12 Things That Will Disappear From Classrooms In The Next 12 Years

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12 Things That Will Disappear From Classrooms In The Next 12 Years

by Terry Heick

The classroom is changing because the world is changing.

That may not be as true as we’d like it to be–the pace of the change in education lags awkwardly behind what we see in the consumer markets. It could be argued that there’s been more innovation in churches and taxis than there’s been in libraries and schools, which is a special kind of crazy, but logical: “fields” that are dependent on consumer habits are far more vulnerable to disruption. Education, being more or less perma-funded by governments and misunderstood by the public, is more built to resist change.

But that doesn’t mean change isn’t happening (e.g., flipped classrooms, BYOD, maker movement), and that more isn’t on the way. So below I’ve collected a list of those ‘things’ most likely to see disappear from the classroom over the next 12 years, with technology, and technology-based thinking being the catalysts for change. 12 years isn’t really very long, but the pace of change isn’t linear. The difference between 2004 and today will likely be surpassed by today and 2028.

Whole Class Instruction/Direct Instruction

In what universe does standing up in front of 30 people to “teach” something make any sense? Are they all learning the same thing? Who thinks that is a good idea? Are they all ready for the same content in the same way? Is their genius going to shine through that whole class instruction, or is that simply the easiest way to express stuff. To “cover” it. (You might hear yourself say: “We went over this last week. You should remember.”) 

Personalized learning and whole class instruction are enemies. This change has been long over-due. Technology isn’t even necessary for this.

Letter Grades

Of all the ‘movements’ in education recently, the get-rid-of-the-letter-grade seems to be both the least ambitious and most likely-to-succeed. And the merits of getting rid of letter grades altogether seem clear: By removing the iconic carrot stick, the whole climate of learning has a chance to change.

In the meantime, grade backwards form zero if you have to, and consider these  alternatives to letter grades if you’re ready to make some real noise in your district. (Remember, the last two districts I worked in wanted me gone. Proceed with caution.)

Tests

Grades are the hell spawn of tests. Tests are the wiggling maggots of a stagnant curriculum map and dated way of thinking about learning.

Passwords

Not sure how technology is going to work this one out, especially in a classroom, but fingerprint scanners are a kind of metaphor for new thinking.

Traditional Schedules

One size fits all instruction makes about as much sense as one size fits all schedules. Or having X number of classes for Y number of minutes. New interactions = new thinking.

Computer Labs

20 years from now, computer labs may be replaced by Maker Labs and classrooms will become more like Google Rooms/computer labs. (See: 20 Classroom Setups That Promote Thinking.) For now, the idea of one or two rooms full of computers is slowly being replaced by laptop carts and Google Chromebooks.

Gender Labels?

Less sure about this one. Clearly millenials and generation Z think differently about gender than boomers and generation X, but it’s less clear how that change ‘sticks’ as they begin having families and switching jobs and dealing–as a culture–with social change, increasing globalization, and so on. It may be a bit premature to say gender labels will outright disappear, but some kind of change seems to be happening.

Common Core Standards

Knowledge and information are being increasingly organized in new ways. Organic search, social referrals, blogs, RSS-based ‘digital magazines’ like feedly and Flipboard) blogs, and other technologies are becoming the new normal for content organization. Books (still seem to be) by far the standard for organizing ideas, but as even what we think of as a ‘book’ changes, the new for a

How about an uncommon curriculum with uncommon standards? But how can we know what they’re learning and how will we know what to teach?

Teacher’s Desk

As long as the teacher is the front of the room–or the center–content is secondary, and students ancillary. Technology allows students to directly interact with ‘filtered’ (e.g., textbooks and handpicked essays and librarian-selected picture books) and ‘unfiltered’ content (e.g., YouTube, Google, etc.) social networks, peer groups, digital archives of their own work, experts in the community, mentors, and more.

Student Desks

And as the daily interactions students have shift from teachers and ‘elbow partners’ to the world itself, rows of desks no longer do the trick.

Filing Cabinets

These may already be disappearing in your school. ‘Good riddance’ I say, but sometimes I wonder if things weren’t easier to find in filing cabinets than on Evernote.

Textbooks

This one should’ve placed higher. Textbooks really aren’t the evil they’re portrayed to be–they’re compilations of content that students need to master from a skills and basic knowledge perspective. The problem is that schools for too long have pursued skills and basic knowledge, and one-size-fits-all books–like whole class instruction–are the opposite of the critical-thinking based and personalized learning environment students need to thrive.

12 Things That Will Disappear From Classrooms In The Next 12 Years; image attribution flickr user poptech.

12 Comments

  • I agree with most of this article, but not the idea of Chromebooks on a cart. Each student should have their own Chromebook for use at school AND at home. 1:1 distribution is already underway in some K-12 districts.

  • In my opinion, there would be no classroom in the next 12 years. There will be just web spaces where students collaborate and learn.

