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Teacherless classrooms the way of the future


Technology will play a greater role in classrooms in the future. Source: AAP

WHILE education experts across Australia grapple with Gonski, high school graduates thinking of a career in teaching ought to think again - because in the future the traditional role may be gone-ski.

Instead, tutoring is tipped to take on a very different form.

US futurologist Dr Thomas Frey told News Ltd that teacherless classrooms are the way of the future.

"The sheer volume of experimentation that is happening right now, just that volume and calibre of the technologies of improving education and the frequency with which it is coming out is creating this crescendo effect that will break down castle walls," Dr Frey said.

He said that within the next decade there would be a fundamental shift away from a "sage on stage" model with a teacher at the front of a class imparting knowledge, to a model where teachers were more like coaches.

"Think of a classroom where everybody is learning something different," Dr Frey said.

"It will still need supervisors to help guide the students, to coach them from point b to point c."

Dr Frey said this was a logical transition but that there would still be areas where teachers were necessary, but maybe not quite as many as already exist today. At the rate education technology is advancing, most developed countries were not equipping teachers with the skills they needed to survive the changes to education syllabuses over the next decade, Dr Frey said.

"The fact that people are going to have to shift careers more than ever before in all history indicates we're going to have get used to being in this constant changing mode," he said.

New kinds of "rapid learning" programs are being developed all over the world that are designed to cut in half the time students need to spend at school. US engineer and entrepreneur, Nolan Bushnell, is one of thousands of educators developing "speed learning" courses designed to cut in half the amount of time children spend at school.

Benghali-American educator Salmon Kahn founded his own online academy that provides more than 3000 free online mini-courses on topics ranging from physics to art history, computer science to medicine. The micro-lectures are designed to teach students everything they would learn at school in half the time.

Dr Frey is also developing his own education competition that will run around most colleges where people from all disciplines from video game developers to film makers are challenged to create engaging educational programs that take less time than existing syllabuses.

"If we can create this competition and run it successfully for 10 years in a row, by the end of 10 years what comes out of this competition will be so staggering and mind-boggling than anything we have in the world today and everybody can say 'I wish I had gone to school with that training,'" Dr Frey said.

"It will consist of 15 minutes sessions instead of days of classes."

However, while some educators acknowledge change is coming, not everyone's vision of the future is as extreme as Dr Frey's.

Professor Patrick Griffin, Director of the Assessment Research Centre told News Ltd that independent learning was already occurring in countries all over the world, but that it didn't mean it would change the way schools operate.

"I can't see technology changing or replacing schools or making them obsolete because the school isn't just the place people go for learning and development, it's a social and societal institution," Prof Griffin said.

"Teacherless education would mean a change to the social fabric of society".

Prof Griffin is heading up ACTS - the Assessment of Teaching 21st Century Skills as part of the OECD's Pisa project (Programme for International Student Assessment) which is co-sponsored by Cisco and Microsoft that develops new ways of assessing 21st century skills and applying them in the classroom.

"Australia is not just catching up (to educational technology), we're leading the world," he said.

Doctor Frey will be presenting his ideas at the Creative Innovation conference in Melbourne in November.