Shifting From “How Are You Doing In School?” To “How Is That School Doing On You?”
by Terry Heick
In 2015, an “unconnected classroom”—that is, one without social components, digital media output, authentic and highly visible school-to-school and school-to-community functions, and personal learning for each student through mobile and adaptive technology for each student—is seen as appropriately cautious. Perhaps overwhelmed and underfunded.
By 2025, that same classroom will be seen as pedagogically absent and professionally negligent, and be leaning towards obsolescence.
The classroom as we know it is a dying breed. Teacher-led physical spaces with rows of desks and scripted curricula have never been optimal, but, through the power of norm-referencing, were acceptable. Just like doctors used to smoke, seatbelts were afterthoughts, and sexism and racism were punchlines for Archie Bunker, all classrooms were traditional, and this model became the icon.
It was this icon—of rigor, compliance, rote skills, letter grades, and institutionally-sided power—that characterized academia, and obscured the need for change. The question has always been “How are you doing in school?”
Increasingly, that question is becoming “How is school doing on you?”
The Decay Of The Traditional Classroom
Unlike colleges, which have to succeed as business, K-12 has escaped the need for progress, partially because they’re perma-funded by governments. But a more sinister problem has been the increasing gap between schools and communities. By and large, parents no longer “get” learning and what’s possible, so they allow schools to tell them if they’re doing well or not, which isn’t much different than a restaurant doing its own health inspection. This has allowed K-12 to chart their own “business model” free from “consumer pressure,” which hasn’t done them—that is, us—any favors.
Just as there is a standard today—that is school is “progressing” as measured by standardized tests, leaving no demographic behind, and provides some kind of documented support for every student regardless of their need–within 10 years, there will be a new standard, and it will almost certainly be realized through educational technology.
Teaching, as we have designed it, curriculum, as we have packaged it, and education as we have promised it absolutely, positively cannot be successful on the shoulders of a single classroom teacher. Or two. Or even ten. Even if we limit our goal strictly to standards-based proficiency, it’s just not possible to consistently and authentically achieve, especially if we’re not willing to treat teachers as collateral damage.
13 Standards For A Near-Future School
Hopefully by 2025, we have something deeply human and absurdly wonderful–something beyond anything we can come up with here and now. But as a kind of minimum–a socially acceptable standard–we could have something like the following:
1. Every classroom should be “published.”
Every classroom should be socialized through appropriate existing social platforms. This will make them accessible to every community member, organization, and business. All products, projects, scenarios, and student passions will be both visible, and packaged in a way as to be compelling to society at large, with schools acting as a kind of marketing agency for students.
2. No student should be anonymous.
Through technology, every student will be connected not to one teacher and one set of parents, but a select group of peers, mentors, or networks of “mercenary educators” who have fled classrooms to promote student success as teacherpreneurs.
3. Every student should have a network.
That is, access to a network of mentors, partners, and “friends” globally.
4. All texts should be responsive.
All texts will scale to a student’s given literacy level, reading preferences, and even operating system to optimize reading as an experience. These “texts” will be a combination of literature, non-fiction, social commentary, scholarly writing, creative and informal texts, and more.
5. Every school should see a “tech-standard” bandwidth.
Whatever the highest internet speeds are available to local tech-companies that demand (and often invent out of necessity) it, schools should have access to as well.
6. Self-directed learning, creativity, making, the humanities, emotion, and citizenship should not be seen to be at odds with a school’s mission.
Rather, these should be seen a deeply human elements that transcend curriculum to catalyze learning.
7. Search is dead; research is reborn.
Search engines will have been replaced by a kind of hybrid of search, recommendation, crowd-sourcing, and “resource prediction,” which will use a personalized learning algorithm to predict what strategy, resource, collaboration, or other learning element will benefit the student at any given time or place.
This will recontexualize the idea of research altogether.
8. Teachers should be celebrated
Teachers should be seen as master learners, orchestrating a fluid physical and digital learning experience that allows, for the first time in human history, and personalized and student-centered learning experience for each student.
In contrast to the potent–and even “intelligent”–but ultimately “cold” technology, teachers will be seen more critical than ever to the learning process. And it is this contrast that ultimately humanize them again in the eyes of the public.
9. Which school should matter less.
The quality of a student’s learning experience should depend less on the school, as technology should make curriculum, differentiation, resources, and even other teachers and classrooms accessible.
10. Artificial intelligence (think Siri, but smarter) should be a core pedagogy.
This creeps teachers out, but it shouldn’t. This doesn’t have to mean hollow, non-authentic digital blabbering, but rather a tool for each student to use to create their own learning experience. AI will be a core part of the education experience, helping students choose books, assessment forms, learning strategies, career possibilities, and more.
Every student should have their own “Siri.”
11. Physical and digital spaces should be seamless.
Physical and digital spaces should be blended together seamlessly, so much so that the idea of “spaces” will become less important. They will work together–serve one another, rather than competing for dominance.
12. Digital portfolios will be living and breathing bodies of work.
Student work should be elegantly curated to reflect both the potential and affections of each student. These digital artifacts will be uploaded to the cloud, cherry-picked by a combination of teacher collaboration, student self-scrutiny, and artificial intelligence.
13. Students should have endless choices.
Students should select from learning models, curriculum, or collaborative opportunities seamlessly. Choice breeds engagement, competition, and individuality, which in turn breed further innovation.
Avoiding Obsolescence: 13 Standards For A Near-Future School
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