Year 2030

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

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.

References:

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/ 

 

 

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Google = Game changer

Every student has a struggle from time to time. Sometimes it has to do with how they receive, store, and respond to information and materials in the classroom setting and beyond. When this is the case, Google can help!

Google Classroom Apps

Screen Shot Retrieved from: https://www.google.com/edu/products/productivity-tools/

Part of the allure of Google Apps in Education is that these provide an open portal through which all students can access individual materials and collaborate with others in groups as small as two or considerably larger. Setting a class up to work through Google Classroom can build a lot of consistency into learning, so that the lens through which students look is always pretty similar, and their focus can become more about what information the lens of Google Classroom is bringing them to look at, than about how to actually use the interface– which can sometimes be a problem when technology is new and different at each bend in the road.

Within Google Apps, students can collaborate on Google Docs, and Spreadsheets, and Create Slides, chat in Hangouts, and create simple websites for projects they are working on. Not only that, if the teacher is using all of these same apps for planning and implementing instruction, it is a seamless transfer to simply share these with the students for review and later use through the apps. This could really help students who work at their own pace with an opportunity to revisit material exactly as it was presented in class. They could independently deepen their understanding.

An instance that I’ve recently used Google Apps was to create an informational Google Site for a summer camp I help to coordinate. Embedded in this site is a registration form that I created through Google Forms. This registration form when completed generates an entry into a Google Spreadsheet. Within this Google Spreadsheet, I was able to embed an on board app that will take this information from a new entry, and populate the blanks left in a Google Doc to create an invoice. This app will then turn this Google Doc into a PDF and then e-mail it to the registrant as a PDF attachment! The registrant then can simply mail in the invoice with a check for the amount owed and we have a record of all the registrations, and PDFs sent out. It took me about 3 hours to build the site, create the form, and set up the app to e-mail the PDFs. It will probably save our group of organizers 10 times that in trying to track down payments, and transfer hand written registrations into excel files, etc. I was thrilled with the result and I wish I would have know about it sooner! How simple so many sign-ups could have been!

This helps students indirectly because we are able to transfer our energies away from clerical work and back to the educational real as we can spend that time in planning and preparation for instruction instead of moving mountains of paper!

Here’s a recent collection of tips about using Google in education

 

 

Considerations of having a paperless classroom

How would a paperless class change your role as a teacher?

The idea of never using the photo copy machine again is one of undying appeal! I can only imagine the many ways stress would be removed from my life at school without fighting with that monstrosity in the library closet on a weekly basis!

Seriously, it would change my role as a teacher because the management of physical, tangible paper would be unnecessary. It would probably save time in classes as well. In general, in face-to-face classes, I don’t use a lot of paper. Occasionally we read music from paper, but often we are learning through the whiteboard, or through rote process. In the online courses that I teach, this change has been made for me. As an online instructor, I haven’t ever given or received on piece of paper from a student. In this instance, the decision to go paperless was a forgone conclusion with no input from me whatsoever. I will say that the course works well in a paperless format.

How would paperless classes change learning?

Paperless classes will change learning for the face-to-face music classes that I teach quite dramatically when students need to create and remember ideas. The fastest and most reliable way for students to keep a record of their musical creativity is to write it with a pencil on a paper. As my job is to help build musical skills, I believe paper is an easy, reliable way to record ideas. The absence of paper in these situations would require that some electronic device be used. It is feasible to consider that students could simply use a notepad function on an iPad or something like that for this purpose, and in the future that seems possible. For now, the students don’t have access to this kind of technology, so we will probably still use the occasional ½ sheet of paper for this purpose.

In the online course, the lack of paper changed learning in nearly no noticeable way. When students need to submit a paper, they simply upload it to the LMS and I grade it there.

How would you measure learning in a paperless class?

I would measure learning the same in a paperless class as one filled with reams of it—according to student achievement. Use of paper and achievement have a weak corollary relationship in all the courses I’ve taken and taught. In the online course the achievement is measured within the LMS dependent upon student contributions related to content. In my face to face classes, student learning is measured by various assessments both on paper and not on paper. The absence of paper, would simply mean either we use dry erase boards or an electronic device. Either way, if the assessment required students to contribute to and submit an artifact, some way of making this possible would need to be found.

