Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Changing Face of Education, More Sky Pie

I received the following email from a former high school classmate of mine.  I found it to be rather thought provoking.  Yes a great deal of it will probably happen, but a lot would only happen in an ideal world, which sad to say does not often exist in the schools I teach in.  I shall try to comment on some points (in italics).


21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020
by Shelley Blake-Plock

Last night I read and posted the clip on '21 Things That Became Obsolete in the Last Decade'. Well, just for kicks, I put together my own list of '21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020'.

1. Desks
The 21st century does not fit neatly into rows. Neither should your students. Allow the network-based concepts of flow, collaboration, and dynamism help you rearrange your room for authentic 21st century learning.

-rows are pretty much passe now, but I do like the idea of stanchions

2. Language Labs
Foreign language acquisition is only a smartphone away. Get rid of those clunky desktops and monitors and do something fun with that room.

- so IPODS will actually be useful and not just a status symbol for the spoiled, rich and egocentric?

3. Computers
Ok, so this is a trick answer. More precisely this one should read: 'Our concept of what a computer is'. Because computing is going mobile and over the next decade we're going to see the full fury of individualized computing via handhelds come to the fore. Can't wait.

- see above comment

4. Homework
The 21st century is a 24/7 environment. And the next decade is going to see the traditional temporal boundaries between home and school disappear. And despite whatever Secretary Duncan might say, we don't need kids to 'go to school' more; we need them to 'learn' more. And this will be done 24/7 and on the move (see #3).

- yes the good students will continue to toil 24/7 and the others will not

5. The Role of Standardized Tests in College Admissions
The AP Exam is on its last legs. The SAT isn't far behind. Over the next ten years, we will see Digital Portfolios replace test scores as the #1 factor in college admissions.

6. Differentiated Instruction as the Sign of a Distinguished Teacher
The 21st century is customizable. In ten years, the teacher who hasn't yet figured out how to use tech to personalize learning will be the teacher out of a job. Differentiation won't make you 'distinguished'; it'll just be a natural part of your work.

7. Fear of Wikipedia
Wikipedia is the greatest democratizing force in the world right now. If you are afraid of letting your students peruse it, it's time you get over yourself.

- can't fight 'em, join 'em - have your students submit their own inaccurate info to Wiki - grade it as creative writing

8. Paperbacks
Books were nice. In ten years' time, all reading will be via digital means. And yes, I know, you like the 'feel' of paper. Well, in ten years' time you'll hardly tell the difference as 'paper' itself becomes digitized.

- may happen, but too many of us oldies like the real thing

9. Attendance Offices
Bio scans. 'Nuff said.

10. Lockers
A coat-check, maybe.

11. IT Departments
Ok, so this is another trick answer. More subtly put: IT Departments as we currently know them. Cloud computing and a decade's worth of increased wifi and satellite access will make some of the traditional roles of IT -- software, security, and connectivity -- a thing of the past. What will IT professionals do with all their free time? Innovate. Look to tech departments to instigate real change in the function of schools over the next twenty years.

- where there is technology, there will be glitches, and there will be a need for IT departments

12. Centralized Institutions
School buildings are going to become 'homebases' of learning, not the institutions where all learning happens. Buildings will get smaller and greener, student and teacher schedules will change to allow less people on campus at any one time, and more teachers and students will be going out into their communities to engage in experiential learning.

- we currently call these drop-outs

13. Organization of Educational Services by Grade
Education over the next ten years will become more individualized, leaving the bulk of grade-based learning in the past. Students will form peer groups by interest and these interest groups will petition for specialized learning. The structure of K-12 will be fundamentally altered.

- Student-formed, Grade 7, peer groups by interest ought to be unique to say the least

14. Education School Classes that Fail to Integrate Social Technology
This is actually one that could occur over the next five years. Education Schools have to realize that if they are to remain relevant, they are going to have to demand that 21st century tech integration be modeled by the very professors who are supposed to be preparing our teachers.
(Ed. Note:  Check out Plock's 2010 nomination for best blog post:  "Why Teachers Should Blog")

- let's devise more ways to entertain and cleverly delude ourselves into thinking that it is advanced learning - toss out that old maxim of hard work and achievement, it didn't do anything for our ignorant forefathers!

