Education Talks: Digital revolution in the classroom

What can project-based learning and '20% time' do for your classroom? Esther Wojcicki is an American journalist, author, educator, and vice chair of the Creative Commons board of directors. In this interview she shares her views about digital revolution in the classroom. The interview is subtitled in 23 languages.

Digital revolution in the classroom

What are the main challenges to scaling-up new teaching approaches?

All the educational research shows for years that all the learning, 80% of the learning takes place outside the classroom. So, why not just bring that outside into the classroom? So the reason they learn outside the classroom is because there is interaction. People learn through action, they do not learn passively.

How can technology help to transform teaching and learning?

Before we had technology and everybody had a phone in their pocket, there were only a couple of ways to learn something. One was to go to school, and sit there, and kind of suffer through that, and listen and memorize, and then try to make that relevant. The second way was to go to a library and to get a book. So both of these methods were the way that people learned things. But then along came the digital revolution, and we all have access to computers, tablets, and phones. So if you want to learn something today, you can get it on your phone. You don't have to go to a library, and you don't have to sit in a lecture. But, the whole model in education is still based on sitting in a lecture, whether you are in second grade or wether you are in university.

Kids love technology. It is like a kind of a magic pencil. But if you give them the opportunity to explore using technology, then the excitement grows. If you can use the computer or the phone or the tablet as a basis for exploring, then you are going to be excited about it.

For example, if you want to learn something and don't know how to do it, you could go to YouTube and find a video. There are videos on everything.

What changes need to be made to encourage project-based learning?

What we need to do to encourage more project-based learning is to cut down on the importance of those test results, and not to focus just on the test results. I am not saying to get rid of the tests because nobody wants to get rid of the tests. I am just saying that maybe we shouldn't concentrate on it, maybe we should use the tests as gauge for like how the student needs to perhaps, learn more in a certain area, and not evaluate the teacher just on the test.

Maybe we should evaluate the teacher on the 'four Cs', which is:

  • Do your students know how to communicate?
  • Are they creative?
  • Do they have any critical thinking skills?
  • How about collaboration, do the kids have any empathy?

What about those skills in the workplace? What kind of skills are you teaching in that environment in your classroom?

What would be the main innovation you could advise teachers to implement in their classroom?

That's not to say you have to get rid of the lecture, it is just that you want to cut it down. You want to be able to take what you learn on a lecture and use it, so it becomes meaningful. That's why I am proposing this 20% time in the classroom, so the 20% would give the students 20% of the week to work on a project that employs the things that they learn or the information that they learn in the other 80% of the time. So it makes the learning relevant.

Just try it out and see if your kids don't like it. The first few weeks, it might look like chaos, and you might wonder like what are they doing. But in fact, at the end of the month, you would be surprised that how much they have learned.