06 May 5 reasons why virtual classes are here to enhance our evolution as humans
School’s out, not for the summer, but because of the Covid-19 crisis.
If we were in 1918 the Covid-19 would be called “Spanish flu” and then yes, we should wait for it to pass as we didn’t have any other options.
But we’re not in 1918. We are in 2020. And we are facing this pandemic in the same way we faced it back then. We have chosen to freeze our lives hoping this will pass, to get back to “normality”. Despite the fact that we have the kind of technology that will allow us to go on with our lives, normally!
One thing we have taken wrong about technology is that we think it is here to help us do things better and faster. This is not true. Technology is about human evolution. Therefore it is here to help us grow, change, and do things differently, evolving ourselves to get to the next level.
Keeping in mind this totally different approach in our human evolution, the linear behaviour we have adopted in order to make things work in the physical environment will never work in the digital world.
Take for instance your phone in the physical culture environment. It is a device that allows us to communicate with people who own similar devices. Linear thinking. I call you on your number.
But in the digital world, your phone is an app among many others in your device. You can call someone on their number. You can use another app to chat with them or video call them, play a game with many others simultaneously, exchange files, opinions, raise a poll and quizzes, broadcast an event you’re attending now, or you can create something valuable to help others with their job. This kind of multi-linking environment can’t give us the maximum of its capabilities if we continue using linear thinking.
How we can get the most out of this opportunity?
By adopting abstract thinking.
Take for example the education industry that thought that by putting a camera in front of a teacher they could recreate the “normal” school. Thousands of committees around the world are trying to find out how to recreate the schooling system through the digital world. It will never work.
They already know this but they are wrong on why it’s not working. Because they think that the digital environment is limited compared to the physical one, while in reality, exactly the opposite is true.
Physical schooling is built on the physical capabilities we have as humans. We need a building, chairs, desks, limited people in a class so as not to be distracted, a dress code. Plus, the kids come to this particular school because their home is close to this area. We created a learning system based on how we behave when we are physically present in a room.
It demands a teacher who talks to the students and students that will talk to the teacher when it’s their turn.
To explain this further. in the physical school, we have to think linearly. The bell is ringing, we go to class, we open the book on page 4, solve the problem in 2a paragraph, we speak when it’s our turn. This is the linear way of thinking. We do things with priority, in a certain concept and following a specific logic in a serial way.
And I am sure that by reading this you’re wondering “And what is the problem with that? This is just normal.” And you are right. It is normal in the physical world. But when we change the environment, when we go digital, rules are not the same.
Which means that what is normal in the physical environment is absolutely abnormal in the digital one.
In short, the question is not what you think normal is but what works and what doesn’t.
In the digital world, the physical environment disappears. Information doesn’t come only from a teacher. Students are not only in one classroom and they are not only with their friends waiting to be saved by the bell. Students and teachers are connected in more than one way; they exchange data with a speed that is extremely faster. Do you think that in this new environment the rules of physical schooling will work?
If you are not convinced yet think how ironic it is that in physical schools smartphones are forbidden while in the digital schools they are the main platform to get things done. The restrictions and rules of the physical school will fail by nature in the digital environment.
Before we start a debate here are 5 things you should understand about how the abstract way of thinking will help us create the leaders of the future:
1. Source of Inspiration vs. source of knowledge
The teachers’ role in the virtual class is to be a source of inspiration. And the inspirational role is not something you can impose: you need to earn it.
The teacher is not there only to switch on and off mics but to instill curiosity to students. Curiosity does not come from a book or lesson. It comes from questions that trigger the mind to ask “what if?” or “How does this work?”.
In the digital world you don’t have to be the source of knowledge because knowledge is on the platform, the medium you are teaching on. So take it as an advantage. While you are talking about Napoleon the student can watch videos on him, check out Wikipedia and follow groups on Facebook or even make friends from France arranging their next vacations to have some fun while visiting the Louvre.
In the physical class there is no such ability (not because they can’t but because of regulations). The linear system in class forbids technology so all students have to focus on what the teacher says. But in the virtual class this restriction vanishes as the medium that allows the class to exist not only allows you to explore it, it actually triggers you to do it.
And how magical the word “explore” is. Who doesn’t want their kids to become explorers? But explorers don’t like restrictions. They want to explore things and understand their existence. A journalist once asked George Mallory why he was so obsessed with climbing Mount Everest, and he replied: “Because it’s there!”
So, instead of trying to, unsuccessfully, get back what worked in the physical world, start thinking how you can be a source of inspiration to your students, to get their true attention that will make them love your class. Your work is to create brilliant explorers and see them explore their own mountains.
2. Responsibility vs Authority
Students should unlearn what we forced them to learn if we want them to embrace their true nature: i.e. creativity. As it was already mentioned, students are the new explorers.
In the physical world, we have banned the use of smartphones during class. Now we are saying to students they need to use them. But they have no idea how to use them except than as a game machine. Many parents do not allow their kids to play with smartphones until they reach a specific age. Studies have shown that kids who were raised without age restrictions as regards the use of smartphones have the ability to adopt abstract habits, become faster in understanding technology, and in problem-solving. While kids who weren’t, struggle to adapt to technology as they try to understand it in the frame of linear thought.
