As schools adjust to a changing educational landscape, the need to keep pupils engaged is more important than ever. Learning, for the time being, has been partially displaced. For some, a full-time return to the classroom may not be an option in the near future. So how can we ensure neither staff wellbeing nor student attainment and engagement suffer?
This guide explores how to maximise the classroom environment while embracing hybrid learning, to equip schools with flexible teaching and learning strategies that facilitate high-quality lesson delivery. We outline how to achieve it by optimising the role of the teacher, the classroom and education technology.
If you would like to discuss how you can create a new modern classroom in your school, get in touch with a Promethean consultant, or request a free ActivPanel demo tailored to your needs to see the benefits that industry-leading education technology can provide.
What is the ‘new’ modern classroom?
The traditional classroom focused on straight rows of desk heavily reliant on the teacher at the front. The modern classroom recognised educators are required to do much more than teach: they have to consider the function of the classroom, how much teaching is directive and how much students should explore for themselves. It therefore encouraged reimagining this layout to afford new opportunities, particularly by integrating edtech which can enable many of the solutions. But educators also have to assess how it’s used and who by, all so the classroom’s four walls don’t constrict the way learning occurs. So what does the new modern classroom look like? And how can schools get there in the most seamless, cost-effective and impactful way?
Creating the ‘new’ modern classroom isn’t as simplistic as implementing one-time changes. Instead, the classroom is a content-rich, vibrant learning hub continually optimised to facilitate learning. It’s a flexible approach which takes into account the latest insight into best practice and the curriculum, the school’s culture and context, and advancements in equipment and technology.
For educators, key considerations may include:
- Where to invest to reap the greatest rewards
- How to avoid short-term, low-impact ‘fads’
- Adapting best practice for their own local context
- How to manage change with minimal disruption
So what can the ‘new’ modern classroom offer?
- Motivation for students to own their learning and continually improve
- Skills students will need for work, higher study and life in general
- Real, relevant and purposeful activities which engage students
- Improved standards of education and behaviour
- Higher efficiency within the school, including more time available for teaching
- Professional development for teachers and the senior management team
- Keeping pace with regional, national and international education standards
Our understanding and development of a versatile modern classroom has seen renewed interest since schools underwent prolonged closures. So how does hybrid learning fit into the new modern classroom?
Learning without limits: the hybrid approach
Modern learning has shifted dramatically — and so have pupils’ needs. Managing change and minimising disruption was the primary driver behind adapting a hybrid approach which meets the needs of staff and students inside and outside the classroom.
It’s a pedagogical approach that enables simultaneous digital and face-to-face learning, aiming for seamless educational outcomes, no matter whether pupils are remote, in class or a combination. It therefore necessitated educators’ uptake of edtech, as it facilitated remote teaching, so they’ve realised how it can improve their productivity and communication between staff and student.
But does the hybrid model go far enough to keeping pupils at the centre of learning and fulfilling all their needs? Taking a hybrid approach is one way of creating a learning environment without limits, but brings its own burdens on staff wellbeing and student engagement.
The social and sensory aspect of face-to-face learning can’t be replaced by digital teaching. So, while the concept of hybrid and blended learning isn’t new, there’s more work to be done before schools are future-ready. Educators need to appreciate the importance of tech which supports learning goals for staff and students, and review their tech use accordingly — so how has the role of edtech changed?
The new role of ICT
Today, tech has a new role to play. Learning was supported almost entirely by edtech in 2020. But now, without aligning new digital tools with space and pedagogy, its impact will diminish. Amidst an abundance of tech, schools need to be able to identify the most worthwhile tech investments and the gratuitous gimmicks to avoid. So how can educators get the best results from tech and maximise it both inside and outside of the classroom?
Tech access and budget shortages have always presented a barrier to effective tech use, and school closures threw this issue into stark relief. With many students suffering digital inequity, they rely on the classroom as the central place where they can learn most effectively, so schools need to ensure it’s an environment sufficiently equipped with purpose-built tech that reintegrates all students into the learning experience.
