Creative Classrooms: Rethinking How We Teach and Learn
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What are ‘Creative Classrooms’ and how can they be successfully implemented? Stefania Bocconi and Panagiotis Kampylis work at the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, and have been researching how to innovate teaching and learning practices at a system level. They co-authored an article with Yves Punie on this topic, recently published at eLearning Papers.
What does a Creative Classroom look like?
Stefania: By 'creative' we refer to new practices. These can include collaboration, peer to peer collaboration, connection with the outside world, use of open education resources, and more.
As far as ‘classroom’, in this case we refer to all learning environments, both formal and informal, which take advantage of optimal use of ICT. The way we see it, however, is that the innovation of practices is at the core of everything.
How does your approach differ?
Stefania: We’ve come up with a multi-dimensional framework, one that addresses key dimensions such as curriculum and content, assessment, learning, teaching, and organizational practices, leadership and values, connectedness, and infrastructures. The idea is to depict a systemic approach, which is what is needed to undertake and sustain ICT innovation.
When you say ‘systemic’, what exactly do you mean? How does a multi-dimensional approach fit the reality of practitioners on the field?
Stefania: The truth is, there is no single measure that fits all. But what we’ve found is that the cases that have successfully survived the initial pilot phase are those in which all these dimensions are present at a very local level, from the bottom up.
Panagiotis: It’s common for schools to focus on just one or two aspects, but this doesn’t translate into sustainability, so they often have to change their approach after the initial phase of implementation.
What's the status of Creative Classrooms in Europe?
Panagiotis: There are actually a lot of initiatives, but they’re currently fragmented, kind of like islands of innovation. The missing element is learning from each other, finding ways to sustain them, and making them mainstream.
To what extent has ICT changed things? Are creativity and innovation necessarily at odds with traditional teaching methods?
Panagiotis: Well, we have to understand that ICT is not an end in itself, but a means to innovative pedagogy. It’s not an imperative, but technology can help us do new things in a better way. Essentially, we’re at a point in time in which we have to rethink what, how, why, with who, and when we learn.
Stefania: From what we’ve seen, the common thread of successful Creative Classrooms is placing the learner and the learning process at the center of everything, and that sometimes means blending ICT-enabled learning practices with traditional methods.
Technology is constantly and rapidly evolving—in this context, have you encountered sustainable models of innovative teaching?
Panagiotis: Again, it’s not a matter of technology, but how you use what’s available to you. For instance, if you have an interactive whiteboard, but you use it in a traditional sense—the teacher lecturing, the students sitting in rows, listening—you’ve got a scenario in which you have the best technology, but you’re using it in a way that isn’t innovative at all. It’s just not as effective.
Stefania: When innovative pedagogical practices lie at the center of your philosophy, this means that the entire practice—teaching, learning, organization—is more open to experimentation and flexibility. That’s when you can put technology at your service, to reach your ultimate objectives, even when technology changes.
What needs to happen in order for more Creative Classrooms to be implemented?
Stefania: The next step is to combine the existing bottom-up approach with top-down support. The European Commission has already made a move in this direction, by specifically targeting Creative Classrooms as part of its LLLP project. Generally speaking, we envision an experimentation process that will involve actors at all different levels and across different countries, so as to learn from each other at a local and national level.
Panagiotis: We’ve developed this conceptualization not only based on desk research, but on an ongoing consultation process with specialists and teachers with real classroom experience. We’ve had very positive feedback, and we’ve found that stakeholders on all different levels agree we need to act, and change the way we teach the next generation.