Tuesday, December 15, 2009

21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 modelled by the very professors who are supposed to be preparing our teachers.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.


  1. What about teachers?

  2. Replaced by Youtube. ;)

    Seriously, though, the role of teacher is going to change. It is already changing in some charter schools.

  3. Teachers will be obsolete, but lead learners will not. The teacher role will continue to evolve to coaching and facilitating learning ALONGSIDE students.

    Unfortunately I am not sure that this will all happen by 2020 but we can always hope. The institution of education is very resistant to change and will lag behind the rest of the world.

  4. Oh my gosh, I can't wait for the future!

    #11 could happen much sooner than we think. My school's IT department is incredible--they already have a big hand in a lot of changes to pedagogy and PD. Most of them have backgrounds as educators, and as all teachers become more tech savvy, I see those roles blending a lot more.

  5. Great list! I often ask my students to describe the "future classroom" and the craziest most of them get is putting Interactive White Boards on more than one wall :-) It's fun to think about the future while knowing that it won't go "as planned". It never has, never will.

    The elimination of paper will be awesome. I'm in charge of our recycling program and am constantly amazed at the amount of paper recycled on a daily basis!

  6. Well, this is a nice wish list. I too, wish to see many/most of these things happen. I'll be passing it on to those I know who should consider these implications in their kids' lives.

    Would need to have your post in a "more palatable" voice for those who've not yet sipped the kool-aid. I'm afraid some will just ignore it as silliness, esp that bit about AP.

    Thanks for compiling/sharing.

  7. This all sounds great, but do you think the NEA will actually allow this to happen?

  8. Nice List! And I do hope that that all of these things do come true. The only one I can't wrap my head around is the reduction of paper. Yes I see it in MS and HS, but have a hard time seeing it 10 years out in K-3/4. I think this is where most paper is used today (it is at our school) and I don't see those grades going to something digital in the near future.....thoughts?

  9. Let us not forget that teachers provide not only teaching but also moral and emotional support to out children. We mustn't chill students' humanistic traits for the sake of technology. The teacher/parent/counselor/leader will never be obsolete! Their roll may drastically change but there will always be a need for teachers!
    I am fully on-board with the 21st century model but lets not lose site of the fact that we are still producing humans and not training robots! :)

  10. I wonder if some of these predictions will hold true for underfunded schools. Technology is expensive, and you won't find much of it, for example, in south side Chicago schools.

    I'm sure the costs of technology will go down in the next 10 years, but for schools with barely any funding for things like this, I doubt they'll be able to afford things like Smart boards and mobile computing devices for all of their students.


  11. @Jeff and @Anon

    Something to keep in mind with regards to materials and cost is that these things in general are driven by the culture-at-large, not schools. It's not that schools will all-of-a-sudden 'decide' to stop using paper; it's that culturally paper will become less desirable and less used. In the last decade we saw this happen with both land lines and CDs.

    In terms of funding, as I've said again and again on this blog: it's a matter of re-allocating resources. Look at how much you spend on textbooks, software licenses, operating systems, printing and printer repair costs, outsourced professional development, web-design, promotional materials and design. The money is there; it's just a matter of having a clear vision of how to re-allocate it.

    And to the other @anon: I don't think teachers will be obsolete. I think the jobs that we are training them for today will be obsolete. Teachers are going to have to take it upon themselves to redefine the profession.

    - Shelly

  12. Nice list. I wonder about #12 though. I'm not sure parents would want their kids, or trust them enough, to use school as a home base on occassion. I understand the sentiment, but I'm not sure parents will want their kids on their own during the school day like that. It would take a shift in parenting, not just schools.

  13. Neat list! As for #12, it will be difficult to move past the need for "care" of the students, especially the younger ones. While I agree that you can learn anytime and anyplace, it will be difficult to eliminate or lessen this basic need.

  14. I would love to see this happen! Funding and resistance to change will be some obstacles to this.

    What we need is a few schools and educators like us to get to this point and show everyone how much better this way is!

    Thanks for the great ideas. I'm saving this one!

  15. Can't honestly say I find this list anything other than a bit of fun. It ignores the inbuilt conservatism in school development.

    I'm sure that a lot of these things will happen in isolated cases, but that's a quantum leap from general acceptance.

    Paper is not going to decrease by 90% in ten years. People talked about the paperless office in the eighties, but the laser printer saw to a massive increase in paper consumption.

    Most schools that I visit are using computers between 8 and 10 years old. Without funding that time lag isn't going to significantly change. And although funding is talked about by politicians (before an election) it's rarely delivered.

    If you had put 2040 or 2050 in the title it might have been realistic, but as it stands I'm afraid you are set to be disappointed.