As we move forward, there’s an emphasis on bridging the attainment gap and engagement drop exacerbated by such issues. Educators should therefore explore new ways to design, monitor and assess learning — and embed the tech tools best positioned to enhance this. Edtech not only boosts formative and summative assessment outcomes, but also makes it more manageable for staff, from aiding instant assessment to bringing efficiencies to the marking process.
Furthermore, the best front-of-class tech isn’t limited to serving solely as a screen — interactive displays like the ActivPanel are designed to improve assessment with inbuilt features for monitoring data, live polling and more. ActivPanel helps teachers deliver more dynamic and interactive lessons and content, remaining the hub of learning while also providing resources that can be placed in any cloud-sharing platform for easy access and sharing by teachers and pupils. It’s a central solution lesson delivery and student management can run through, built to provide genuine teaching and learning value, so epitomises the kind of long-term edtech investment schools should seize.
But school strategies will need to extend beyond equipment — so what are the core components of a successful modern classroom?
Understanding the pillars for success
All your efforts to shape a modern classroom should focus on driving engagement, personalisation, collaboration and feedback:
- Purposeful learning — Teachers and students are actively engaged in developing knowledge, with pupils demonstrating attention, curiosity, interest and optimism during learning.
- From uniform to fully personalised activity — Students are engaged in informal, independent learning and self-reflection, through activities customised according to individual learning preferences and educational needs.
- Students are involved in activities which demand interdependence in order to produce successful outcomes, with shared responsibility for decision-making.
- Feedback is used to bridge the gap between current performance and the ideal, with students having tools and skills for giving and receiving feedback on their own and others’ work. It includes real-time, instantaneous feedback from effective tasks and questioning, promoting important classroom dialogue and the planning of next steps in learning. Information should flow seamlessly between students, teachers, parents and leaders.
Adopting a next-generation hybrid learning experience requires a fresh, future-focused attitude towards the three pillars of the classroom: pedagogy, environment and, of course, technology.
Today, teachers have the advantage of utilising traditional learning practices while incorporating new educational technologies to create a diverse, differentiated classroom, ready for mixed-ability pupils. This is the key to modern pedagogy which encompasses a variety of learning practices. While educators would never disregard pedagogy as it’s core to learning, if you don’t adapt to modern practices, you get ‘same old’ — the class will continue to do the same thing and be unlikely to achieve improved results.
Effective modern lesson delivery doesn’t always need to rely on the teacher. Student-to-student collaboration is a valuable life skill which encourages inclusion. Teachers and students can investigate real-life challenges and data, and share strategies for problem-solving. Real and authentic projects can be aimed at improving the school or the community: digital leaders might support younger learners in the same space, or parts of the school might be redesigned to be more inclusive.
Indeed, today’s students are predisposed to engaging with the world and digital landscape more than ever. Digitally native learners are fluent in multimedia and competent with technology, so nurture them to engage with media-rich, interactive digital content from multiple sources. Inspiring students involves a hybrid of pen and paper with digital applications, so they work meaningfully in tandem rather than either becoming a distraction. Applying digital literacy in the classroom not only benefits their IT proficiency, but also their creativity and innovation skills these platforms enrich.
A range of activity types can be employed and combined to promote enhanced learning. Educators can map current teaching and learning methods across to these activities to deliver the same targeted learning outcomes – but with a potentially greater chance of success. So what activities can educators blend to meet teaching and learning priorities?
- Behaviourist – promoting learning as a change in learners’ observable actions
- Constructivist – learners actively construct new ideas or concepts based on both their previous and current knowledge
- Situated – promoting learning within an authentic context and culture
- Collaborative – promoting learning through social interaction
- Informal and lifelong – supporting learning outside a dedicated learning environment and formal curriculum
- Learning and teaching support – assisting in the coordination of learners and resources for learning activities
Educators have always sought to deploy a variety of pedagogical practices, and diversifying lesson delivery should include learning that is:
- Collaborative and cooperative
- Questioning and feedback-based
- Students are actively involved in creating their own content and can work independently at their own pace, engaged in ways which are relevant to them
- Content is tailored to each individual, setting goals or challenges to resolve around their strengths, target areas and interests
- Students can add a communicative dimension to their work, developing skills in listening, peer review and constructive feedback which teachers can use to adapt lessons
- Students feel comfortable with being connected and collaborative
- Students can edit and contribute to ‘front of class’ materials, and enjoy a progressive educational experience (collaboration, blended/hybrid learning, flipped classroom, projects and inquiry-based tasks).
