10 predictions for what lies ahead in education
10 predictions for what lies ahead in education
Now, we don’t expect to join the ranks of legend. But given our position within the educational technology industry, Schoolwires does have a unique perspective shaped by our work in school districts across the nation and with some of the most innovative educators in the field today. It’s our business to know education. Given all the new things we’ve learned lately, here is our forecast for what we believe lies just around the corner.
#10 Education Goes Global…In a Big Way
In his bestselling book, The World is Flat, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman declared that events and technologies converged at the turn of the 21st century to drive explosive growth, bringing the middle class in China, India and many other developing nations fully into a global economy. In That Used to Be Us, Friedman’s 2011 book co-authored by Michael Mandelbaum, the authors call on Americans to study harder, among other things, to strengthen and propel us forward to keep pace with the rest of the world. And now Julie Lindsay and Vicki A. Davis, in their 2012 book, Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds: Move to Global Collaboration One Step at a Time, call for the embedding of global collaboration into the educational curriculum at all levels — and quickly — for students everywhere to be able to find their place and succeed in this rapidly changing landscape.
#9 “BYOD” Equalizes Mobile Connectivity
Seven years ago, One Laptop Per Child set a goal of blanketing the educationally and technologically underprivileged world with specially designed $100 laptops. As of April 2011, the price of one such computer remained above $200. Today, some critics question if $100 is a realistic price point for a laptop. Others are wondering, perhaps more relevantly, if a $100 laptop is really necessary.
Many children in developed nations already live in a “BYOD,” or Bring Your Own Device, world. Even in developing nations, people are more likely to have a mobile phone than a toilet.1 Before BYOD can go mainstream, though, some obstacles do remain. Chief among them are universal Internet access and ensuring that economically disadvantaged children get outfitted with devices. In Project Tomorrow’s annual 2010 Speak Up poll, 30 percent of administrators cited digital equity and student home access as a challenge for their districts — up from 12 percent just three years earlier. And 64 percent of K-12 teachers polled rank digital equity among their chief concerns about using mobile devices within education.
As a human rights issue, Internet access is gaining traction. And while the case for universal device access is a harder sell economically, some U.S. school districts are forging ahead with their own plans to get them into students’ hands. On March 1, 2012, Texas Public Radio reported that the McAllen Independent School District began distributing more than 6,000 iPad and iPod Touch devices — a first step in the district’s plan to close the digital divide for its 25,000 students by outfitting every one of them with an iPad or iPod Touch.2
Some might dismiss McAllen as an anomaly. Others will see it as a bellwether.
#8 Goodbye, Printed Text Books
“The physical book is dead in 5 years.” Or so said Nicholas Negroponte, founder and chairman of One Laptop Per Child, at the Technology conference on August 6, 2010.3 Was his statement premature? Perhaps. It is, after all, 2012, and printed textbooks are still alive and kicking. Then again, nothing goes down without a fight and mounting evidence supports Negroponte’s point, even if he was off a bit on the timeline:
- MIT Open Courseware might be cited as the godfather of the paper-free curriculum. It has been giving away its courses online to anyone who wants to take them for more than a decade.
- In July 2011, the South Korean government launched the $2 billion U.S. nationwide Smart Education program to digitize all of its elementary and secondary textbooks.
- Curriki (www.curriki.org) supplies free and open resources to teachers. The glory days of tweaking textbook content to justify selling a new edition are coming to an end, if Scott McNealy, co-founder and former chief executive of Sun Microsystems, and now founder of Curriki.org, has anything to do with it. “We are spending $8 billion to $15 billion per year on textbooks [in the United States], “McNealy said in a New York Times interview. “It seems to me we could put that all online for free.”
- Inkling (www.inkling.com) publishes what it calls “Smartbooks. Textbooks that think.” for the iPad.
- In March of 2012, Apple fully committed to the e-textbook business, unveiling its new iPad3 and introducing e-textbooks to the iTunes store.
Schools across the nation are testing all-iPad classrooms as they prepare to transform themselves into digital learning zones with no need for traditional printed materials or paper resources. This trend will gather momentum as BYOD and universal connectivity picks up speed.
#7 We Learn a Few Things About Radical Innovation in Education from the Developing World
In 1999, social engineer and educational technology professor, Sugata Mitra installed an Internet-connected PC, with a hidden camera, in a wall bordering a New Delhi slum. What he and his colleagues saw were curious local children teaching themselves how to use the computer, discovering how to access the Internet — and then spreading that knowledge throughout their community.
