Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What Will Education Look Like in Ten Years?

I have been thinking a lot lately about what school will look like 10 years from now. I am finishing my 6th year of teaching right now and it has changed tremendously over those 6 years. Most of the changes are related to technology but I think the bulk of the changes are a reflection on how the world is changing around us.

The world is flat once more. We are able to connect in so many ways that we couldn't connect just a few years ago. Today at a PD presentation, another teacher told us about QuadBlogging. We can now enroll our student or classroom blogs into this blog exchange system with other schools throughout the world. We can get feedback from outside of our buildings. It is the digital version of our old penpal projects done when I was a student in the public school system.

So what will schools look like in 10 years?

I think school (the physical building) will be a place where students go when they are struggling, or need resources, or need to collaborate with people in person. School will provide offices for their teachers as a place where they develop curriculum or meet for professional development or to meet with students for individualized instruction. Schools could very well abolish their bells and become a place of computer labs and recording studios. Learning will become an anyplace/anytime venture. Students will be able to enroll in courses online from a menu of schools who employ highly skilled instructors. Students might be enrolled in multiple online schools so they can have their pick of classes as well as instructors. Their local institution may end up becoming a clearing house for their learning by tracking what students are required to do, testing their competency, setting them up with internships, referring them with online programs that meet their individual needs, tutoring services, learning portfolio and project presentations, etc. Texting their teachers might become as common to them as texting their friends. Accessing learning will be done on-the-go using cell phones and tablets with data plans.

This is just what has been rattling around in my mind. It makes me wonder as a professional instructor how I should prepare myself for this shift? I am currently developing my courses to be blended, requiring all my students to use an online component. I suspect that eventually I will have requests for my blended material be made available to students who cannot fit Computer Sciences into their regular schedule as a way to earn their credit in the subject area. They will become distant learners, but in the building with their online instructor.

An important aspect of this shift will live with the students. They will need to become managers of their own time. They will need to start planning so they can fit it all in. Right now we plan their time and direct that time with bells and a school year that ends on the 180th day. A student that has good time management skills can finish a course in half the time whereas a student that does not manage their time well could end up taking twice as long. Time to learn becomes rolling, and honestly, makes it necessary to have school year round. Learning could become what it should be, a natural process of curiosity and discovery.

Again, this is just what is rattling in my brain. In fact, 10 years from now, kids could still be required to enter the building, spend 6 hours a day there and go home at the end of the day. Maybe we will still have a bell system that moves them from one subject to the next throughout the day. But my gut tells me that the digital component that is entering our lives will force a change in the physical part of how we educate our students.

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