A vision for the future of education
What will our world look like in 15 years?
When looking ahead to next year on a Google Calendar, the ultimate warehouse of our professional, and personal schedules, one may see a few dates occupied by important things like weddings, anniversaries, and birthdays, an occasional conference to optionally attend, etc. When looking 2 years ahead, the dates are entirely open. It is likely that we have no idea what might happen on any given day two years from now and beyond. Being rather unpredictable ourselves in the next 24 months, makes it a challenge for me to look beyond to almost 15 years from today and make predictions about the world in general but one thing can be said with relative certainty: We will have screens.
Screens will be our sources of communication, and nodes of receiving and sharing information. More or less 25 years ago, TV and other screens were one-way sources of information, like a faucet to be turned on and off with little choice over what it might be delivering from its spout. In the past 20 years, our screens were more customizable in terms of what they might deliver to us. It became possible to request information specific to our own needs through computer monitor screens and internet search engines. We could also e-mail ideas through screens instead of on paper in the “snail mail.” In the past 15 years, our phones developed screens, and texting was a new way to send information back and forth to others. In the past 10 years, we’ve seen our phones develop advanced internet capabilities becoming “smart” phones. Now, video phone calls are a normal possibility. A screen that is the portal to the whole world held in the palm of our hands has changed our society dramatically. In just over a quarter of a century, screens have revolutionized how we as humans interact with one another across the world.
As we look forward to the near and distant future of screens, the way our world will look as a result of these screens having become so integral in our lives is going to be determined by one main factor. “The decision of what kind of life to live between the screens remains a political one, shaped not by our inventions but by our own decisions.” (Saunders, para. 10).
We must decide our fate. Our technological and societal world as a whole will be a direct result of the way the individuals holding screens decide to shape it.
What does 15 years change in education hold in store?
Since nearly every decision maker in the world will be interacting with each other through screens, it would make sense to assume that our education system will follow along on that course as a form of developing real-world readiness. The managing director of education practice at the innovation firm IDEO Sandy Speicher says that “The school day of the future will be unpredictable, inconsistent, and designed to be wildly relevant for the learner, their engagement, and their development.” (Speicher, 2011, para. 12). This indicates that the decisions we make as educators will be in relation to the individual educational needs of specific students.
In a related article by a different author, a list of 21 things that will be different by the year 2020 offered concrete ways that this changes toward Speicher’s vision might become visible. Desks, homework as we know it, paperless classes, attendance, lockers, physical building use, schools not organized by grades, professional development done in-house, regular parent/teacher conferences through technology all stuck out when they were presented because many of us are seeing these changes even now (Blake-Plock, 2011).
These interrelated changes that the outside world has on education and vice versa will become less like the effect the tide has on an estuary where sweeping changes are done in grand gestures, and more like the water cycle, where the rain of the world will fall on the education system, and be filtered out through the soil of education and into the water supply once more. Each offering an organic interaction with the other as less and less academic knowledge is bound up in the vaults of academia. This will not only likely occur, but become necessary because the world will advance in so many ways, so quickly that academia could never be agile enough to separate the developments out, study them, and present them as learning opportunities because by the time that the do this, their perspectives will be obsolete.
The changes in education will affect the world because in order to be meaningful, education has to become a process by which students are contributors and become connected to the products within the world. They may become collaborators in industry or local infrastructures as students of the processes and products therefrom while simultaneously introducing ideas about how these processes and products could be used effectively in different and innovative ways. The new creativity of the student who is connected to the world at large could become a catalyst for change that would otherwise remained an undiscovered option.
How innovation will affect the classroom
Ultimately, the changes in education will be felt at the exchange point between the student-learner and the instructor-facilitator. In this interplay, knowledge is made applicable and meaningful. The screen plays an enormous role in this relationship, and has for years in many versions. Firsts screens were simply dirt and a stick, then progressed to chiseled tablets of stone, then chalk and slate, eventually, projectors of film, then TVs, and overhead projectors, and lately, digital projectors and interactive smart boards; and on the individual level, the computer, laptop, tablet and hand-held devices. As the screen for sharing information became less bound to a particular room in a building, and became accessible in places like our homes, the importance of the classroom as a dispensary of information dwindled, and its importance as a place of collaboration increased.
Tony Bates, an elder statesman of distance and e-learning planning and management wrote a Vision for 2020 wherein he made predictions for what a classroom may look and feel like in the future (Bates, 2014). A selected list of these ideas include:
- Brick-and-mortar classrooms will become integrated with online and e-learning and the division will become less and less pronounced.
- Fewer classrooms in general, more diversity will develop in terms of how they are used.
- The set-up and furniture of a future classroom is designed for collaboration.
- Lecture based courses will be gone.
- Written exams will be gone, final projects will take their place
- Teachers will need to be more responsive to technology and its applications within and beyond the classroom.
- Privacy and security concerns will grow
A comprehensive list of decisions that each stakeholder—students, instructors, facilities, government— will need to make regarding how they will shape their own futures is provided as well. These are offered by Bates in the form of questions and could each become fodder for an entire series of blog posts related to future outlooks for education over the next decade.
Being a Teacher in 2030
Perhaps the greatest challenge an active educator will have over the next 15 years will be to adapt quickly and effectively enough to maintain their value as a worthy colleague within the profession. As it seems, many educators are quite keen holding fast to tried-and-true “ways we always did things.” It will become a forgone conclusion that those educators who choose to deny themselves opportunities to increasingly incorporate 21st century skills into their own professional activities and the instruction they deliver to their students will quickly become irrelevant classroom teachers in many vitally important ways.
Our students will require guidance and facilitation in 21st century skills in order to become collaborators with their peers in both face to face and online environments. The course for which this post is being written, Building Online Collaborative Learning Environments, provided open portals through which an educator could explore a variety of media and begin to make plans both immediate and long-ranging toward incorporating aspects of these learning media into their own instruction and classroom environment. Inevitably, it will be the decision of these educators, the people who are often physically between or behind the screens and the learners, to make the decisions together that will shape what life in education will look like for themselves. As instructors inspiring life-long learning, we must lead, not as experts, but by example as fellow students of the world, and by example, show our travelling companions that we share ideas and learn new things with them. Together our shared experiences as members of a collaborative learning community enrich and make each of our individual lives more vibrant and rewarding.
Bates, Tony. (2014, January, 12). 2020 Vision: Outlook for online learning in 2014 and way beyond [Blog]. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from http://www.tonybates.ca/2014/01/12/2020-vision-outlook-for-online-learning-in-2014-and-way-beyond/
Bates, Tony. (2014, January, 12). “Steelcase Node Classroom.” [Image]. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from http://www.tonybates.ca/2014/01/12/2020-vision-outlook-for-online-learning-in-2014-and-way-beyond/ http://www.tonybates.ca/wp-content/uploads/Node-classroom.jpg
Blake-Plock, Shelly & Barseghian, Tina. (2011, March, 2). 21 things that will be obsolete by 2020. [Blog]. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2011/03/02/21-things-that-will-be-obsolete-by-2020?
Saunders, Doug. (2014, January, 4). “adgets alone don’t make the future. [Blog]. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from http://content.easybib.com/guides/citation-guides/apa-format/how-to-cite-a-blog-apa/
Speicher, Sandy & Barseghian, Tina. (2011, February, 22). Unpredictable, inconsistent, and designed to be wildly relevant for learners, their engagement, and their development. [Blog]. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2011/02/22/the-school-day-of-the-future-is-designed/