seen. Many of the daily tasks of future teachers, especially centralized, learning-analytical, administrative and bureaucratic tasks, can already be done today through intelligent technologies. In the future, university education of teachers will focus more on the development of personal attitudes and values as well as the science of learning and behavioral psychology, neurology and new forms of work, rather than on isolated methodology and subject didactics. Educators become coaches in intrinsic studies (Intrinsic Campus) and support children and young people in developing curiosity, in developing personality and accompany them in exploratory learning processes to their personal goal. They are experts in learning, work consistently in a competence-oriented manner and see themselves as part of a team that wants to do justice to the students. They are constantly developing their educational institution, networking among experts, even beyond the boundaries of the school building.

This requires us educators to be able to consciously relinquish responsibility and to trust our children and young people with more, so that they can trust themselves to remain constantly agile. The relationship between the two is crucial and decisive for the learning process. Thus, these learning relationships can also develop between children and young people themselves (peer learning). Therefore, in the future, teachers and learners will work out in dialogue who learns with whom, when, where, what and with what goal. Age limits, school types and classes therefore no longer make sense. Schools are organized in a more agile and flexible way. However, I will address this in the following articles.

Curriculum follows Passion – Learning only works intrinsically

How is the role of the student changing? If the school will no longer be a school, the student will also no longer be a student. The clear selection and standardization of the current school system promote the integration and development of individuals only in a few facets, but unfortunately in many structures the standardization of the human being as well as the separation of groups according to the principle of achievement. In this way, the school creates an artificial image of society. The uniqueness, diversity and individuality of each learning person will be decisive for the dynamic learning process of the learner in the future. Countless wikis, learning pages and videos will support students in personalized and tailored learning scenarios, individualized learning paths and personal learning goals. A standardized curriculum thus becomes obsolete in the long term. The motto is: “Curriculum follows Passion”. Uniform schedules and subject canons no longer do justice to learners and are not geared to the learning rhythms of the individual.

The learner, with his passion and curiosity, is at the center. They decide for themselves, but always with pedagogical support and guidance, where to place thematic emphasis and depth of content in their learning. Intrinsically motivated, thematically fascinated. Talent and fascination are encouraged. Content is partly independently researched, consolidated and repeated. In addition, the focus of learning shifts to interdisciplinary competencies and soft skills. Children therefore learn primarily how to learn and not how to be taught. Personalized learning platforms provide an overview and feedback for the teacher, but also for the accompanying educators and parents.

Digitization thus supports teachers and learners in the school of the future on the path from standardization, uniformity and selection to personalization, agility, dynamism and integration.

Philipp Zimmer ist Schulleiter und Schulentwickler. Er wirkte massgebend an der Entwicklung mehrerer Schulkonzepte mit. Dabei entstanden digitale Lernplattformen, die massgeschneiderte Tagesabläufe und Lernwege für Schülerinnen und Schüler ermöglichen. Er beschäftigt sich intensiv mit digitalen Transformationsprozessen im Bildungsbereich sowie zeitgemässen und zukunftsfähigen Lernkulturen.

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