For the past four years I have offered predictions of what I see around the corner for high-tech in K-12 schools (see December 26, 2009, December 30, 2010, December 29, 2011, December 27, 2012 posts), and December 10, 2013.
For this year looking ahead to 2025, I revisit those predictions and add a few more.
2012 was the year of the MOOC. Hysterical predictions of the end of higher education and the transformation of teaching soared through cyberspace and media (see here). For those who see MOOCs as a fine example of the Hype Cycle, I would continue to put MOOCs in the “Trough of Disillusionment” in 2014. Over the next decade that there will be a slow crawl–see here–up the Slope of Enlightenment as community colleges, state universities, and elite institutions figure out how to unbundle pieces of MOOCs and incorporate those pieces into revenue-producing programs. No MOOCS, however, for K-12 public schools.
For public schools in 2014, the debacle in Los Angeles Unified School District largest (and most expensive) adoption of iPads in the U.S. continues to shadow rollouts of tablets across the nation. Nonetheless, more and more tablets are in teacher and student hands. Blended learning, including “flipped” classrooms, continue to spread across the country. Many teacher and principal bloggers tout how they have integrated the use of new devices into daily lessons, including lessons for Common Core standards. I see no let-up in the spread of these devices as online tests to measure achievement of Common Core standards, already mandatory, extend to district tests. Policymakers and IT specialists continue to give one another high-five hand slaps in getting interactive whiteboards, laptops, and tablets to more and more teachers and students.
With all of the above occurring, one would think that by 2025, age-graded schools and the familiar teaching and learning that occurs today in K-12 and universities would have exited the rear door. Not so.
Getting access to powerful electronic devices for all students and teachers is surely a victory for those who believe in better technologies solving teaching and learning problems. But access does not dictate use, especially the kind of use that vendors and technophiles ardently seek.
For nearly three decades, I have written about teacher and student access to, and instructional use of, computers in schools. In those articles and books, I have been skeptical of vendors’ and promoters’ claims about how these ever-changing electronic devices will transform age-graded schools and conventional teaching and learning. Even in the face of accumulated evidence that hardware and software, in of themselves, have not increased academic achievement, even in the face of self-evident truism that it is the teacher who is the key player in learning not the silicon chip, enthusiasts and vendors continue to click their castanets for tablets, laptops, and other devices as ways of getting test scores to go higher (see The_Impact_of_Digital_Technologies_on_Learning_FULL_REPORT_(2012) and here).
Amid that skepticism, however, I have often noted that many teachers adopted devices and software not only for home use but also for planning lessons, grading students, communicating with parents and other educators, and dozens of other classroom and non-classroom tasks. Nor have my criticisms of policymakers’ decisions to purchase extensive hardware (far too often without consulting teachers) prevented me from identifying (and celebrating) teachers who have imaginatively and creatively integrated new devices and social media seamlessly into their daily lessons to advance student learning.
My allergy, however, to rose-colored scenarios of a future rich with technology remains. So what might 2025 look like?
In the past four years, I have predicted that textbooks will be digitized, online learning will spread, and the onset of computer testing will create more access to devices across schools and accelerate classroom usage. These developments will occur incrementally over the next decade and will be obvious to observers but hardly dominant in K-12 age-graded schools.
While higher education textbooks have shifted markedly to e-books and less expensive ways of getting content into students’ devices, the K-12 market remains a proprietary domain of a handful of publishers (e.g. Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill Education) in part due to the mechanics of certain states (e.g.Florida, California, and Texas) dominating which texts get chosen. But changes continue. Wake county (NC) and Vail (AZ) have adopted digitized texts; Florida will do so in 2015. Changes in K-12 texts will occur in bits and pieces as publishers adapt to the impact of the web.
K-12 online learning will also spread slowly, very slowly, as blended learning and “flipped” classrooms gain traction. Both of these innovative twists on traditional classroom teaching, however, will reinforce the age-graded school, not dismantle it.
None of these incremental changes herald the disappearance of K-12 age-graded public schools or the dominant patterns of teacher-centered instruction. What these gradual changes will translate into is a broad array of options for teaching and learning available to both teachers and students.