  16. @Mike and @Anon

    Here's a previous post thinking about mobile learning and getting away from the centralization of a school building: http://education.change.org/blog/view/goin_mobile


  17. @Olaf

    Don't wait for systems to change: change your little part in the system.

    As for paperlessness in the 80's, didn't they try electric cars back then too and that failed? Yet today we're developing -- and selling -- mainstream hybrid and electric cars.

    Ideas need to be incubated by culture. And I'm more than willing to wager that the culture-at-large -- as evidenced by mainstream acceptance of everything from MP3s to YouTube/Hulu -- is more than prepped for paperlessness over the next decade.


  18. Shelly, we're working to enact this vision in the short-term, over here at a little title one elementary school inside the Beltway. I responded to your list with what we're doing. http://clairvoy.com/2009/12/16/21-things-that-will-be-obsolete-in-2020-try-2010/
    Thanks for the work and thinking you do.

  19. #22 - The traditional, 8-3, monday-friday, school model that we see now. Like everyone else, I have questions about the whole childcare issue as well. But let's not conflate childcare with learning. Childcare is indeed necessary, but that can be provided for much less than what it costs to send an individual to school. So what can learning look like in 2020 given that we'll be able to provide some level of childcare? I'm not sure, but I don't see the traditional, 8-3, mon-friday, bell schedule model proliferating like it does now.

  20. Response with my views: http://teachpaperless.blogspot.com/2009/12/21-things-that-will-become-obsolete-in.html

    very brief

  21. d'oh wrong url.. correct URL = http://www.mclear.co.uk/2009/12/21-things-that-will-become-obsolete-in.html

  22. Minneapolis Public Schools is already pushing Algebra in 8th grade. I'm all for it but many of our students aren't readay. I think that is a good reality.

    The teacher as teacher is not the model that is currently needed in my school, and I suspect many more. Our students don't learn that way. The struggling teachers in my building are teaching that way.

    The teacher as lead learner or "student guide" is the model. I know the objectives that need to be met and I know how to get students to discover the learning through inquire, collaboration and activities. That makes learning successful.

    I love your wish list and hope that it becomes reality sooner than later!

  23. Love the list and the discussion that follows. As for the obsolecsence of teachers, look no further than the Natal Project (see 3:40 vid on youtube) to see how the contemporary concept of what we do is replaceable in the near future by technology that will work extra hours, requires no health or retirnment benefits, provides instant feedback, uses data to differentiate on an individual level and doesn't complain, gossip or call in sick. As others have pointed out, there will remain roles for teachers but the job could look very different in 2020.

  24. school buildings go multi use. they will include senior centers, preschools, homeless day shelters, employment training centers, or located on CSAs, organic farms, in museums, theatres, metropolitan libraries, music/video studios, also wharehouse/distribute recycled building materials, computers, ecofriendly building supplies, they will manufacture and innovate, build, reduce, reuse, and recycle. What is your fancy? With whom can you collaborate? Who will walk the halls with you?

  25. I would add marks/grades to this list as well. I believe our understanding for Formative Assessment will continue to grow - and one day it will eclipse our current dependence on Summative Assessment.

    Because we will also come to see the true power of intrinsic motivation - and the inferior nature of extrinsic manipulations - we will come to see just how right Jerome Bruner was when he said, "Students should experience success and failure not as reward and punishment but as information."

    And so we will cease to encourage students to have prove over and over again how good they are - rather they can spend that time simply learning and improving.

  26. Great list! One would wish and even hope that all will occur. Maybe this time it will! Why am I writing that because 15 years ago I was in a conference that said the exact same list, especially the paperless! That one was the biggest joke, because since the creation of laptops we have triple the amount of photocopy. Teachers are creating their own worsheets instead of using the text book. We have no choice to do that because the text books are no longer the sole resource for the teacher.
    About, the illusion of not having classes and more home base classes! I sure hope not because we will have a society of clueless. Home schooling is not for the majority of the students. They are different type of students. Then the online learning!!! Adults take online classes because they are to busy to assist at the night classes. The sad part is that, those adults believe that since they can learn that way it must be applicable to a student! That is the biggest mistake and assumption I have ever experience. Their brain his not mature enough to realize and understand the responsability of that learning system. I could add more but enough!
    All that said but don't get me wrong, I sure hope that we get at least half of that or better yet all of them. Because at the present moment, the institute of teaching asn't change for centuries! Yep, if one of our ancesters of many years ago would come back to life, the only place that would feel familier to him or her, would be the our classroom! That is really sad to realize. Everything else has evolve!!

    Cheers GT

  27. I would agree with Joe Bower's feelings on marks and grades. Why would we want to continue seeing symbols that represent student learning when we can see actual student work that represents student learning?

  28. @ Matt and Joe

    Yup. And the real power of formative assessment really shows when you have your students blog on a daily basis.