The new modern classroom doesn’t just consider what students learn, but how their educational environment can support them. If you don’t consider space carefully enough, you get ‘constrained activity’ — restrictions will arise in the use of active collaborative approaches. When space is well planned, well used and well cared for, however, students are more engaged, activities can be more easily personalised, collaboration is facilitated and feedback is more effective.
These are some of the benefits of a rounded classroom, treating the space as a more malleable environment which can be tailored towards specific activities, learning goals or student personalities. It’s not only staff who appreciate less reliance on them delivering lessons solely from the front; students also enjoy their focus and attention being stimulated across a differentiated classroom, as well as the ability to collaborate more freely. This is crucial in fostering continuous interaction in trusted environments where students can take responsibility for their own learning. Consider:
- Layout – how the space is divided and used, where equipment and furnishings are placed, how flexible the arrangements are, and whether you utilise front-of-class tech visible for the whole class
- Human – the spatial relationship of the teacher to their students, whether students can move around, and how they’re are positioned for activities
- Physical – the condition of the room and the age and quality of its furnishings and teaching equipment
- Environmental – air quality, noise pollution, light quality and temperature.
A hybrid approach balances these components to optimise the in-classroom experience, while using them as a basis for considering how to deliver this social component and intimacy for any remote learners. Using this framework ensures you have a model you can adapt however teaching situations change.
- The layout is flexible and no longer anchored to traditional conventions
- Fast, easy rearrangement means students can be positioned differently for various contexts
- There are connections with the outside world
- There’s interaction with a wider network through feedback from peers and teachers.
UK schools have seen an extraordinary transition from the precious single desktop computer to a proliferation of high-tech teaching aids plus handheld devices for students to work on. By leveraging digital, you alleviate teacher workload, utilising tech efficiencies which 78% told the 2020/21 UKI State of Technology in Education Report helps them do their job better. It also accelerates student-driven access to knowledge beyond the classroom, for untethered, digitally rich learning.
Technology is essential:
- Students expect it — they see the use of relevancy-based digital tools, content and resources as a key to driving learning productivity, not just about engaging them in learning. Mark Chambers, CEO of Naace, claims students regard curricula which don’t integrate technology as “irrelevant”.
- It delivers a fast, easy route to learning — edtech is the “only way to dramatically expand access to knowledge”, according to Andreas Schleicher, OECD’s director for education and skills.
- It provides effective preparation for life — students will be using technology throughout their lives, including further or higher education and employment, so they must learn core skills at school.
- Schools have received incentives to implement it — there’s been funding for broadband and digital devices, which leading edtech tools like the ActivPanel can make the most of. This premium interactive display can be seamlessly coordinated with multiple student devices to encourage engagement with media-rich content simultaneously streamed between pupils inside and outside the classroom.
Instead of limiting the return on investment by merely accommodating technology in the classroom, educators need to enable it to have its full impact. It provides new ways to collaborate and communicate, facilitating students’ involvement in hands-on learning, online learning and out-of-school learning. From live-streaming inside a local zoo for a biology lesson, to connecting students’ devices in a big projected quiz, there’s an ever-expanding variety of exciting opportunities to use technology in education, rather than just pragmatically.
- Offer different ways for students to design, create and disseminate their content
- Provide real-life data and tools to examine and analyse with fit-for-purpose technology
- Provide opportunities for students to be active within their own learning styles
- Integrate accessible platforms which move away from ‘one size fits all’ teaching materials
- 1:1 computer programs for more personalised learning
- Support students in preparing personal learning portfolios and support teachers in recognising learning
- In-the-moment feedback for formative assessment and classroom dialogue, automated feedback for diagnosing misconceptions and periodic feedback for recording progress against standards.
Overcoming the barriers
Evolving the classroom doesn’t require radical reinvention or large budgets. It’s a blueprint which schools can adapt for their own context — indeed, this level of careful consideration is essential for a strategic approach, rather than blind mass drives online.
