Forget the dusty classroom and the traditional slate blackboard with its corollary of chalk and erasers. Classrooms may no longer have walls shortly, but they will be transformed into open spaces where people work together, exploiting the potential of shared knowledge, thanks to the internet and through texts that are also open to everyone’s contribution.
The coronavirus epidemic, which forced students to stay home for several months, has accelerated a process that, in schools, had already been underway for some time, thanks to the commitment of companies and organizations in the area that have supported the institutes in this direction. Think of the increasingly consolidated use of tools such as the IWB (Multimedia Interactive Whiteboard) and the electronic register or of the now daily use of the web to do research or find support in carrying out homework. All this and much more tell us about a reality wholly transformed in recent years: the new universe of school and teaching.
Pandemic And School: The First Digital Transformations
During the pandemic that overwhelmed us in 2020, how much did we talk on this blog about the changes that have affected the world of education? Due to the limits on classroom presence imposed by COVID-19, new technologies have, from simple appendages, transformed, in recent months, into essential tools to allow teaching to be carried out. In short, they have become an integral part of the world of education, demonstrating their incredible potential even once they return to the classroom.
It is striking that if students were once equipped with notebooks, today, even a simple sheet of paper can come alive before their eyes if framed with a smartphone, thanks to an app. One tap on the screen is enough to access interactive materials, videos, useful links, and more. There is no more extended room in the school bag for heavy dictionaries, but not even for a slim calculator, a faithful companion in the past for mathematics homework. You can have everything just a click away on a smartphone or tablet.
There are also e-textbooks and digital media for tablets that allow you to follow a personalized training path, depending on whether the student prefers to read, watch videos, or follow lessons. Even a physical trip to the library is transformed and replaced by one’s workstation at home or school, with an immersion in the internet, where young students can access an infinite amount of news and information. Registrations, report cards, registers, homework and notes, and communications with students and families have a digital heart immediately accessible from home.
Hybrid Teaching: Towards A Stimulating And Engaging School
But will the classroom, in the post-Covid era, return to what it was before, with slides, video projectors, and frontal lessons? No, the address of the future will be profoundly different: the challenge that the world of education is facing today is precisely that the way of working and studying online becomes an integral component of education.
Tomorrow’s lessons will be shorter, less frontal, with digital experiences, and, above all, integrated with pre- and post-class activities, mainly digital. We are talking about so-called hybrid teaching, an approach to learning where physical and digital integration coexist effectively, giving life to something new and with more significant potential. We can now discuss the hybrid classroom as the prevailing model of the coming years: the classroom is repositioned in the privileged interaction space between teachers and students.
Still, it evolves towards interactive formats where problems are faced together, projects are developed, and skills are trained. The experience becomes warmer, more engaging, and, therefore, more educationally effective. The same classroom activities can then use digital tools to connect with other classrooms, access virtual libraries, make the participants’ devices interact, such as tablets and smartphones, take tests, and create virtual whiteboards.
In the most advanced organizations, there are immersive activities in simulation environments with avatars, augmented reality, and virtual reality—the so-called new classrooms of the Metaverse. From time to time, the classroom is transformed into a training gym to train people on critical skills, into training conventions, into a theater laboratory, or a design laboratory. It is integrated with e-learning, self-learning, and coaching. The new classrooms are usually integrated into a pre-classroom phase, and a post-classroom degree is managed online and offline.
The Pre-Classroom Phase
The pre-classroom phase responds to some specific purposes, which are to activate the learner by encouraging engagement in the training experience, to bring out the learner’s tacit and implicit knowledge, to ignite the desire to learn and to provide a set of essential knowledge and skills that will be explored and developed in the classroom phase.
In schools and companies, this activity gives rise to a format called “flipped classroom learning, in the literal sense of an inverted classroom, where the student studies the more theoretical parts of the subject to be learned in e-learning mode before going to the classroom, where it can go from studying simple videos of the teacher to more structured e-learning courses with simulators, exercises, and tests to pass, and then finding oneself in the classroom to work in the “problem-based learning” mode where concrete cases are addressed, project work is developed, we discuss what has been studied, and in some cases, challenges and educational games are activated.
The Post-Classroom Phase
The post-classroom phase is designed to facilitate the application of the knowledge and skills acquired by the learners and use what they have learned in their work, with training pills used by APPs that require a few minutes of study per day and help keep learning alive and continually reinforce it.
How To Prepare For The Metaverse: New Skills And Suitable Spaces
The hybrid classroom requires a new and more complex design, the design of new learning architectures, the setting up of digitized training environments, and a new posture of the teacher, who, from the provider of lessons to director of learning processes, enhances his maieutic function and evolves towards a new form of educator that we can define as a learning coach because he increasingly stimulates the self-learning of his students.
Millions of workers will have to update themselves in the coming years to keep pace with continuous innovations, and the world of training, to be a protagonist and upbeat actor in these processes, will also have to put itself at the center of the re-skilling methods. It is no coincidence that the PNRR includes an educational innovation program to have more interactive lessons and more involved students. It is “School Plan 4.0 “, which provides for an allocation of 2.1 billion euros to transform 100,000 traditional classrooms into innovative learning environments and create laboratories for the digital professions of the future in second-cycle schools.
The main aim is the creation of a digital skills ecosystem capable of accelerating the digital transformation of school organizations and learning and teaching processes. The measure provides for the design of a multidimensional system for continuously training teachers and school staff for the digital transition, articulated in a coordination center on digital education promoted by the Ministry of Education.
At the same time, essential investments of an infrastructural nature are expected, both to digitize learning environments and to fill the shortcomings of school buildings in terms of safety and energy efficiency. From this perspective, the aim is to transform school spaces into “connected learning environments “, that is, adaptable, flexible, and digital, with technologically advanced laboratories and a work-oriented learning process.