    This has got something to do with #5 as well. Because the formative quality of a digital portfolio done right -- as a portfolio of the breadth of a student's work over multiple years -- demonstrates not only the student's aptitude to do well on tests, but shows the student's creativity, task determination, analytical skills, and ability to synthesize the authentic resources of the immediate global connection we like to call the Internet.

    And sooner than later in this coming decade, college admissions counsellors are going to wake up to the insight that a digital portfolio offers them a far superior overview of a student's potential than a number reported from a testing company.


  29. Since the classrooms I've visited this month look very much like the ones in which I was a student in the 1950s and 60s, I can only hope your list proves more prescient than those I've seen over the past 40 years. Here is the link to a scan from a 1989 issue of LIFE. In it, the editors predict things that will disappear from everyday life in the US. Clearly, many are still with us. The image is at http://twitpic.com/9xqyr

  30. Thank you for including Wikipedia. My students have been brainwashed to believe that Wikipedia is all fake. I spend hours upon hours trying to convince them otherwise.

  31. Ok, so why should I even bother going to school? If I can learn from my house what is the point? You think kids who don't do their homework in the first place are going to take advantage of the broken barriers between home and school? Socializing is more important to most high school students anyway. Teachers will NEVER become obsolete! We will always need those positive role models and leaders in our society. Why bother studying if I can just go to Wiki and look up anything I want? What's the point of learning everything we do in school and being tested on it later if I can access the same knowledge at anytime? Why educate doctors if anyone could diagnose you based on the symptoms wiki has to say?
    Do we seriously want a generation of kids who can't even print their own name on paper? This whole advancement in technology is sounding very scary to me. We can't operate our world with the touch of a button because what happens when that button fails, when the system has a glitch, when the satellite didn't receive necessary information, when we have lost data? Computers can't take the role of people because people are not programmed.
    I believe that technology has many incredible purposes and we should utilize some of them but when we start to become dependent or let it control the way we live I think we have a problem. For example, I probably used spell check 10 times in writing this, and what has that taught me? Using technology in a balanced way is the only way it should be used.

    Signed... A concerned student

  32. Just a thought -
    Seeing as you are writing a post that is available all over the world - you might want to indicate if you are writing about first world countries only, as seems to be the case.

    There could be a very interesting article about the future and possibilities for using technology for teaching in developing countries.

    Or at least acknowledge that the list will be very different for the majority of the world.

  33. @mashaduoit

    Absolutely. A look at ed and future of ed tech in the developing world(s) is necessary. Would love to read if you or any other readers have leads on what's happening on that front.


  34. Unbelieveable...if you people really think that this is the successful way to the future, then your as stupid as the students that cant spell the word 'future'. Students have no social skills what-so-ever being raised in a computer generated world. They have no English skills as a result of comp slg...oh what you dont know what computer slang short-cutting is. The have no spelling skills as a result of spell check.
    Good luck living in a collapsed society ripe for a Chinese take-over when the idiots you put out in the world try and run this country. If society truly allows this to happen, you'll doom us all. If you don't believe me...scroll to the kid named Knaus and look at that set of paragraphs and tell me how successful were going be without a human teaching morals, pride, confidence, verbal skills, and proper social interaction. Good luck living in that world.

  35. Fascinating list! May it be soon and easily achieved.

  36. This refreshing list of unorthodox predictions seems more possible than probable.

    Thank you for the invigorating reading! I hope you are more accurate than I suspect as a prophet. Never undestimate the ability of tradition and bureaucracy to undermine creative technologies and authentic learning.

  37. One thing missing in all the "changes are coming" in education is the role of the student. Students will have to WANT to learn implicitly. That change is far from realization.

    Personally, I hope IT deparents do not have the authority to direct change. Most are not filled with qualified educators, but computer science or associate certificates in network administration.

  38. I've been in the EdTech world for a long time and thought we'd see lots more changes by now. In the US, we have had at least 8 years of a focus on testing and accountability which changed the classroom back to a teacher-led environment. Not good! Now we have a generation of teachers who only know how to teach using a prescriptive script. Many of my friends have left teaching or retired because this focus on teaching all children the same thing at the same time. Ugh!!!

    I would love to see all these changes and if you have some ideas on how to do this in urban and rural districts where our at-risk students may not have the advantages of 1:1 laptop programs, teachers that are more lead learners, and some of our best teachers who don't even know there is a box. We need creativity and innovation back in learning wherever and whenver we learn.

  39. Look, I like a lot of what you've listed, but really you're talking about education driven by learners, or education consumers, rather than by education providers (the state and federal authorities in charge of most of the education budgets, and the regional authorities and schools in direct control of delivery). These providers are so embedded in concrete practices that I really can't see the changes you're describing changing in a term as short as the next ten years. We still educate the way we did at the start of the twentieth century!

