Predictions, Dumb and Otherwise, about Technology in Schools in 2025

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.

17 Comments

Filed under how teachers teach, school reform policies, technology use

17 responses to “Predictions, Dumb and Otherwise, about Technology in Schools in 2025

  1. Reblogged this on From experience to meaning… and commented:
    The last 2 paragraphs are the most important:

    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.

  2. Pingback: Predicting Education | A Point of Contact

  3. Reblogged this on A Few Reasonable Words and commented:
    Clear thoughts on ed tech and the future from a hero of mine. I would go further even than Larry–not only are the big questions about teaching and learning, its purposes, means, and content more important; the endless noisy hum of speculation and consumer reports level chatter about the so-called revolutionary potential of ed tech mostly is a white noise generator to keep the discussion of the deeper issues inaudible.

    • larrycuban

      Thanks, Arthur, for your comment and especially the sentence about a “white noise generator”–great metaphor. Are you suggesting intentionality on the part of the drum-beaters?

      • Thanks, Not sure if it’s intentional or a by-product of the intense marketing hype. The question gets set up as a sort of buy/don’t buy, rather than asking why. Even if Ed Tech products do what they “say they do on the box” and many probably don’t, why and whether it is a solution in the first place and should be used is hard to bring up.

      • larrycuban

        Thanks for replying to my question, Arthur.

  4. I liked and agree with the questions asked at the end of the post:
    “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?”

    However, i think that those that are tasked with answering them must be knowledgeable (and preferably have experience with) what edtech (both generally and with specific products) can deliver. That firsthand experience is required to be able to develop comprehensive answers. Too often, teachers and teachers’ representatives don’t even begin to imagine what can be done, and since deciding on what you don’t know is just too hard, leave very concrete possibilities on the side of the road.

  5. Economically disadvantaged children struggle with socioemotional problems, stress, and limited access to human capital investments that affect their ability to learn. The fundamental question that should be asked is why this matters. Technology such as Virtual classrooms or online learning is a way of organizing schools to reach these vulnerable children helping every student learn and grow into independent, clear-thinking, and whole people. The moral and political questions, ” why are so many children turned away from the schoolhouse because of inability?” Bring the technology to them which was the very purpose for creating 21st. Century learning. 85% of youth in juvenile detention centers have some form of learning disabilty qualifying them for “Special Education” under federal law. A 21st. Century plague “School-to-Prison-Pipeline” is a growing pandemic which questions; what is the “good” life and how does one live a useful and worthy life without an education.
    When politicians, scholars, policy makers, and educators finally address these questions, then, and only then, can new technologies play their role in educating students.

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