Interview report: Juan Freire | Co-founder of TEAMLABS

Interviewed by the Observatory of Educational Innovation

 

Juan Freire is the co-founder of the TEAMLABS “laboratory”, also known as the classroom-, teacher and exam-free university that aims to create learning experiences through team projects and the "Learning by Doing" method. TEAMLABS forms part of the international network for education in entrepreneurship, Mondragon Team Academy (MTA).

Observatory: What are the biggest challenges a teacher currently faces in the classroom?

Juan Freire: The main challenge teacher faces is their changing role. They are no longer the only source of information or the only means of transmitting knowledge to students. Nor do they decide which information is relevant or not. You don’t need a teacher for that. Nevertheless, the teacher is more important than ever.

Teachers can be called facilitators, companions or coaches. In fact, I like the concept of a coach, because in sports, the coach doesn’t play the game, but gets others to play. In other contexts, the coach also asks good questions: in this case, asking the right questions is more important than giving the right answers. This new role for teachers implies a complete shift in their teaching practice.  

The main challenge teacher faces is their changing role. They are no longer the only source of information or the only means of transmitting knowledge to students. Nor do they decide which information is relevant or not. You don’t need a teacher for that. Nevertheless, the teacher is more important than ever.

Observatory: Which skills or competencies do our students need to develop to face the challenges of the future?

Juan Freire: I think that there’s one core skill and that’s entrepreneurship, which doesn’t mean that the student is going to become a businessperson. Entrepreneurial skills include autonomy, activity, being proactive, having the capacity to address challenges or problems, finding solutions and implementing them. I think it’s a fundamental skill for the world we live in.

Personal and social knowledge, or emotional and social intelligence, are other key skills. In other words, we need to be able to deal with and relate to others. Critical thinking implies understanding global diversity and its complexity, becoming aware of and participating in, rather than rejecting, this plurality in order to generate new opportunities. There are also several technical skills that I call “the new languages”. Nowadays, digital, design and innovation languages are technical abilities that have also become transversal skills and universal languages. When we were younger, we learned to read and write and now we need to learn these new languages.

Juan Freire at  CIIE 2015 . 

Juan Freire at CIIE 2015

Nowadays “the new languages”: digital, design and innovation languages are technical skills that have also become transversal skills and universal languages.

Observatory: How can we help to develop a spirit of innovation in children or the new generations?

Juan Freire: Children and young people need spaces where they can experiment, innovate, create new things, and learn by experience, practice or actions. Therefore, we must create spaces that offer freedom and confidence. We were brought up in a highly structured educational setting where everything was planned, scheduled or predefined. Spaces that are quiet, inspire confidence and offer freedom must also be allowed to exist.

Images:
2nd International Congress on Educational Innovation (2015). Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/ciietec 2nd International Congress on Educational Innovation (2015). Retrieved from http://ciie.itesm.mx/es/httpciiemxspeakerdeb-masters/juan-freire/  

Interview report: Tyler DeWitt | Research Scientist and Professor

Interviewed by the Observatory of Educational Innovation

Tyler DeWitt participated in the 2nd International Congress of Educational Innovation organized by the Tecnológico de Monterrey. He is a research scientist, high school teacher and digital content author. Tyler holds a Ph.D. in Microbiology from MIT. As a teacher he has been dedicated to developing educational models that encourage critical thinking and creativity using the art of storytelling.

Observatory: What is the most important skill a student must develop to face the challenges of the future?

Tyler DeWitt: There are so many, but in my mind as a scientist, are scientific reasoning skills. I think students really need the ability to look at information, to look at data in the world around them, and be able to make sense of it, to make logical conclusions based on information that they see in the world.

One of the most important challenges teachers face nowasays is that they need to teach students how to think, not just how to memorize.

Observatory: What are the most important challenges that teachers face nowadays?

Tyler DeWitt: There are so many challenges for teachers. The one that is most important for me is teaching students how to think, not just how to memorize. These are two very different skills. And I think traditionally a lot of education has focused on memorization, learning lots of lists of definitions and facts. That can be important because you do need a foundation in some basic knowledge, but once a very basic level of background has been taken care of, that's when teachers need to shift their educational focus, and start teaching students how to think through problems, how to engage in creative problem solving and critical thinking and all that sort of thing.

Observatory: What has been your experience in the 2nd International Congress of Educational Innovation?

Tyler DeWitt: There are so many different people all over the world engaging education in very different ways, and it's a great opportunity to come together and talk about what they're doing in their own corners of the world.


Images:
2do. Congreso Internacional de Innovación Educativa (2015). Retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ciietec 2do. Congreso Internacional de Innovación Educativa (2015). Retrieved from: http://ciie.itesm.mx/es/tyler-dewitt-teaching-science-as-storytelling-how-engaging-students-in-the-process-of-authenticsience-can-bring-relevance-engagement -and-excitement-to-the-classroom/