15. Paid/Outsourced Professional Development
No one knows your school as well as you. With the power of a PLN in their backpockets, teachers will rise up to replace peripatetic professional development gurus as the source of schoolwide prof dev programs. This is already happening.

16. Current Curricular Norms
There is no reason why every student needs to take however many credits in the same course of study as every other student. The root of curricular change will be the shift in middle schools to a role as foundational content providers and high schools as places for specialized learning.

- why do we still spend a credit's worth of high school English studying Shakespeare? Might we not better spend that time teaching kids some financial savvy and fiscal responsibility?

17. Parent-Teacher Conference Night
Ongoing parent-teacher relations in virtual reality will make parent-teacher conference nights seem quaint. Over the next ten years, parents and teachers will become closer than ever as a result of virtual communication opportunities. And parents will drive schools to become ever more tech integrated.

- the really tech savvy parent will have a spy cam right in the classroom, so that the teacher's every move and mismove can be recorded for litigation purposes at a later date.

18. Typical Cafeteria Food
Nutrition information + handhelds + cost comparison = the end of $3.00 bowls of microwaved mac and cheese. At least, I so hope so.

- yah, I've seen the success of serving healthy salads etc (90% toss out rates) 

19. Outsourced Graphic Design and Webmastering
You need a website/brochure/promo/etc.? Well, for goodness sake just let your kids do it. By the end of the decade -- in the best of schools -- they will be.

20. High School Algebra I
Within the decade, it will either become the norm to teach this course in middle school or we'll have finally woken up to the fact that there's no reason to give algebra weight over statistics and IT in high school for non-math majors (and they will have all taken it in middle school anyway).

- see my note above - skip a lot of the stuff we teach in Math completely (the engineers and mathematicians of tomorrow can pick up most of the current high school math in MATH101 in university)- what does average Joe use beyond BEDMAS anyway - really?  We should teach about finances, borrowing, debt, mortgages, lines of credit, interest, balancing a check book, investing, saving for the future - starting to sound like a rant, I'll stop now.  

21. Paper
In ten years' time, schools will decrease their paper consumption by no less than 90%. And the printing industry and the copier industry and the paper industry itself will either adjust or perish.

 - we are currently supposed to be a paperless society, but I see more and more hard copies of stuff every day, and newer, bigger and better photocopiers lustily feasting on ream after ream of paper, daily.
Editor's Note: A "classic" from the Teach Paperless blog and previously published.   Shelley Blake-Plock is a self-described "artist and teacher . . . an everyday instigator for progressive art, organization, and education. In addition to his work teaching high school Latin and Art History, Shelly is a member of both the experimental Red Room Collective and Baltimore's High Zero Foundation . . ."   It will be interesting to see how his predictions fare over the next few years . . .  


 Okay so I poked a bit of criticism the way of the author.  I think it was more than a little tongue in cheek anyway.
It's all very pie in the sky.  No where did I see anything about diminished classroom management or the greatly improved respect and vastly increased learning skills of our future students.  Sorry but I have to really scoff at the idea of student based learning groups - we better never throw out Lord of the Flies, as required reading, if we think that will work.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.


  1. One of my pediatricians said kids should not be required to learn to tell time on a 1-12 clock because everything is digital. I told him, it's a both / and. You use the digital, but also teach the clock and the sundial.

    The tech push assumes that there will be no disaster to make all the gadgets useless and people isolated because of their lack of integrated knowledge and cyber dependence. All skills that enable a tech generation to function, but also enable a generation to survive no matter what, is the best course.

    And talk about rants: Our super phones and minicomputers only enable kids to be more sohisticated in cheating, and that's who I want performing my brain surgery or flying my jet! I don't think so.

    Oh, and they better not dispose of the comma!

  2. Wow, lots of food for thought!! But they'll have to pry books from my cold dead hands.


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