One easily trips over a list of high-tech tools that have become obsolete in the past decade (e.g., floppies, fax machines). I used many of these myself and remember junking them, saying to myself: hey, these were highly touted, I bought the second- or third-generation version and now I am dumping them. Other lists of high-tech predictions for 2020 were equally entertaining about the future of schools. This list posted by a high-tech enthusiast who yearns for a paperless society and totally customized instruction with smaller, greener schools tickled me because while I do agree with some of the items, others are, well, dreams. I have been reading such dream lists for years about high-tech devices (with brand-new names) promising a glorious (or nefarious) future just around the corner, including the disappearance of the teacher (see here).
And I have contributed to such lists with my own predictions over the past six years (see (see December 26, 2009, December 30, 2010, December 29, 2011, December 27, 2012, and December 10, 2013.). 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 dominate 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 (see here, here, and here) 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 instruction, personalized learning, and “flipped” classrooms gain traction. For public schools in 2016, the recent 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. Many teacher and principal bloggers tout how they have integrated the use of new devices into daily lessons meeting 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. Blended instruction, personalized learning, and flipped classrooms will reinforce the age-graded school, the 19th century organizational innovation that is rock-solid in 2015. That is what I predict for 2025.
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 and “transforming” teaching and the age-graded school (see The_Impact_of_Digital_Technologies_on_Learning_FULL_REPORT_(2012).
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 and software (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 intact.
Whatever your guesses are for next year or for 2025, the questions that need answers are not about the rapid expiration dates of the next newest device –including the “revolutionary” iPad–nor to what degree technology will be ubiquitous in home and school nor even how new technologies will be used by the next generation of teachers and students. No, those are not the questions that need to be asked.
Instead, fundamental questions have to deal with matters of educational philosophy–what knowledge is most worth? Why? What are the best ways of teaching and learning? What are other ways of organizing schools to help students learn and grow into independent, clear-thinking, and whole people? These questions, in turn, depend on broader moral and political questions about what is the “good” life and how does one live a useful and worthy life. When these questions are asked and answered then, and only then, can new technologies play their role in schools and classrooms.