  40. Agreed.. Learning on your own basis only works for so long especially if you miss out on other people's opinions and discussion in a controlled environment.
    I think developing countries have more to worry about than the latest in technology. Some people live in regions so poor that their school has dirt floors. Technology is part of our worlds problem to poverty and the existence of 3rd world countries. I live in North America and the way we live here helps absolutely no one but ourselves. We just consume consume and consume. The amount of greed here is unbelievable. Sure some people believe that technology will bring us out of poverty but if you want some real advice, here is a quote from someone who saw our world for what it really is: "Live simple so others may simply live"
    And to me, most of these comments sound like a bunch a robotic responses to something that sounds nice in retrospect without putting in any real thought to make your own opinion.

  41. Excellent article, I agree with almost everything on this list. These things won't be easy to achieve but together - we can.

    James Spittal

  42. In Flanders an argument raged about knowledge versus skills. Promoting learner and competences-driven curricula led to an overemphasis on skills, knowledge almost became an ugly word because connected to teacher fronted learning,to passive intake. It is the 'versus' that bothers me. Why always these wild swings, I wonder, why forget what was good in earlier tried and tested methods? Incorporate innovation by all means, but don't forget that technology is there to support and to facilitate new pathways, not to take center stage and that new methodologies build on earlier ones.

    About e-portfolios: without an accompanying interview by professionals to investigate and inquire into the competences, the portfolios can be the result of a lot of window dressing and mindless copying.

    A mixture of autonomous and collaborative learning under the guidance of continuously learning teachers trained in the uses of new technology and all this in a well-funded education system in step with the evolutions in others domains in society, would be the ideal world for me.

    Marleen - Gent

  43. Outstanding post. I will be revisiting this often.

    Change (in education, and elsewhere) requires a strong sense of where we're going. I call it 'solution language' .. and the faster we get to consensus on what that future state might look like, the more productive we can be in trying to get there.

    There's a team of social innovators looking at how to do just that. Check out #ecosys http://bit.ly/ecoED7 .. would love to get your thoughts.

  44. Fun list, absolutely brimming with promise. Please let me know when the education overlords in my state decide students are worth the investment.

    It reminds me that technology is a learning tool, not a replacement for thought. To the extent that technology supports thought, or inspires thought, though, it can be quite helpful.

    Sigh. What I've seen so far with education technology is a somewhat lame series of vendor-driven gimmicks that would be more useful in manufacturing a robot army. Conform. Comply. Obey. Here, take another bubble test.

    If education technology can become something real and powerful, then it will help ignite the imaginations of our students, help them discover the joy of problem solving, help them develop a deep knowledge of global connectivity, and a life-long love for literature, music, and the arts. When this happens, students become problem solvers, inventors, and creators.

    While waiting for the good stuff you describe, I must rely on the old standbys - genuine conversation with intelligent human beings and words that deliver life-changing ideas.

    Thank goodness for reading, writing, and speaking. Because in my state, per-pupil funding is lower than dirt and education technology is an oxymoron.

  45. Intriguing post! But I have to partially agree with njy69 - I don't think this list will become obsolete by 2020; I think many of the things should become obsolete, but because of the slow-turning wheels of educational change, the entrenched mindset of teachers and school leaders, and the parental notion of "this is how I learned", I don't think they'll all be gone. Transformed? Absolutely. So maybe they'll become obsolete in that sense...perhaps reworded as "less recognizable."

  46. In our current economy it takes a two person income to survive. I don't see people giving up their jobs to stay home with the kids so they can learn there via computers. Schools will exist for a while because parents like the free "daycare".

  47. Thank you for this article. The voluminous response certainly indicates its relevance.

    One thread that I would like to briefly pick up is the need to consider where these students are in a new decentralized school system. I agree that much of what has been done in a traditional classroom can take many different forms, and many of these predictions are exciting. However, a less-talked about function of schools is a place to "hold" underage people until they are able to be on their own (students coming "of age" at different chronological ages is another interesting point, but doesn't change this). As earlier commenters mentioned, parents cannot universally stay home with children, and even high school aged teenagers need supervision.
    That being said, I don't think we should preserve older models artificially, but should be including this question in any discussion of decentralized learning.

  48. Interesting article! As an IT specialist myself, I can’t wait to see many of these technological advances take place in education. But I have to agree with some of the other comments here that it probably will take longer than ten years for these things to come about. I'm afraid there are just too many bureaucratic, economic and social barriers yet to hurdle in order to make this a reality by 2020.

  49. I'd have to disagree with most of this. Schools will not disappear.

    Parents work and need a place for their kids while they work.

    I am a teacher, I have tried home schooling and my kids have mostly went to school. Why, well it is just easier.

