Is a classroom always the best place to learn?

Distance learning has exposed the limits of both online and classroom-based education. Now we have the opportunity to combine the best of both worlds into a more effective pedagogical model.

The pandemic has had a huge impact on our lives and many things will not be the same again. When talking about education, though, a new normality is urgently needed.

It is now clear to everybody that schools cannot revolve around tests and it is paramount to address how to maximise one essential ingredient of learning: students' engagement.

As teachers, we were all forced to move from our classrooms to the online environment almost overnight, but we all agree on the fact that those lessons we gave on Hangouts were hardly effective online education. Hence, the recurrent comment all teachers make is "online lessons are not the same as face-to-face". They are not, and they shouldn't be, but this does not mean we should forget all lessons learnt and ditch technology all together.

So, how can we combine online and offline effectively? Here are a few ideas:

1. Pedagogical aspects

We all know that our students learn more and faster when they are interested in the content, when they see the purpose of learning and are curious about the topic. We discovered that we used too much class time to provide students with the information they needed to carry out more complex tasks, like analysing, evaluating and creating, and that we were delegating those complex tasks to home time (often with the help of parents, who were easily overwhelmed). Teachers need to stop acting like "walking Wikipedias" and start being guides and motivators.

2. Online content

The Internet provides all the information students need, with no need for endless face-to-face lectures in class time. Students need to be trained to identify valuable sources, remember and understand information through online simulations, quizzes and peer-to-peer forums.

Online lessons can never be a replacement for face-to-face teaching but they can certainly help to master lower skills. We believe that technology will never replace a good teacher, but teachers who use technology will replace those who don't.

3. XXI century skills

The world of work is changing rapidly and education will have to include mastery of those vital skills students will need to be employable: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication.

Now is the time to reform the way we teach and start designing activities that improve and develop those skills as well as providing students with knowledge.

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