    As a Dissertation Help Tutor, it will be a delight if all the above mentioned things happen!

    • Im with you. As Common Core standards become more and more impossible to meet across the subject and more and more counties agree that it is very asinine and completely irrelevant in the real world, in my opinion, many parents will choose either the webspace option over traditional high school settings or homeschool parents won’t come off as the exception anymore. It will be the norm. As an educator for 13+ years, my advice to all parents….and I do mean All. Start pulling your kids completely out of this system. At this rate, the powers that be never intended for it to remain there anyway. What with AI being developed and becoming more and more advanced everyday. Pull your kids out and homeschool them if you have time.

  • In my opinion, there would be no classroom in the next 12 years. There will be just web spaces where students collaborate and learn.

    As a Dissertation Help Tutor, it will be a delight if all the above mentioned things happen!

  • Regarding your comment on direct instruction….it will be interesting to see if it ever goes away….just look at what 90% of the worlds conferences do today to attendees….I suspect it will take more than 12 years…maybe 21 years. And from the meta-analysis research, direct instruction still outperforms other more progressive forms of instruction like project-based learning and inquiry learning….
    Will it have a place 21 years from now? I still think it will….even in the most student-centered learning environments today, you will find direct instruction used to guide/instigate a learning activity at the onset of learning (much like any Profesional sports coach would do prior to their players breaking off with their individual coaches and practice drills during a regular practice). And like any good activator of learning, when they recognize a large mass of learners heading in the wrong direction or want to direct thought in a new direction, direct instruction (while watching a real person delivering the message) still has powerful impact. The same is true for consolidating learning at the end of a set of learning interactions. To Emily’s point…would a classroom still exist? 100% yes. Would we still be using the classroom to assess kids on literacy and numeracy ? I hope not. I see classrooms evolving to a space to become aware, develop, and get feedback on the types of skills that are difficult/impossible for technology to develop online and just through individualized learning. This means a focus on Social and Emotional skill development and this is best done through interactions with peers and educators…..why? because the world kids will work in will evolve even more to require those skills and bottom line, they will need to be uber good at managing their interactions with people. But what if the world of work/personal evolves where we mostly only interact through digital means and with less physical human interaction? Well, I hope that day never comes….texting my 92-year old godfather is always less inspiring than sitting at his kitchen table sharing a glass of wine with him.

  • More modern day crap. Old school is better. I had a sophomore today that couldn’t figure out 3 times what is 18. I grew up totally learning my times tables, percents, decimals and more. Knew all my social studies and basics in other classes as well and never forgot. I’m no educational dummy. Have a master’s in education but totally sick of this modern so-called improved garbage. New is not better. The generation before me, “the greatest generation” with their antiquated learning strategies won WWII and put a man on the moon. My high school students today are sadly lacking.

  • As I read this article, I wanted to take away some information for future reference. However, it was a difficult read with words missing and poor sentence structure. I hope it was because it was taken from another resource and poorly transferred.

  • Great discussion starter. However, many other countries have had much more success than the United States has had with some of these items that you view as either problematic or as obstructions to learning. Specifically, tests and common standards. Perhaps it’s not that these things are inherently bad, but the way they are used here in the United States and what we think they tell us needs to be re-evaluated. What seems to be at risk with some of your suggestions is any sense of what ought to be learned as canon-knowledge and any way of evaluating whether or not a student has learned it. Relativist/nihilist learning and teaching will quickly find itself at odds with our growing science-and-data driven culture.

    For the record, my goal is that students in my classroom learn mathematics in addition to “how to learn.” I don’t use a book. I don’t give “tests” as you might recognize them….although my students are evaluated and given feedback daily on what they know, don’t know, learned, or have forgotten. My desk is not at the front of the room. I try to minimize my “teaching” to 10-15 minutes of classroom time each day. And I loathe having student desks in rows. So I’m very much in agreement with the spirit of what you’ve written.

  • Great discussion starter. However, many other countries have had much more success than the United States has had with some of these items that you view as either problematic or as obstructions to learning. Specifically, tests and common standards. Perhaps it’s not that these things are inherently bad, but the way they are used here in the United States and what we think they tell us needs to be re-evaluated. What seems to be at risk with some of your suggestions is any sense of what ought to be learned as canon-knowledge and any way of evaluating whether or not a student has learned it. Relativist/nihilist learning and teaching will quickly find itself at odds with our growing science-and-data driven culture.

    For the record, my goal is that students in my classroom learn mathematics in addition to “how to learn.” I don’t use a book. I don’t give “tests” as you might recognize them….although my students are evaluated and given feedback daily on what they know, don’t know, learned, or have forgotten. My desk is not at the front of the room. I try to minimize my “teaching” to 10-15 minutes of classroom time each day. And I loathe having student desks in rows. So I’m very much in agreement with the spirit of what you’ve written.

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