In a 2010 TedTalk4, innovation researcher Charles Leadbeater credited Mitra, among others, for pioneering radical societal changes in the developing world where hundreds of millions of illiterate parents are now rearing children who are, through whatever means available to them, becoming educated. Leadbeater’s work has taken him to some of the poorest areas in the world. What he has discovered is that sometimes radical innovation comes from the places with “huge need, unmet latent demand and not enough resources for traditional solutions — high-cost solutions that depend on professionals — to work.”4
In the developed world, are we resting on our abundance of resources? With our education system in need of transformation, we can, and should, take inspiration from the places where educational innovation happens out of necessity every day.
#6 Reading. Writing. And App Design?
As an educator, how would you feel if one of your high school students — as a result of your “Community Problem Solving with Technology” course — was asked by a professor in the Masters of Public Health program at Boston University to teach a summer seminar for his students on how to design databases for the handicapped? The words humbled, honored and button-bursting pride come to mind. And what if that same student took the job but turned down the salary saying, “That’s my project. They’re helping me build my project. I should be paying them.” According to renowned educator, Alan November, in a March 5, 2011 TEDxNYED talk, 5 what he learned from this true-life experience was that if you give students ownership of a problem and the intellectual tools to think it through, you might be amazed by what they’ll do to solve it — without expecting any reward, whether a good grade or financial gain — in return.
As November illustrates, the days of teaching computer programming are long behind us. It’s no longer enough to know HTML or Flash or C++. When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Students need to be able to discern when it’s most appropriate to use a range of different problem solving tools. So where would a course on app development fit? Any place where students need to move from being passive content consumer to active content creators — as developers of presentations for project-based learning initiatives, as peer leaders in online learning communities and much more.
#5 Class Time Is Time Spent Together.
Aaron Sams, a high school chemistry teacher in Woodland Park, CO, and his former teaching partner, Jon Bergmann, found what they thought was a novel solution to a unique problem. Their students’ extracurricular activities — and Woodland Park’s remote location in the Rocky Mountains west of Colorado Springs — sometimes had them on a bus to an event rather than in attendance at their afternoon classes. To enable students to catch up on what they missed in the evening, Sams and Bergmann began posting video recordings of, or “vodcasting” their daily lectures.
However, vodcasting had an unanticipated consequence. Students began skipping their lectures because they could watch them at home at night.
As Bergmann’s said in a 2009 interview in the Journal, “It made us rethink: What do [students] need us to be physically present for?”6 The answer was that students needed the teachers most when they were struggling, when they couldn’t tell from the vodcasts or their notes how Sams and Bergmann got their results. That’s when Bergmann and Sams decided to change the natural order of the typical classroom.
Now their students watch their lectures as homework and come to class to experiment, participate and collaborate — with Sams and Bergmann, and with each other.
The results of Sams’ and Bergmann’s experiments with the flipped classroom have been impressive, as you’ll see here in Sams’ classroom video.7 So Impressive, in fact, that we predict that a number of you will be trying this one yourself. If you’re eager to get started, explore The Flipped Class Network. Bergmann, who left Woodland Park to become the Lead Technology Facilitator for the Joseph Sears School in Kenilworth, IL, facilitates the site, which he calls a social network dedicated to educators interested in “the flip.”
#4 Technology Makes Schools More Responsive to Students’ Individual Learning Needs
The School of One, a full-time math program in several New York City public middle schools, is transforming the way the classroom functions by tapping into the full power of technology rather than using it merely to supplement the curriculum. Students are assessed yearly to find their place on the Skill Map of almost 400 math skills to be mastered between grades 4-9. Then each student works at his or her own pace to work through a custom learning plan, or Playlist. Daily online quizzes, customized for every student based on their Playlist, provide teachers with valuable information —showing them whether a student is ready to move on to a new skill, and to which modalities (large group, small group or virtual instruction; small group collaboration; live remote learning; independent practice) and which lessons work best for each student. A learning algorithm, taking into consideration academic history and profile; the previous day's assessment results; and available content, space, staffing and technology, generates a recommended daily schedule for each student and teacher. School of One retains the social aspects of community learning while making every day a fully-customized, individual learning experience for each student.
