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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.
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.
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/