The effects of our hyperconnected, high-speed culture and economy are increasingly trickling down into our bedrock institutions. Media, entertainment and finance have all been forced to adjust to our evolving world. How far behind can education be?
We’re already seeing whispers of change in the form of increased online testing, school-issued laptops and increased reliance on computer-based diagnostics for assessment and learning.
What are some of the other possible changes?
No, not the pop song. Rather, we’ll be blurring the idea that the school day ends with the dismissal bell. Students will leave school and spend time working either individually or with classmates on school-based projects. The 1:1 laptops in many schools will become constant learning companions to children. Just as children are wired into their social networks throughout their daily lives, the same can be expected of their learning.
Information is cheap (and getting cheaper)
For as long as we can remember, teachers’ value has been based in large part on the information they share in the classroom. Very specific and highly technical knowledge had to be transferred from teacher to student through the lecture, teacher-assigned textbook or a primary source.
Students today are surrounded by all types of information, and now the value of the teacher will be based upon how well they can help students use, apply and process all this information.
Assessments will evolve
The traditional school model of spending a week or so on a topic and then giving a test every other Friday is simply not enough today. Rather than rely upon tests and quizzes (which are sometimes used far more to generate numbers for student grades than to test for knowledge), tomorrow’s high-quality teachers will instead create authentic and worthwhile assessments where students will have to show — rather than recite — what they know.
Worksheets are going away
Too much class time is spent in the drill and practice of our students. The traditional photocopied worksheet, used to help reinforce baseline understanding, will quickly move out of the classroom as teachers begin to use computer-based assessments that do a far better job of establishing exactly what students know and do not know.
Learning has a long memory
One significant shift in society is the idea that what we do online lives forever. While that may be bothersome when it comes to poor behavior, it has the capacity to let our students create powerful digital portfolios of their learning.
Rather than rely heavily on high-stakes tests like the SAT or the ACTs, students will be able to show prospective colleges their growth over time. Interesting note — I’m beginning to see more and more teacher candidates who are submitting online portfolios of their teacher preparation programs. Expect that to filter into the high school ranks eventually.
Assessment/feedback loops will shrink
As more student assessments move online, students will enjoy not only more personalized problems to tackle, but also quicker feedback on their learning. Gone will be the days when a test would be returned a week later or an essay longer than that. The almost-instant student feedback will make learning more relevant and interesting for the student.
Pick a book, any book
The increased personalization so common in our lives today will extend to our students’ reading choices. While some books should remain in our schools forever (“To Kill a Mockingbird,” anyone?), students will no longer be expected to march in lockstep through a teacher-directed series of books.
Rather, they will have the option to pick from thousands of books, and their suggested reading will be based on what they have previously read successfully and what their reading skill can afford them the chance to enjoy.
Where does all this leave the teacher?
Teachers will join the long line of professions that have had their traditional roles and responsibilities disrupted. This is simultaneously concerning and encouraging — concerning because what we once knew and believed to be permanent is no more, and encouraging because evolving enables us to better serve our students.