    AND computers were supposed to eliminate paper by 90% over 2 decades ago. All they did was increase it by 10000000000000%.

    I think a past 50 years history lesson is needed!

  50. The one thing they have forgotten to mention is that many school districts can not afford this type of technology. I worked for a school district that in 2008 was using machines from 1998! Seriously, the machines had been upgraded, but you could still see the original windows 1998 sticker on the side. Not only is money is an issue, many school buildings can not handle the infrastructure to handle new technology. I have worked for 2 other school districts, one had not built a new school in 35 years, the other had not built a new school in 42 years! So I do not see some K to 12 school districts moving this fast at all!

  51. I think your list is interesting though i don't agree with all of them. Very thought provoking.

  52. I think the possibilities for language learning are amazing even nowadays compared to when I was a student. Just the ability to have so much more control over what and when I can study has truly opened up possibilities. I'm both a language 'teacher' and a language learner. As for being a 'teacher', it may be my job title, but I think of myself more as a coach/resource person than anything.

  53. Hard to believe this can happen in a system that has resisted change so successfull for so long; but I think it is out of the hands of traditional educators. Just this morning, was reading on weblogg-ed.com (On My Mind) reflecting on TEDxNYED conference ... “'there is no opting out of new media' making the point that we’re going to be living in a world of almost ubiquitous networks, almost ubiquitous computing, almost ubiquitous information at almost unlimited speed, about almost everything, almost everywhere, from almost anywhere, on almost all kinds of devices" ... this is a wave that can't be stopped even by a resistant system as big as education... learners (read students and parents) will simply choose with their feet and take learning into their own hands, making choices that will develop between now and then. If schools and teachers don't change organically (and this will be very difficult for many), they will become anachronistic, serving only a minority of learners.

  54. This is an interesting list. I cannot say for sure if it will all come to pass, but I do believe that popular culture will be the driving force for whatever happens. My favorite JFK quote "The rising tide lifts all the boats.", says it all.

  55. Nice Post !

    Thanks for sharing this useful information about 21 thing which are obsolete before 2020.

    Great Work !

    Toronto education

  56. What is interesting is that the one thing that will NOT be gone by 2020 is the digital divide. If anything, I expect the digital divide to widen, especially between inner city and rural schools as compared to affluent or suburban schools. Education may be headed in the same direction as health care; wonderful technology that most can't afford to use!

  57. Bob (The Science Geek)May 18, 2010 at 6:13 PM

    The 21st century classroom will not have walls, not unless you count firewalls. Paperless is a fundamental shift toward Problem Based (student centered) Learning, a true paradigm shift in education. Gary Marx discusses some of this in his “Sixteen Trends: Their Profound Impact on Our Future.” My concern is that many of those teaching at the start of the 21st century, might be considered obsolete by their own students. This makes what they are teaching obsolete, whether it is or is not.

  58. OMG - The one weak link in this person's position is that they have no understanding of human nature.

    1. No desks - until Jimmy cheats or copies off the others in the group.
    2. Language labs - People have been talking different langauages for thousands of years. I suspect that won't end any time soon.
    3. Computers - size and location doesn't matter. Until they can be hid inside a student's personal space.
    4. Homework - Homework is for practice. AND kids lack the self-discipline to do otherwise. That's why they are kids.
    5. Portfolios - Should go hand in hand with standardized tests. Do you think smart kids really fail these tests?
    6. Tech and Differentiation - Technology alone does not differentiate instruction - people do.
    7. Wikipedia - What ever happened to research? Do you think Harvard lets their students use Wikipedia. Get real.
    8. Paperbacks - who is going to buy each kid an ipad?
    9. Bio scan - just plain scary.
    10. Lockers - Hello! Kids don't and many won't carry books. Again, who is going to pay for the ipads?
    12. Centralized schools - Are you kidding? Does anyone understand the immaturity of teens AND many of their parents?

    I could go on and on...

  59. Your article is written very content, All of the projects look great! you make it look so simple to make this purse that I'll have to try it myself! Thanks!

  60. Great list... I think you can see much of it moving in the direction you mentioned!

    Columbus DJ

  61. Great insight... Although I'm not so sure about "paper"... we were already supposed to be a "paperless" society!!!

    Omaha Remodeling

  62. Great list! Gave me lots to think about. See my comments in my blog.

  63. My view is that were there political will, schools themselves would become obsolete. The idea that 5 days a week most of the year we bus children in to sit in a classroom learning limited and identical material seems pointless and a gigantic waste of money. Really the only need to centralize a learning environment is if equipment is required, like some aspects of science, shop, cooking, auto and physical education. On a rotational learning basis (ie. all day courses over a period of weeks rather than 1 hour over months), you could fit these learning environments in much smaller spaces w/ fewer employees. Learning from home with some localized physical education requirement is more fiscally rational and because of broadband internet and computer affordability has made it a realistic option.