Would a paperless space make it easier or harder to build a learning network? Why?

Paperless spaces might make it less challenging build a learning network. The fact that students would need some form of digital interface, and LMS, a workspace of some kind where they would go to access and submit content they need or create for the course would also include opportunities for building and strengthening a learning network.

Paperless learning is a part of the future, and less paper is certainly being used than in the past. It stands to reason that there will be need for paper long into the future, but the advantages of not being bound to only use paper are undeniable. By having choices for how to share, contribute and submit content in courses, teachers and students can utilize options that work best for their particular situations and resources.

 

Re-envisioning Practice in the Classroom: The “Big Shifts”

Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, a book by Will Richardson, contains a chapter dealing with “Big Shifts” as a result of the read/write web. The tenth of these shifts outlines the responsibilities that will fall upon the classroom teacher to help make transitions away from the “chalk and talk” model education is leaving behind- some might say in the “chalk dust!” His case is for teachers to become leaders by example and to foster these behaviors in any willing colleagues. Below are the main points he offered for consideration.

Contribution, Not Completion, as the Ultimate Goal

“[T]eachers will have to start to see themselves as connectors, not only of content, but of people.”

“[T]eachers must become content creators as well.”

“Teachers also need to become true collaborators.”

“[T]eachers need to think of themselves more as coaches who model the skills that students need to be successful and motivate them to strive for excellence.”

“[T]eachers who use the tools of the Read/ Write Web need to be change agents.

Richardson, Willard (Will) H. (2010-03-01). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (p. 153-156). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

How has this shift affected your teaching practice so far?

Most notably, this affected me by leading me to feel in my teaching an absence of the ideals tied to the words in bold above. As a result, I find myself on adventures like this one, getting a second masters degree to acquire more knowledge and background in these kinds of contribution, not completion learning environments—to learn how to be a connector, content creator, collaborator, a coach and an effective agent of change.

How do you expect it might affect you in the future?

I am teacher who began his career 15 years ago in a classroom that contained a computer connected to the internet for the very first time. Prior to the week I began at that school, no computer had ever been in that classroom. In the front of that classroom was a record player and a chalk board and an overhead projector. Currently in my classroom, I have a laptop which is interfaced with a sound system that plays every sound file stored on the hard drive in the form of an mp3 file. I have an interactive whiteboard (coincidentally, covering the old chalk board), a digital projector, document camera, USB condenser microphones, and a myriad of other technology that was impossible to consider 15 years ago. This past year for the first time I taught an entire course online. The first time I’ve ever instructed a student and graded them and have never met them! I have been practicing the ideals that Richardson is calling for and I expect that in the next 15 years I will continue to do that. I expect that the landscape and scheduling will change. I happen to full agree with this statement: “The neatly organized four-or eight-period day, 180-day school year may no longer be the most effective structure to teach students in a world filled with easy access to information.” There are many reasons that the current school year/day model runs counter the 21st Century Skills teaching and learning.

In general, I expect that my place in education will shift along with the 10 that Richardson mentioned.

Have your views changed since you started this course?

My views have not changed much at all since I started this course. Intuitively, I know that there are changes happening and I am not as prepared as I could be for them. I’m taking this class to become more “literate” in the way that Richardson discussed in this chapter. I believe in the positive power that the collaborative environment holds for learners in person or online.

How can you use technology to facilitate this shift in your own classroom?

These shifts have been occurring in my classroom for a decade and a half. I will continue to embrace and incorporate new technology that serve the learning of my students wherever possible. In my face to face music classes, I hold back a bit because I believe the power of music making on the most basic human level needs to be learned in the absence of technology and approached without electronic assistance in much the same way we learn to interact through gesture and language.

Music, in my opinion, must be approached in a way that will truly connect the learner to the act of music making without an intermediary technology to interrupt that connection. There is something very different from playing a xylophone on an iPad screen when compared to holding a mallet and playing an acoustic xylophone in person. I believe the iPad experience is inferior, and much less appealing to our humanity. In protecting this somewhat sacred experience, I must keep some distance especially for the younger students. The older the students get the more open and welcoming I am for technology, and collaboration to be more and more a central part of our learning together.