The results of School of One’s 2009 summer pilot and 2010 spring pilot were impressive enough to get the program implemented in select schools for the 2010-2011 school year:
• After adjusting for variables such as fluctuation in after-school attendance rates and the short duration of the pilot, the New York City Department of Education's Research and Policy Study Group (RPSG) estimated that students participating in the program learned at a rate 50 to 60 percent higher than those in traditional classrooms.8
• The Educational Development Center, Inc.’s evaluation found a 28 percent rise in participant scores between pre-test and post-test.8
• In a peer comparison of 2009 summer school programs conducted by the New York City RPSG, the group found that this program’s participants learned at a significantly higher rate — as much as seven times faster — than peers with similar starting scores and demographic characteristics.8
Along with being a fascinating idea, School of One makes our predictions list because results like this are worth exploring. If you’re a Freakonomics fan, find out what economist and author Stephen J. Dubner had to say about School of One, or listen to the related Freakonomics Radio podcast here.
#3 Oral History Goes High Tech.
Right now, the Ghetto Film School is best known among budding young filmmakers as a program that will give them a chance to learn from the best working directors of the day. So how does this fit into educational trends? Because the future belongs to storytellers, as Daniel Pink points out in his book, A Whole New Mind. Ghetto Film School has found a way to open up its program to students far beyond the New York City’s city limits — and, because no one tells a story quite like a filmmaker, it gives students the chance to learn from some of the best.
Ghetto Film School’s “online MasterClass hangouts” brings students from around the world together with renowned directors to learn how to tell their stories cinematically. Using a Google+ account as a passport to hang out, Ghetto Film School students learn how to digitize their paper-and-pen stories, turning them into multi-media, multi-dimensional productions that require them to stretch such 21st century skills as creativity, communication and collaboration.
#2 The Future Belongs to Those Who Understand Connections.
Back in 2010, educator and writer Howard Rheingold made a prediction of his own about education. He said, “Understanding how networks work is one of the most important literacies of the 21st century.”9 Who we are connected to, and how we are connected, drive our politics, our services, our most meaningful projects, our protests — even our own individual reputations. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t natural network thinkers, as evidenced by the number of people these days who have lost jobs, friends and other opportunities over imprudent Facebook posts, rants on online forums and other social networking faux pas.
Teaching students about how they are already building their network of connections — and how those connections might follow and affect them for many years to come — begins with a well-thought-out acceptable use policy in place at your school.
Striking a balance between protecting students from harm while allowing them access to the Internet’s vast store of educationally-valuable resources is not easy. Web 2.0, BYOD mobility and changing state and federal restrictions make an already challenging situation even more complicated. The Consortium for School Networking Initiative can provide a number of resources, like this article, to help you get started.
If you don’t have one yet, we predict you’ll need an acceptable use policy soon, because by modeling good social networking principles, students will learn from you that online doesn’t mean invisible, and that what happens online never really goes away.
#1 We Enter the Age of the Whole Brain.
The next time one of your students asks what she should be when she grows up, you can play it safe and run through the usual list: doctor, nurse, lawyer, businessperson, police officer, fire fighter, even teacher. Or, if you’ve been paying attention to the trends — and here you are reading a paper about predictions, so that might not be too unlikely — you can point to a few options that lean a little more heavily on right-brain skills. A designer, for example, or website developer. Because according to Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind, the age of iron-fisted left-brain rule is coming to a close. In its place is a growing emphasis on whole brain thinking.10 Design disciplines, with their emphasis on right brain creativity and left-brain problem solving are being elevated to new levels. And Sir Ken Robinson, a favorite on the TED Talks circuit, has long been calling for a revolution in the education system to stop training the natural creativity out of our children.11
Pink, Robinson and others are sounding a clarion call to educators to ensure that students develop the 21st century skills that will prepare them to be successful as global citizens who can engage their whole brains to meet the challenges we all face.
Schoolwires, Inc. provides a suite of technology products and related services to more than 1,300 educational entities, including K-12 school districts and schools in the United States and China. The company’s technologies are designed to foster community, student, teacher and parent engagement in the classroom, locally and internationally. Its solutions include an integrated website and content management system, a safe social learning and networking system, and an enterprise technology platform. Schoolwires brings together a district’s essential technologies, information, and content to effectively engage the K-12 community in support of district and student success. The company currently serves an estimated 10 million users and has been recognized as one of the top privately held education companies for the fifth consecutive year by Inc magazine. Schoolwires was incorporated on April 5, 2000 and is headquartered in State College with office in Beijing, China.