The end of schools
The technology that now keeps schools open is the technology that will close many of them.
The only conclusion to be drawn at the end of a difficult day is that the days of old fashioned teachers, certainly at secondary level, are numbered. The difficulties arose from the operation of the information technology.
One website that is a major platform for sharing homework and online learning crashed under the strain of tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of children trying to access their lessons.
Another platform defied my attempts to use it as I wished. It would not display the screen I wished students to see and there were persistent problems with the sound. Eventually, I had to tell the students that if they completed the lesson themselves we would have a live discussion of their thoughts on Friday, when the audio problems had been resolved. The ICT teacher suggested that the problem lay in the fact that we were using a platform designed for businesses, not one designed for education.
Of course, there were competent teacher who completed much more effective live lessons and there would be other schools where the budget allowed for the provision of tailor-made programmes and where the students all had access to the best available computers.
Sitting back in my chair at the end of the day (a plastic chair, for some reason the Covid regulations have meant the office chairs at desks have all been removed, “you must be able to catch the virus through your backside,” muttered a colleague), I wondered where the future would take us and suspected that no crystal ball would be necessary to make a good guess.
The advent of versatile learning technology combined with a compulsion to use it mean there are lots of people who will become very adept at using such learning methods, and lots of companies who will be developing the teaching packages they offer. If people can have the best of teaching at a modest price, they are going to find such offer attractive.
Well-resourced schools with very good teachers will offer the possibility of hundreds, even thousands of students attending a lesson. Of course, there will still be a need for one to one support and interactions, so local tutors might be employed to augment the specialist teaching.
Private education, currently beyond the budgets of most families, will become accessible if it becomes remote, something that can be joined at a modest price. Once the market starts moving in that direction, once middle class students start being lost, traditional schools will struggle to survive in their present form, to compete they will have to find practitioners working in the state sector whose teaching can be shared online, practitioners who can compete with their private school counterparts.
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