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Sheizaf Rafaeli

- Centre For Internet Research, Israel
Sheizaf Rafaeli directs the Centre For Internet Research in Israel
Sheizaf Rafaeli directs the Centre For Internet Research in Israel

What is the most exciting and productive learning environment?

Well, it's not going to be what we have today. What we have today is all too often a replica of what we had a millennia ago. I'm not the first to say that if someone fell asleep 1000 years ago and woke up this morning they would recognise almost nothing - they would not recognise the airplane because it did not exist, nor would they recognise the car or the factory. They wouldn't recognise the hospital, they would not recognise the military, they would not recognise democracy, they almost wouldn't recognise anything, with one exception - the classroom.

The classroom looks almost exactly the way it did 1000 years ago, and that's about to change. The format of students seated for many hours in a 'sage on the stage' set up will have to disappear. We will have to have much more dynamic, much more modular, arrangements. We're going to have to deal with learning analytics, with technology that allows teachers, parents and the students themselves to have measures of where they are, where they've been, where they're going, what their pace is, what their achievements are - all of which are not possible in the current architecture we educate within.

Our current architecture is very efficient for past needs of education to be an efficient babysitter, but not as a learning context. The idea of the amphitheatre, of seated large groups, with a single lecturer - we have to let that go. We have to build systems where the participants are active, talk, decide, choose, click and surf, and so forth. We should rethink the role of the book because it is morphing in front of our eyes. We have to take into account the orthopaedic disaster that is the school chair and desk, which are just inexcusable for medical, cognitive and social reasons.

In education we probably don't use our senses in correct mix at the moment - we should be using conscience, balance, smell and taste just as much as our eyes and ears. Certainly if the horizon you're talking about is 100 years, we will be doing that. We know that a wide range of senses are important for learning but we're only just beginning to explore that.

The most important thing is allowing students, teachers, parents and other stakeholders to be a lot more active and a lot less passive. It's going to be action - action in the form of talking to each other, peer learning, responding to the teacher, interacting with your classmates and actually doing things. There is a passive component to learning, such as lectures and listening, but those are the last things that need to be done at school. They can be done at home, they can be done in bed, while driving, while doing exercise, while doing the dishes or folding the laundry. The school that is currently built to create spheres or theatres for listening is going to have to move into the other responsibilities.

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