But how is that? As Spiderman’s uncle said seconds before he died “With great power comes great responsibility.” Giving a smartphone to kids without filling it with educational apps and without teaching them how to ask questions and make learning fun, you will only create a kid who plays in the play-yard no matter if it’s the digital or physical one. The truth behind the parents who forbid smartphones is just their ignorance of how this world works. And all of us are afraid of the unknown therefore we try to protect our children. What’s the difference between letting our kids play on the Playstation or outside in the playground? None. But the latter seems more “normal”, doesn’t it?
Help your kids embrace their abstract thinking when using technology. Teach them to take responsibility instead of obeying your authority and the rules you came up with because of your ignorance. Think of your smartphone as a magical window to the world. Help them explore this world, travel through it, increase their curiosity in what they see and their creativity to find ways to make things happen by helping people, the environment, and society. This way is sure they are learning more, faster and most of the time they are receiving more value than from their boring physical classes.
3. Platform vs. Classroom
The purpose of the physical classroom is to be a place where the teacher and the students meet up to attend class. Nothing more, just this. The virtual class is much more because the class itself interacts with the digital world. It’s not a class, it’s a platform. A platform of communication, connection, integration, and creation. There are plenty of tools in that platform and the blackboard and the chalks are not on the list.
I’m a big fan of whiteboards. I love writing on one while explaining things or brainstorming with my team. I always take a photo of the whiteboards after a meeting. The truth is that I never go back to those photos. Whiteboards are there as a tool for brainstorming and explanation. It helps us at that particular moment but not after the meeting.
On the other hand links to blogs, videos, groups, forums, websites, ebooks, wikis, are much more valuable. The classroom is not any more bricks and mortar but a living entity that enhances your capabilities to the maximum. And it’s there, it’s free, waiting for you to use it.
4. Connection & Interaction vs. Muting & Listening
I was following a digital workshop and the teacher spoke for one minute. She just stated a fact and then asked a question. In the chat, I participated in 5 different conversations. Someone asked me if I understood the subject and another if I wanted to participate in his team. I answered both at the same time and I asked a question to another participant who had opened a new group in order to analyse what we discussed. At the same time, we were participating in a group lead by the teacher to ask questions.
And it doesn’t stop there. Most of us were asking questions in independent Facebook groups and forums. A multiverse of thousands or hundreds of people around the world who had connected and interacted for almost an hour. Can you imagine the tons of information, the knowledge that was exchanged, and the power our brain got in only 45 minutes?
Compare the above with a situation where just one speaks and everyone else must mute and listen waiting for their turn to ask if that will ever come because of lack of time. Not to mention conversations are not the strongest point in the physical classroom. They almost always lead to noises while people are arguing for things that have already been answered and are facts in the digital world.
Virtual classes are about connection and interaction and not about muting and listening. A new era of superhumans who can embrace an abstract model of thinking that allows them to create and live in a multiverse, a multidimensional environment, is about to start.
5. Challenging vs. comfortable
Some will say the free platforms that we use to create virtual environments are not safe. Which is rarely true.
For 15 years I held a high position in IT, knowing that this is the trick we have invented only to make our position significant and be relevant. The procedures we created and the restrictions we demanded as IT had mostly this purpose. Do you know how easy it is to hack an iPhone? we used to ask in meetings.
Still, only a tiny percentage (0,0001%) of people have ever been hacked. But it was a threat because if there is a threat I need to be there to protect you. The reality was that IT was relevant only to change the cartridge in printers and of course to teach Microsoft Office to people who didn’t take that class when they were young. The same applies to tools for virtual classes.
Choose the tool you love and help you enhance your inspiration. Choose wisely not because the expert from the government told you that if you use this free tool you will get 7 years of bad luck and your kids will burn in hell.
What is challenging is that to be connected and interact we have to be open and have the virtual environments open. That will create vulnerability without meaning it’s not safe.
We confuse safety with the comfort zone. But the truth is that safety has already left your comfort zone. Are you feeling safe in your job? 40 years ago the message was ‘get a job, hold tight on it and get a good retirement’. Do you believe that in our days this is feasible?
Get good grades at school, go to university, and receive a degree. Do this and you will get a good job. The truth is that good jobs are gone. They are not here anymore. That kind of work-for-this-business-as-always lifestyle is gone. It is in the past. You struggle to find a good job because nobody is creating that kind of job anymore. Those seats are taken and they will leave with their owners.
Today we are living in a zero-gravity world. Where the challenge is the new safe. The more you interact, the more you connect, the safer you are. The network matters the most, and the more valuable you are to the network, the safer you are. Entropy is in place. As long as you move and learn and interact and create valuable connections and most importantly valuable content, the safer you are.
Of course, this is not comfort. But it was never about comfort. The comfort zone has always been an illusion. What has always been valuable was exploration, creativity, innovation, and the ability to create connections and content.
Virtual classes offer this ability. And the only thing we have to do is to use them as they should be instead of trying to recreate the physical environment. If we don’t do this we are missing an opportunity to develop and transform into something more than we are.
If we do it, a brilliant world full of unimaginable potential will appear in front of us.