No Substitute Teacher! Again!?

We used to have those around here!

For a teacher who cares about their students, sometimes taking a day off can be a struggle between staying home to get better from an illness, or going to school in spite of being sick just to make sure that their students get what they need.

Lately this problem has been compounded because a shortage of substitutes is wreaking havoc in education! In this blog post, which happens to be on website of the company that my employer uses to contact substitutes, an administrator gives some insight on the matter.

One of the answers our district has used in response to this need when it arises is to have other teachers use their planning time to cover classes. It is being discussed as to whether or not they will be compensated in the future for “giving up their planning time.” Sometimes, like in my case as a specialist, they simply cancel music, art, P.E., etc. for the day. You can probably imagine how my colleagues appreciate this wrench being thrown in their daily lives!

Here are a few articles from the regional news about our local districts and the teacher shortages both regular and substitute.

http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/schools-scrambling-to-find-substitute-teachers/article_6f5cf86c-d742-11e5-839a-1f3869a1a200.html

http://lancasteronline.com/opinion/editorials/pennsylvania-s-looming-teacher-shortage-and-current-substitute-teacher-shortage/article_b90a13e6-dcd8-11e5-a171-2bf82702f24b.html

http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/pa-schools-struggle-to-find-substitute-teachers-unfilled-spots-doubled/article_38ffc77c-7c07-11e5-ad8a-3302a3bbe695.html

Have you noticed substitute teacher shortages in your teaching situation? How have they affected you? What is the outlook you see for responding to this problem the future if this trend continues?

Skype: What’s the Hype?

Skype has been a highly useful “go-to” tool for connecting and maintaining communication with people in my professional network.

In the district where I teach, there is a distinguished alumni program which honors graduates of our district that have made substantial contributions to the world in their careers and personal lives. One such alumni, named Lori, received this award and happened to be named Alaska’s teacher of the year a few years ago. She is an elementary school music teacher in Alaska who has pioneered successful El Systema strings programs at academically struggling elementary schools. She is a big part of an organization there called Juneau Alaska Music Matters. Clearly, she deserves the national award and recognition from her alma mater!

My elementary students were asked to create a presentation/ performance to be a part of the ceremony, to which Lori would be invited. This performance would he given in front of the entire high school student body, and distinguished guests.

Once we had begun our performance preparations, I connected with Lori via e-mail to get some ideas about what might best supplement her speech and message she’d like to share at the awards ceremony. At her suggestion, she suggested that we try to get our classes to collaborate via Skype. Our students were totally in love with the idea of meeting one another through Skype and sharing about Pennsylvania and Alaska and the differences that each place offered. The best thing about the experience for the students though was the opportunity to share music with each other. They taught us songs, and we taught them songs and we even made some music together. We were able to make a connection a continent away not only for ourselves as professionals but for our students. It was an amazing way to bring students together who lived on opposite extreme ends of a very large continent!

I find myself needing to make plans for co-teaching in the summer courses that I instruct with colleagues who are in other parts of the world. We use Skype extensively to meet online, and talk face to face (in a loose sense) and share materials and ideas in real time. This helps immensely in reducing e-mailing and attachments, etc.

In several organizations in which I belong and hold leadership positions, some national and other regional, we are able to save time and money with Skype because is prevents us from having to travel long distances to hold meetings to do organizational work. We simply find a time that we all agree could work, and then hold a Skype meeting. It works so well, I even suggest these at times with local people to prevent the time and expense to travel from town to town.

I think these uses for Skype are highly effective, and I will continue to use Skype in this way in the future. I am currently experimenting with the shared screen options that will help at times in design phases and planning sessions.

I hope to gain and maintain an open line of clear and focused communication that incorporates the human elements of interaction like facial expressions and body language into the equation.

Skype and other tools similar to it like FaceTime and GoToMeeting all have very positive effects on organizational productivity and maximizing potentials.