  64. Ha! Not even half this list will make it by 2020.
    1. Desks and Buildings are still going strong. At my high school a third new structure (in the past 4 years) is relacing another old one and will not be finished until 2012.
    2. Language Labs may have Ipads or Kindles, but not smartphones- screen is too small! If projection screens come out you may be right.
    5. The number of AP and SAT Exams taken in the past decade has exploded! and will continue to do so.
    11. My county's IT Department just started coming together over the past decade. They are finally getting close to actually being an IT Department.
    13. K-12 gone?? Now way! One hundred years of tradition just out the window? It will remain strong just like 3 months off in summer and the non-metric measuring system. All American traditions.
    16. Credits. See number 13 above.
    17. Parent/Teacher Conferences. What teacher wants their 130-150 parents to have live web-cam access or live chat with them???? Maybe if they start paying all teachers at least $100,000 per year for the hours this would take. Long live email.
    18. Handhelds will never be able to control the cost of school food, especially in the next 10 years.
    20. American students taking (and passing) Alegbra by eighth grade...hahahahahaha

  65. Maybe the facade of our education system has not changed in the past hundred years, school buildings and school day schedule that is, but our attitudes toward the learning process and curriculum have.
    As educators, we understand more about how the brain develops and therefore how a student learns, we understand and believe that there is such a thing as multiple intelligences, hence the need to sometimes present a topic in multiple ways, and that we learn as a community by showing, talking, and hearing ourselves explain.
    The role of the teacher in the classroom has already been transformed since the days I sat facing the black board.
    Findings in Cognitive Science will guide us in deciding what will be obsolete for some students in the next decade.
    Maybe summative assessments will not be important in 2020, but education will still remain a "summative" achievement.
    Ms. DK

  66. It will teacher is going to new innovative world. I really impress with this.......

  67. A few thoughts here - http://www.mguhlin.org/2010/12/conversation-starter.html

  68. #20: DONE!!! My school's normal is Algebra completed in the 8th
    grade! Thanks for the list.

  69. Interesting and plausible thoughts that nevertheless suffer the same short-sightedness as everything else we are doing. There is an energy and non-renewable resource crisis looming just ahead. All these projects depend on the continuation of our current rate of consumption which will simply not be possible given today's realities. Digitisation is a very resource-intensive endeavour.

  70. 10. Lockers.
    A coat-check, maybe.

    11. IT Departments
    Cloud Computing

    = eBackpack.com!

  71. I hope this goes with more nature.

    Becoming unleashed from the desk and classroom, I hope teacher-leaders send their kids outside in interact with nature.

    Just as important will be learning to unplug--not because the plug is bad, but focus and compartmentalization is very important: when you're in, be in; when out, stay out.

    Going from one limiting environment only to create your own personal hell is not progress.

  72. A good read. I like the sounds of most of them and it is interesting to read the comments that people have posted.
    The only one I query is the lockers. Students need a place to store devices while at recess/lunch and so on. Maybe the look of a traditional locker will change.

    If every relied on what was happening and had been happening in the past, we would still be living there. Thanks for looking to the future.

  73. Desks and Language labs? Hum, the truth is that going to school from 9 to 4, 5 days a week will become obsolete. Listening to lecture at home, on device+broadband access provided by commercial company. Going 3 times a week to a workshop, for practicals.

    Did I mention commercial companies. Most of the control on education will slowly shift towards commercial companies. Institutions like Ministry of education will slowly loose its relevance due to its inability to adapt to change.

  74. I took 8th grade Algebra in 1976. It wasn't mandatory. I chose it.

    My brother took General Math in high school two years in a row for the easy A's.

    Student motivation matters.

  75. Please inform:

    What are the grounds for saying that the AP Exams are practically obsolete? To what or whose research are you referring? This is the sort of blanket statement that needs to be clarified with actual data; otherwise you are propogating an opinion that others could potentially use to inform actual decisions they make regarding classes or teaching professionals.

  76. @Melissa

    Great question.

    So long as the summative assessment of the understanding of content and context in AP courses is carried out by standardized measures and anonymous readers on an exam that lets arbiters of best-content to pick and choose specifics from a vast sea of possibilities -- often seemingly not designed to assess understanding, but more to increase the Jeopardy-like difficulty of exams whose purpose in the eyes of many students and parents is not to address learning, but rather to save money on intro college course -- the AP Exam will continue a slide into irrelevance.

    Especially as colleges and universities raise a warying eye towards the value of such exams.

    It's striking to me that we ask teachers and students to do so much work over the course of a year and we tell them that authenticity counts and then we give them tests that have as little to do with progressive, developmental, personalized learning as could be possible.

