The recent news that Michael Gove, Education Secretary and MP, wishes to bridge the gap between state and private schools and extend students' time in the classroom to a maximum of 10 hours per day, has received mixed reaction from both parents and teachers alike. While there is evidence to support longer school days, there is also just as much research negating the idea.
There are also other factors to consider. In the UK, the average primary school currently has 27 children per lesson, while there is an average of 20 students per lesson in secondary education. Amidst growing student class numbers and longer hours, teachers are also challenged to keep their students learning and engaging with their subject matter.
Rather than focusing on how long students are in their seats each day, we should focus on ways to improve teacher's time so that they can increase student engagement in more meaningful ways.
The most successful in recent years has been peer-to-peer instruction (P2P) and the Flipped Learning technique. Both methods enable teachers to work more efficiently and help to encourage students to learn in the way that best suits them.
In P2P instruction, students interact with other students, in and out of the classroom, to attain educational goals - enabling pupils to collaboratively learn from each other. Whilst the content may be presented by the teacher, exploration, debate, and discovery are all facilitated by students in small learning groups. This allows students to explore areas of interest beyond the surface of the content and each group can then present their findings back to the entire class, expanding everyone's understanding.
Similarly, Flipped Learning allows students to access theoretical content, created by the teacher, inside and outside of the classroom. In this scenario, the teacher's role is to provide context and help students find connections between their ideas at a time when the student is ready. Class time can be used to answer questions and undertake practical learning.
While these practices are not entirely new in education, the use of technology to improve education can make these methods much more effective than they would be without.
With the proliferation of mobile devices owned by students, learning no longer needs to be restricted to the classroom. Over the last few years, momentum has been growing for mobile learning in the education sector to aid anywhere, anytime learning. The interest is largely due to the ubiquitous adoption of mobile devices by students - in fact in the next couple of years, 12 to 17 year olds will be the second largest adopters of smartphone technology according to eMarketeer. This increase in the availability of mobile devices, including tablets, in the classroom offers exciting new opportunities to teachers.
M-learning has paved the way for teachers to practice the Flipped Classroom technique and peer-to-peer learning method, as teachers can produce videos to teach students and encourage collaborative debate and learning outside of the classroom. This reserves classroom time for more in-depth interaction between students and personalised guidance from teachers.
There are many benefits to both approaches when used in conjunction with mobile, including effectively improving self-sufficient learning, maximising existing teaching resources and injecting creativity in and out of the classroom.
With the abundance of technology already available in schools - we can maximise learning to keep students engaged - without having to add any further pressures on teachers or students.