As educators approach the new normal they know has to come, it is important to identify the salient features of the model of Western education Plato invented all those years ago: a small group of students, meeting live and face to face in a public space, to rigorously pursue truth and virtue. Given Plato’s long shadow, it is not surprising that live classroom interaction remains the preferred mode of delivery and engagement for many teachers. Yet at Kadenze, our research, as learning designers for the creative arts, design and creative technologies, has shown that live instruction is not necessarily the best way to deliver everything a teacher needs to teach. The live classroom is superb when students are ‘in flow’, energetically and collaboratively making meaning together. It is essential when embodied learning is required; when all the senses must be in play to reach beyond cognitive content alone. We have also learned that synchronous online learning, enabled by video conferencing technology, is often more effective in delivering individual or small group coaching than in live settings, (perhaps the screen is both distancing and reassuring), and is perfect for global networking using well established broadcast TV and documentary formats. Asynchronous learning on the other hand excels in structuring peer review and support, critique and reflective habits of mind and in presenting pre-recorded explanations and demonstrations of stable content which can be watched repeatedly at each learner’s own time and pace.

This has convinced us that teaching frameworks today require comfort, competence and fluency across all three modes of delivery: live, online synchronous and asynchronous. This will be a feature of the ‘new normal’; an integration of delivery modes which insists that each mode is used to do what it does best.

Many teachers will need to step back a little from their belief that the best teaching can only take place in a live classroom. We need to unlearn our fondness for the ways of old, remembering that many learners did not, and do not, prosper inside the four walls of the classroom. We have known this for a while now. In 1789 William Blake pitied ‘the school boy’ with:

But to go to school in a summer morn,

O it drives all joy away!

Under a cruel eye outworn,

The little ones spend the day

In sighing and dismay.

Our times demand that Blake’s ‘outworn eye’ is replaced by a more dynamic ‘new normal’ in education, both within and beyond the four walls which have contained learning for too long.   

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Brad Haseman, Executive Vice President, Kadenze, Inc. & Professor Emeritus, QUT

Credit for Image: Mika Baumeister on Unsplash