One of my earliest memories from school in South Africa was of a teacher shouting, “children should be seen and not heard!”, the same teacher had a severe squint and a tendency to throw the blackboard duster at kids she caught talking. Trying to watch her gaze to see if you were the potential target was always a challenge.
Classroom participation meant primarily listening to the teacher, keeping quiet and doing what you were told. Apartheid era South Africa in the 70’s was a strange place to go to school, especially in the later part of the decade. Every Friday we were handed rifles, we marched, drilled and practiced for the possible invasion of the school.
Computers were unknown in the institution, I remember the outrage expressed by some teachers when the first calculators started appearing. The consensus seemed to be that the only possible consequence was the the complete cessation of future generations to be able to do mental maths. When televisions first appeared in 1976 many religious leaders lamented the collapse of morality and frequently referred to tv’s as “the devils box”.
Today I live in Northern Ireland, my children (7 and 9) would look at me as if I were insane if I asked if they knew what a blackboard duster was. They really would think I was delusional if I told them about carrying guns at school or being caned for minor infringements of rules.
My children love school, their opinions are sought by their teachers, there is no corporal punishment, they do not have to learn to shoot. Technology is embraced, learning is interactive, the teacher facilitates learning rather than being the font of all knowledge. Textbooks are useful but Google, iPads, game based learning etc all play a role in their classrooms.
Working for a company that allows me to help transform the classroom experience from one of the passive absorption of information to active learning means I get to make a difference in people’s lives. It is not just the technology we create and sell that makes a difference but also the pedagogical approaches that we encourage. It is not just about acquiring information, it is about gaining understanding, knowledge and insight.
Who knows what the learning experience is going to look like for my grandchildren one day, it is enough to know that I work in the vanguard of learning technology today. By making a difference today we change the world of tomorrow.