Some claim that true learning cannot happen without teachers, and that there will always be a place for face-to-face teaching. But concepts such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and 'schools in the cloud' are attracting a growing level of support. As experts in assessment, Cambridge Assessment believed that a sensible debate was needed on the future for face-to-face teaching and learning.
We hosted an event which brought together a panel of experts to debate the ways in which technology could – and should – transform the fundamentals of education and assessment. Taking place at the British Library in London on 11 February, the event was attended by more than 100 people, with many more participating from around the world through online streaming.
Guest speaker Sugata Mitra (Professor of Educational Technology at the University of Newcastle, England) explained how – through his $1m experiment which will allow groups of children to teach themselves using the internet – he is exploring the concept of learning without teachers. Meanwhile, Lord David Puttnam CBE FRSA described how technology enables him to deliver modules to university students across the world from his home in Ireland.
Mike Feerick, CEO of ALISON (Advanced Learning Interactive Systems Online), and Russell Beale, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction, University of Birmingham – representing Futurelearn – demonstrated what could be done currently with technology in the classroom. Meanwhile, Clive Beale (Raspberry Pi) and Christine Swan (Director of ICT and Enterprise at The Stourport High School and VIth Form Centre) introduced Cambridge GCSE Computing Online, which was a recent finalist in the BETT 2014 awards.
Other presenters included Dr Nick Saville, Director of Research & Validation, Cambridge English Language Assessment, who explained why the teaching of English language requires a joined-up thinking of innovative approaches to technology and approaches to teaching, and Helen Eccles, Director of Development at Cambridge International Examinations, which has recently launched an e-learning platform forum to support young people who are studying Global Perspectives.
Pat Glass MP welcomed Siôn Humphreys, Policy Advisor at the National Association of Headteachers and Nick Jones, Principal of Twickenham Academy, to the stage, and chaired a lively discussion on the future of face-to-face learning, in which delegates and online viewers shared their views on the opportunities – or threats – that new technologies could bring to schools in the future. And in the true spirit of 'cloud learning' the debate continued on Twitter long after the event had finished.
The event concluded that, despite advances in technology, the role of the teacher remains a crucial one as a facilitator of learning.