    My data is several years having taught four different AP courses in three different disciplines and having realized the Exam (along with many others) as the cat-and-mouse game it is.

    If AP wanted to get serious about the kind of learning that propels students to reach authentic understanding, it would extend the portfolio component of the AP Studio Art course to all disciplines and encourage the evaluation and assessment of project-based and personalized learning.

    Otherwise, it's a bubble test with a few essays that'll be graded by someone who has no idea whether you've learned, developed, and grown.


  77. Definitely some great ideas, but schools simply don't make changes that fast. Case in point, some schools are still trying to get phones in every classroom. Yes, phones. This is just an example of how slow things can be.

  78. This definitely has us thinking. Great post, great list. Now the question is, will these changes really occur so quickly? I agree that the technology around the schools change rapidly, but I'm not sure I believe the schools will adapt at the same speed.

    Another comment - I sure hope Algebra makes its way to middle school. And for any students struggling with that class, or math in general, Alleyoop is here to help! Alleyoop provides online coaching in math to middle and high school students. http://www.alleyoop.com

  79. The biggest problem among many with your assessment is that once education is a video delivered system (oh the desks will still be there), the state can create a curriculum that limits vision to a single narrative. To imagine that the state would not do exactly that is naive in the extreme. The world isn't available for everyone's success. Look around you. It's a pyramid and in order to keep the largest portion of the population in place, you need them to be compliant.

    Young entrepreneurial teachers at the top of the food chain are all about their contribution to education via zuckerberg fueled start up fantasies and it's a whole new world paradigms. But they aren't really paying attention to the structure of the system or the lack of opportunity possible for the largest mass of the population. It's a ponzi scheme. I love technology, but it won't save us.

  80. I agree with Audrey that educational technologies can be usurped by powers that seek to diminish public education for reasons she mentions. For instance, I'm concerned about Bill Gates' foray into education, pushing high tech methods and blaming the problems on bad teachers. He's given a lot of support to the www.khanacademy.org (which is pretty cool), however, Bill Gates labels it the "future of education." That is, students watching teaching videos on laptops. Then you might only need a low paid education assistant to facilitate. It's a new technology, but a century backwards in terms of educational psychology, just one talking person drawing on a blackboard (except in this case he uses some fancy colours).

    I like technology. I'm able to have a year-round paperless classroom, but I fear that this exciting technology could be used to serve the dark side.

  81. Really interest entry!

    Keep doing!

  82. No doubt, it,s so interested post, keep posting

  83. Was glad to see a couple of comments toward the bottom of this string that brought up the dark underbelly of our growing technology fetish . . . issues of sustainability and of our student's accelerating separation from the environment. Should we be concerned that the 21st Century Education movement’s energetic embrace of technology will only further push our students into the virtual world and disconnect them from the real?

    By 2020, we'll have realized without any more doubt or debate just how damaging and shortsighted our neglect of these issues we've been. Here's my prediction of something that will become obsolete by 2020: schools and curricula that (to steal a phrase from David Orr) "equip[s] people merely to be more effective vandals of the earth."


  84. The studying coach is very good and subject is very useful...


  85. There are a lot of issues that I am glad were posted by various readers. We have a tech committee at our school that is considering the 5 year plan (let alone a 20 year plan) on what our tech needs might be for our students, parents and faculty. We are not a public school, and so get to move through bureaucracy faster. We will consider:

    1. Digital Access for all: We have a mission to serve any student no matter their economic background, and so can avoid the digital divide for those who wish to attend our school. But for the students of our country, this needs attention.

    2. Regarding our environment: we cannot make tech absolute. It is natural resource dependent. The lights will go out one day, then what? Not to mention the social injustices and human rights violations due to the excavation of coltan, which our cell phones cannot live without? 80% of the world's known coltan supply is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which the UN says is subject to "highly organized and systematic exploitation." (http://www.cellular-news.com/coltan/)

    3.In addition, the social capital of our school community cannot be underestimated: students are human beings learning to be the best human beings they can be. This is done through relationships with other human beings, not computers.

    While technology progresses at light speed, nature has taught that most changes occur over time. Love the posts. Please keep the conversation alive.

