Keystone was fortunate enough to be invited to hear the outgoing Headmaster of Eton, Tony Little, speak last week. To a packed house at the Royal Geographic Society, he delivered an excellent paper for the Old Etonian Association titled… “The New Etonian.” You can view a video of the lecture on the Eton website.
The talk was wide-ranging and full of the wisdom and experience of a man who has been at the head of one of the world’s leading boarding schools for almost 15 years. He displayed a genuine interest in the history of his school, and it was pleasing to see the delight he took in the discovery of a 16th Century wall-painting at Eton, inscribed with a quote by Cicero that might be seen as a rallying cry for every private tutor:
“Virtus preceptoris est ingeniorum notare discrimina”
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Mr. Little’s talk was the openness he showed towards the latest trends in teaching and learning, especially online teaching. Eton is frequently mischaracterised as educationally reactionary; on the basis of last week’s lecture, and the talks Keystone has had with Eton beaks recently, nothing could be further from the truth. Could a portion of Eton’s curriculum be taught online in the future, Mr. Little mused? Could Eton teach students who did not actually reside at Eton? Mr. Little concluded his lecture by reaffirming his confidence in the strong relational culture that could only be achieved in the didactic teaching environment of a school, but in one telling admission, Mr. Little said that his biggest fear was to wake up in 10 years time and realise that the best students were learning in a way that was completely unsuited to the way Eton was set up. His legacy will be a Centre of Innovation and Research in Learning (CIRL), which will be tasked with making sure that Mr. Little fears never become a reality.
Two experiences last week further reinforced this sense of the trend towards a wider acceptance of online teaching and learning. The first was a coffee with Ed Lawless, Principal of Pamoja Education. Ed said that he had been something of a traditionalist when he had been an IB teacher in his days before Pamoja. However, his experience, with Pamoja, which teaches whole IB Modules online and teaches more than 2000 students online, has converted him. He feels that we are now on the cusp of a major revolution in the spread of online teaching.
And then last week we had the news that, in the UK, online civil law courts would be established to settle disputes worth under £25,000. As the Daily Mail reported:
According to the Civil Justice Council, the current system of resolving disputes in a physical court is too costly, too complex and too slow… [The online court] would allow judges to decide cases online after analysing paperwork submitted via email, with an option of telephone hearings or Skype calls if necessary. [Professor Susskind’s] report states: 'ODR (Online Dispute Resolution) is not science fiction. Each year on eBay around 60 million disagreements amongst traders are resolved through ODR.
Swap the words ‘court’ for ‘school’ and ‘judges’ for ‘teachers’, and is it so hard to believe that we might be on the cusp of a massive overhaul of how traditional services are delivered in this country?