What does the future hold for classrooms? How can 10 years impact education?

classroom-futureTen years may not seem like much, but it’s enough time for transformation, according to education experts who see the future of education becoming more collaborative and less restrictive.

Nearly every part of education will have to change in order to accommodate the kind of learning that educators discuss today—from professional development and physical learning spaces to availability of and support for technology.

But it’s possible with the right vision and plan.

Here, educators and stakeholders share their views for the classroom of 2024.

(Next page: Classroom predictions)

Changing instructional methods and materials

“When schools think systematically about how to transition to digital, what does that classroom environment look like?” asked Scott Kinney, senior vice president for policy and professional development for Discovery Education. “Whatever that environment is, professional development will play such a huge factor. How do we get everyone comfortable in using these tools?”

Instruction will become more inquiry-based, Kinney said. “You’re going to see this shift to a true inquiry-based environment, in which students really are deriving meaning and understanding…that’s a huge shift for us as a country, and that means we have to double down on professional development,” he said.

Kinney said that schools will likely continue to focus on systemic and organizational change before they dive into beginning device initiatives without strongly-defined implementation plans.

“We’ll really start to empower teachers,” Kinney said. “Teachers, in 10 years, are still an integral part of the learning experience. We’ll start to empower them with the greatest tools and learning resources and examine how best to equip them.” He added that educators will experience a “merging of formative assessment and instructional content.”

“I think we’ll continue to get smarter and smarter with our instructional materials,” Kinney said. Instead of remaining in a “static textbook environment,” instructional materials are morphing into digital tools that offering engaging and interactive models with built-in assessments. “We’ll continue to learn from every interaction a student has with instructional material.”

Teachers should become comfortable loosening their grip on classroom control, said Michelle Selinger, formerly of Cisco and now CEO of ConsultEdu, which focuses on educational transformation. “We’ve got to get kids to take back ownership of their learning, and we’ve got to get teachers to give it back.”

Teachers, then, will become not just co-learners, but curators of learning environments.

“Teachers have a really important role—they have to help direct and steer the kids,” Selinger said.

Mobile technologies and new physical spaces

Selinger predicts that classrooms will use fewer books and more technology, including LCD displays where students can plug in their own mobile devices to share their work or solve problems in groups. Collaborative technologies, such as interactive whiteboards or interactive whiteboard tables, will encourage a natural learning progression as students work together to solve challenges.

“We talk about one-to-one, and it should be about one-to-one learning, which is really very much about kids having a personalized learning experience,” Selinger said. “It isn’t just about what kids are learning, it’s about how they’re learning.”

“Learning is changing,” said Jeff Vredevoogd, director of Herman Miller Education. “Students want personalized learning, more control of their learning, and want to be more engaged. The more you can engage in the content, the better off you are from a learning perspective.”

This leads to a discussion of classroom learning spaces, and educators can expect learning spaces to change in the coming years as students seek more collaborative learning experiences.

“It becomes more about looking at the space a different way, and space that focuses on learning in the space versus instruction in the space,” Vredevoogd said.

Virtual collaboration and school systems

“We ought to be bringing experts in virtually,” Selinger said. “We should have teachers and students working across schools—that’s what the future’s about. Kids should work on challenges and problems in the classroom, and teachers should support that and make sure students are developing their basic skills so they can further their knowledge.”

School systems may grow in popularity.

“For me, it’s about working with systems of schools, not just an individual school where you have your teacher in your classroom, and you close the door, and that’s it,” Selinger said. Instead, students will be able to connect virtually with teachers in a number of different schools, expanding both the number of classes available to them and the educator expertise they use to learn and grow.

“If you’re going to have [collaboration] in your environment, you need the tools and learning environment that supports it,” she said.

Up-and-coming technologies

A number of in-development technologies could make their mark on education in the next decade. GPS-based tools could appear in the K-12 classroom, and “smarter” tools and devices might be able to take learning to another level.

Machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence that is able to learn from data, is underway in research centers and departments across higher education, said Samantha Becker, lead writer and researcher for the New Media Consortium Horizon Report series. “Machine learning refers to computers that are able to act and react without really being explicitly programmed to do so,” she said. “Computer scientists and engineers are building machines that not only retrieve and interpret data, but that also learn from it.” The New Media Consortium sees a number of K-12 applications for machine learning. Xapagy is an example of machine learning.

The ed-tech arena has already seen emphasis on natural user interfaces through touchscreens, but advances in that technology will see enhancements through electro-vibration technology, Becker said. “Rather than feeling a hard touch screen, users will act more authentically with the content, because electro-vibration would let them feel certain textures through the tablet screen.” Disney Research Labs and a Finnish company are working on these advancements.

Location intelligence is another technology that’s gaining ground, and it could be used widely for school field trips and research projects, Becker said. For instance, a number of startups are aiming to create indoor GPS applications that customize user experiences to preferences, such as directing museum visitors around a museum based on what works of art they wish to see. Locationary and Waze are examples of this, and Apple recently purchased both.

What do you think the Classroom of 2024 will look like? Leave your comments below, or Tweet me @eSN_Laura.