  86. I have to admit I didn't read all 87 comments but I did do a search :-) One more thing that will be obsolete: MEETINGS - what a waste of time (in their present configuration)

  87. This article is analyzed on Transition Voice, only they say that almost none of this will be possible because of the connection between energy and everything else. Interesting read: http://transitionvoice.com/2011/09/energy-literacy-is-the-education-we-need/#comment-2175

  88. Ooops, meant to just link this from Transition Voice: Energy Literacy is the Education We Need.

  89. Thanks for your post

    Anthony Zheng Gao
    Canon Powershot A495

  90. Great list can't wait to see how much is true.

  91. By 2020, we'll have realized without any more doubt or debate just how damaging and shortsighted our neglect of these issues we've been. Here's my prediction of something that will become obsolete by 2020: schools and curricula that (to steal a phrase from David Orr) "equip[s] people merely to be more effective vandals of the earth."

    far cry 3 complete review

  92. I am aware of all the above and have in varying degrees used the lot or worked towards assuming the lot over the last 30 years of teaching - technology is for example taking up more space in class and in my everyday.Ipad, iphone, PC wireless, utube, and the rest are part of everyday life. So we talk of students learning differently, but whilst we have the present education system nothing will happen. Practically, when I am teaching 8 out of 9 periods a day, teaching level 8/9/10/11/12 high school students, seeing students at lunchtime and during the morning break, during which time I may also be constructing new and innovative ways of delivering tomorrows lesson through the available new teaching platforms, running debating after school and during the season (two terms) out twice a week at night till 9 or 10 pm, running after school extension classes on a Thursday afternoon, keeping up with ongoing pedagogical issues, at present at PhD level, (god I love that word pedagogy, when someone says it it begin to look closely at the speaker, it covers so many bases and one may say evils). It all means that a Friday night is longed for and my Sundays are marking days, which may the good lord help me, I also look forward to as I cannot possibly get it done during the week. There is not a job like it and I enjoy my students work and teaching. However, throwing lists at me and my fellow journeymen and women is worse than useless - and again, may the creator help me, I am writing this as I mark student papers. We are on the cusp of a new era, we cannot create this new world with the same tools that were in existence when the old world came into existence (about two years ago) May the force be with us. But for goodness sake let's get real.

  93. I teach Tech to 6th graders. While I love tech and all it has to offer, the kids don't know how to use it, they don't even know what a search engine is or a web browser. These are kids who have smart phones, text, have their own ipads and computers, and come from middle class and wealthy families. We're fooling ourselves if we think this is a tech savvy generation, all they know is tech, but they are missing a ton of general learning skills and knowledge. Kids don't even know how to socialize and bullying has increased exponentially. Tech is good, but too much of a good thing has bitter consequences. The author of this post is missing real world experience and spouting off things they wish to see rather than the reality that we have a problem with education today that Tech won't be able to fix. Also, we make no reference to schools and to students who can't afford these things ... the gap will only widen between the poor and the well to do ... thanks a lot.

  94. Wow, that is some of the most worthless opining I've ever read. I'm curious what middle school or high school students Mr. Blake-Plock works with on a daily basis?

  95. Great list of things that might just turn out to be true!

  96. ...And cars will hover in 2010 to save rubber consumption. BTW I'm in the IT Dept. and yes we will become obsolete. Pay in our field is pathetic at best. Next time your iPad breaks, try and find someone in your IT Dept. to take it apart. Disposable computing is the new norm and much more sufficient. Completely agree with the above poster as many of our pc's in our system are around 10 years old. Agree with all the REALISTIC posters on here, list is nothing more than "just for fun" with the exception of a few of the standardized testing items that are already on the verge of decimation and proven unworthy

  97. @Anonymous from Mar 17 -- This post was written back in 2009; at the time I was in my seventh year of full-time classroom teaching. I was at a Catholic high school in northern Maryland where our 1:1 initiative had begun around 2004. I am currently co-directing a program to bring tech and innovation to public school students in Baltimore City.

  98. I work for a very small organization that tries to be very selective regarding the young college grads that we hire. I graduated from high school in 1985. How can it be that I am significantly better educated than, not only most of the young people that apply, but most of the ones that we actually hire (i.e., the best that we can find)? It seems to me that this is the issue that matters. We need to start with addressing how to educate people well, and then we can consider what that would mean in terms of the evolution of schools as we know them today. Otherwise, we will simply perpetuate what we apparently have already been doing -- abdicating our responsibility to facilitate the development of young minds. According to my (admittedly subjective) observations, the diminishing quality of education seems to correlate with the encroachment of technology into the classroom. Until such technology can be scientifically established to facilitate cognitive (or moral, or emotional) development, it'll just be another shiny gizmo that well-meaning people will throw at a complex problem that they don't know how to address. A couple of final notes:
    1) I realized as a senior in high school that I wasn't learning from the teacher, I was learning from the textbook. That was the most important single lesson that I ever learned. So after that I didn't really need the teacher or the school, but experience suggests that not everyone learns that way.
    2) I use a lot of scratch paper at work while working on problems. It's the contemporary analog (in my milieu) for doing homework. I believe that, far from declaring that rough notation (on paper) and homework are obsolete, rather they should be stressed as key parts of the learning process. Otherwise we will continue to promote doing (clicking here, seeing this, experiencing that) over actual thinking.


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