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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 twelve years ago and today will likely be surpassed by today and twelve years from now.

Change is

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, as we know them, will likely disappear within the next decade+. That’s not to say that assessments won’t exist. Formal education has always been dominated by outcomes and outcomes are measured by assessments. Little of this will change in the next twelve years. But what can (and likely will change is the current form, structure, and duration of standardized tests. There are many ways to measure understanding. Let’s start there.


Not sure how technology is going to work this one out, especially in a classroom, but iris 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.

Fundamental tenets about student identity

Clearly, millennials 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, for example–or that ‘people will become color-blind to race’–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, apps like Flipgrid), 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

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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?

Teachers’ Desks

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.

Students’ Desks

And as the daily interactions students have shifted 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.


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.

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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.

Great stuff Terry! You really are ahead of the curve on education. Your site is like a true glimpse in to the future of education.

Ron Abate

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.


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… Read more »

We already have gotten rid of computer labs and textbooks and tests are taken online and through apps.

Selena Morgan Elmore

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.

Adam Yankay

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… Read more »


Where’s my flying car?