I hate going to the opticians. I hate it not just because it can be expensive and not just because I don’t like being told my eyesight is not as good as it used to be. I hate it because I do not like the current fashion in spectacles. To me, this current ‘retro’ look with thick frames and solid, heavy look arms is very reminiscent of the spectacles we used to have in the 1960s. I guess that’s why it’s called ‘retro’. Okay, I know the spectacles we buy nowadays are not the same as those in the 1960s, they’ve employed newer technology to make the lenses thinner and the frames lighter, technology has also created lenses with varifocal correction rather than just single vision correction of the past.
The trouble is that during the first 9 years of the 21st Century, ‘retro’ seems to be everywhere; it’s as if we are having trouble facing the modern 21st century world. Take my wife’s car for example, I recently bought her a new Fiat 500 which is designed to look much like the Fiat 500 of the 1960s but which uses modern technology to make the ride safer and more comfortable.
Then there’s my neighbour’s wife’s car, which is a BMW mini. This again is designed to mimic the looks of the classic 1960s mini but which uses modern technology to create a car that is more pleasant and safer to drive.
So what does all this tell you, apart from the fact that my neighnour appears to earn more money than I do? Well it tells us that the ‘retro’ style is very much in vogue at the start of the 21st century. This is possibly because we are uncomforatble with the modern 21st century image or that no one is quite sure what the 21st century image should be.
The trouble is that ‘teaching’ can also have a retro look about it which is reminiscent of the 1960s whith the teacher at the front dictating to rows of desks with the top pupils at the front or to groups of tables with the best pupils having best view of the teacher. As with cars and spectacles, this form of teaching nowadays also makes use of modern technology, it has a couple of computers on the side and a whiteboard with projector at the front. The trouble is, it is still an outdated style of teaching despite its use of technology.
We have to ask, though, why this style of teaching is still evident today? Is it just that this is what teachers are comfortable with, is it that this was the way teachers were (are?) being trained to teach? Or is it that nobody is really sure what 21st century teaching should be like?
To me, this is the real challenge. When we talk about Next Generation Learning or transforming learning or personalised learning, nobody has yet given a clear image of what this sort of learning should be like. This has led to confusion, bemusement and some opposition among teachers and educationalists. Those of us involved in technology and education need to present a clearer picture of what modern learning is to be like and how technology can support this.