What are the key priorities in the new modern classroom? Schools will need to account for and alleviate the new demands on the always-on teacher, not least with a concerted commitment to teacher training including in technology. Educators can take a phased approach to addressing the challenges:
- Infrastructure — Schools should ensure that connectivity and bandwidth, both into the school and within it, are optimised and can support the school’s modern learning objectives.
- Teachers’ digital literacy — Schools will need to commit to recruitment and development policies that emphasise digital pedagogy skills among teachers. The 2020/21 UKI State of Technology in Education Report revealed providing tech training for teachers has dropped in priority by 23% over the past five years — an imbalance which needs addressing if staff are going to be able to implement school’s tech investments effectively.
- Students’ digital literacy — Students are familiar with a range of technologies, but need to use edtech in a purposeful way which enables learning fundamentals, strengthens digital literacy and delivers skills for employment and/or further study.
- Purchasing and implementing technology — In order to exploit technology, staff and IT managers will need to be well-informed about the latest equipment available and its pros and cons. Low-quality software can impede rather than advance learning, and frustrate students and teachers alike. Educators need to track best practice, review what’s available, seek third-party opinions, and understand how to install and use the technology. Gauging teachers’ flexibility and attitudes will be an important part of the selection process.
- Vision — The school’s senior management team has the vision to understand and adopt the new modern classroom, as it can’t be achieved with inflexible space, rigid pedagogies and unexploited technology. There must be a willingness to accept that some efforts may falter, but won’t undermine the greater plan; flexibility and agility will enable the school to adapt to its own learnings.
- Leadership — Above all else, there must be strong leadership. The new modern classroom can deliver better educational outcomes for students and a competitive advantage to the school, but requires commitment and careful management across the school.
- Communication — The success of the new modern classroom depends on a number of stakeholders, including teachers, parents, students, governors and third-party suppliers. Engagement with them all will be critically important, and continually communicating the objectives and process will be essential. Schools must be open to ideas from all stakeholders on how to refine the approach for their own setting and communicate the strategy throughout to unite your whole organisation in a collective vision for success.
- Attitude — Teachers must be eager to share the production, presentation and assessment of content, and to be learning even as they teach. They must be willing to see themselves as facilitators of learning, rather than as teachers in the traditional sense.
- Accessibility and student support — All learning spaces, physical and virtual, must be able to accommodate and support people with disabilities. Clear policies must be communicated around how devices are used, how students are protected online and exposure to offensive materials.
- Recruitment, training and development — Teachers will need support in understanding how to blend new approaches to space, pedagogy and technology, and how the success of each depends on its relationship to the other two.
What does success look like?
You may know the principles and ideals of the new modern classroom, but how can you deliver the vision? Ensure that the space and technology are in place to support the different types of pedagogical activity most likely to deliver school objectives and priorities. Students have instant access to information from a near infinite number of sources, so they should have the opportunity to contribute their ‘anytime learning’ and to have it recognised. Teachers, meanwhile, should be encouraged to pursue the opportunities of edtech and incorporate it into their teaching as much as possible, but not feel overburdened.
The hallmarks of the ‘new’ modern classroom
In developing a modern classroom for your own context, educators will benefit from:
- Creating a design brief which takes equal account of space, pedagogy and technology — and the relationships between them
- Engaging all stakeholders — pupils, staff, parents, governors, partners and suppliers — in understanding and supporting the design brief
- Providing additional staff training in technology and how to use it in teaching and learning
- Considering the relative roles of the teacher and students — who’s producing the content, who’s presenting it, who’s feeding back on it?
- Considering the relative positions of the teacher and students — who’s at the front? How are students seated and arranged for different activities?
- Introducing different methods within the classroom which explore how ‘connected’ learning (outside the classroom) can be encouraged, captured, recognised and shared
The most useful edtech solutions are designed to provide meaningful teaching value and maximum ROI, meeting the needs of stakeholders, staff and students. Modern tools like the ActivPanel are designed by teachers, for teachers, to boost your objectives with long-lasting enhanced lesson delivery. Request a free demo to discover the benefits throughout your organisation.
To explore the opportunities to maximise the new modern classroom for your school, get in touch with a Promethean consultant, or request a free ActivPanel demo tailored to your needs to see the benefits industry-leading edtech can provide.