Sixteen education experts from various fields were invited to predict what the future holds for education in the next quarter century. Many included in their visions a discussion of how technology would play a role in shaping education’s future. Some of these predictions include:
- End of the “edifice complex.” According to futurists Marvin J. and Kimberly Cetron, the best schools are fast becoming virtual wired centers of learning, able to tap information anywhere in the world. By 2010, almost every classroom will be tied to the internet, and tomorrow’s teachers will help students master the skills of collecting, evaluating, analyzing, and synthesizing information. In the most distant rural areas, students will attend school by communicating over the internet through wireless modems.
- High-tech voc-ed. Fully half of today’s students leave high school and go directly into the workforce. Too few of them have the skills they need to earn a decent living in the new high-tech economy. Today, we need computer programmers and technicians, medical technicians, anti-pollution workers, and a host of other technologically sophisticated specialists. This is the stuff of tomorrow’s voc-ed.
- Life-long learning. In electronics, as in other high-tech fields, half of what students learn as freshmen in college is obsolete by their senior year. This amounts to a prescription for constant retraining. While most of that training happens on the job today, that won’t necessarily be the case tomorrow, as 80 percent of Americans will work for companies with fewer than 200 employees by 2005 and small firms lack the funds to provide ongoing training. Schools will have to make up the difference by staying open in the evenings for adult learners, who may learn side-by-side with students in voc-ed instruction.
- Interactive classrooms. Chris Whittle, founder of the Edison Project, outlines a vision of classroom learning in which each “pod” of desks is slightly elevated from the group in front of it, allowing for better communication and viewing. Each student has a large keyboard and flat screen built into his or her desk that easily connects to his or her files through school servers. A 6-by-10-foot flat screen display at the front of the room is used for video presentations to the class. The point, Whittle says, is to integrate technology into instruction by planning a classroom like you’d plan the cockpit of an airplane: each element has a purpose and is strategically located so it can be easily used. Contrast this with how technology typically is deployed in most classrooms today: two to four computers are dropped in each classroom with no strategic vision, leading to a cluster of computers at the back of the room which may or may not get used.