Connectivism- Does it support our students?

First, what is Connectivism? It is an idea that, although suffers some detractors, may basically be considered a learning theory that says the sum of our learning is related to and dependent upon sources from which a learner may obtain knowledge, or skills. These are all related to one another in a network of connections made by the learner. As the learner matures, the number of connections made increase, and their potential learning power expands exponentially with each connection within the network.

In simpler metaphorical terms:

A person moves to a new town. They meet a resident who has lived in the town a long time. An association is made. The resident helps the newcomer to associate themselves with a large number of people in the new town. The newcomer now has all the previous associations in their former town, and is expanding their network daily in the new town.

If one simply substitutes the words “new learning” for the word “resident” and “people” above, and “town” is substituted for “big idea,” although it is a slightly clumsy comparison, this is a reasonable simulation.

It reads like this:

A person moves to a big idea. They meet a new learning who has lived in the big idea a long time. An association is made. The new learning helps the newcomer to associate themselves with a large number of new learnings in the big idea. The newcomer now has all the previous associations in their former big ideas, and is expanding their network daily in the new big idea.

That seems to make sense in general, but, does Connectivism support our students?

I’m taking a look at a section of a Wiki by some colleagues of mine in Group B presented dealing with the ideas of Connectivism. They put forth the idea that Connectivism does not support students. Their stance was mostly centered on a idea that one of the creators of the idea of Connectivism offered in a 2005 writing. George Siemens said, “Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today.”

In some ways, the knowledge we will learn is more important than the knowledge we already have acquired. It’s the new, the novel, the latest and greatest, and as a learner, it is what we are struggling to master most today. I think that this statement about our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow presents a tough buy-in. How are we really certain that what we choose to learn is what we will need to know tomorrow? Who is the oracle of what will be important tomorrow?

A change in the statement to, “Our ability to learn what is interesting and relevant to us today will fuel our passion about learning more tomorrow,” would be something more palatable to most.

If we use another metaphor, that knowledge is like a currency, no banker will ever tell you the money you will make is more important than the money you already have invested. The implication in Connectivism here is that the money already made is worth less than the money made today. The knowledge we have, like currency invested, is earning—and I love the double entendre that this makes—interest. It is helping to build more learning within our minds and even fueling our creativity to produce new ideas.

What good line of reasoning does it allow a teacher to make if we tell our students that the learning they do today is going to be less valuable tomorrow? As a student I hear, “I’m learning something that’s becoming worthless by the minute? No, thanks.” Most students will take issue with such a line of thinking and apathy will spread like wildfire.

In his blog post, “Critical Review of Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age” Kevin Stranack included a section “Applications in the Classroom,” where in the 2nd paragraph he describes and reinforces the arguments I made above. Here is the line I think brings it home:

“Perhaps the most controversial aspects are its [Connectivism’s] insistence that the network is more important than the content, that knowledge is a process rather than an artifact, and that knowledge can reside in appliances or other people, and be retrieved as needed rather than incorporated into an individual’s memory.”

Siemens references also a “pipe that is more important than what’s inside it” to make this point. Pragmatically, I don’t know anyone who cares more about the pipes in their homes than the water that runs out of the faucets. If you don’t think that’s true, ask someone whose street is for some reason not getting water and they are mid-shower. Their pipes are now full of air! They’ll most likely be hysterical about needing the water, not extolling the virtues of their pipes!

Conclusion

In general, I support the idea of Connectivism without buying into it wholesale. As educators, like investment advisers, we are trying to help students gather together an investment portfolio that will pay dividends for life. Our students are not well served by the idea that they can discredit the learning “in the bank” as less valuable than the new learning. It is our job as educators to help them take in the new learning, and compare it with the learning to which they have already assigned value and make a judgment either student and teacher together, or eventually as an individual on their own as to what is valuable, and enriches their lives and what, in the end is less valuable than what’s already “in the bank.”

Siemens, G. (2005, January 01). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm

Kevin Stranack. Critical View of Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Information retrieved from: August 2012.
http://stranack.ca/2012/08/16/critical-review-of-connectivism-a-learning-theory-for-the-digital-age/