Revisiting 25 Predictions I Made About The Future Of Education

25 Predictions I Made About The Future Of Education

by Terry Heick

Originally published Dec 22, 2012 

Preface: I talk a lot about the future of learning, and sometimes it’s fun to go back and look to see how off I was about some things while getting lucky and being a little less wrong about others. Below, I retained all of the original text from the post now almost six years old and add a little bit of commentary to each about either the prediction, its accuracy, or some related concept or idea. TeachThought wasn’t very old at this point, and this sort of thinking was new to me. Temper your expectations accordingly.

Guessing what the future of education holds is equal parts logic and guesswork.

The logical part is simpler–take current trends and trace their arc further, doing your best to account for minor aberrations. If the majority of public education in the United States is waist-deep in adopting new academic standards, it doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict they are going to have a strong gravity about them in the education at large.

What’s Certain

In 2013, a theme that is absolutely certain is a general disruption of education. Some of that disruption will be through technology, some of it decay of existing power-sets. How it will change education over the next twelve months can be guessed in part by looking at the previous twelve, a time period where we’ve seen iPads capture the imagination of national media, MOOCs catch the eye of the bluebloods in higher ed, and BYOD look like a better and better choice for K-12 public education districts everywhere.

In 2013, those trends will continue, along with some new ideas as we begin to demand more than feel-good potential out of learning experiences for students.

Retrospective: What (I Said We Could) To Expect From Education In 2013

1. Diversification of formal and informal learning platforms

As technology improves, increased access and diversity are two changes you can be certain of. There still may be a lack of equity, and learning isn’t certain to improve as a result, but there will be more access to more content and more communities and platforms. This emphasizes the potential of informal learning, and new styles of formal learning.

In hindsight: This turned out to be true–look at YouTube as an informal learning platform, for example. Or more formal platforms for language learning that have narrowed in specialization. Also coding, LinkedIn, IXL, reading platforms like ReadWorks, and more.  

2. Continued higher ed metamorphosis

While it’d be hyperbole to suggest that in the next twelve months higher education will suddenly reinvent itself, what you likely will see in 2013 is more of an ooze into something a bit different. More blended, more MOOCish, and perhaps the beginning of something a bit more cost effective, if only a very small–but critical–scale.

In hindsight: The results here were mixed. The (minor) explosion of open-source and OpenCourseWare of years past has given way to more polished eLearning platforms for traditional and non-traditional colleges alike, while MOOCs continue to be met with a kind of ‘meh’ response from public education at large.

3. Game-based learning matures (from simulations to pop culture games)

Though growing strongly as an undercurrent, game-based learning is still in its relative infancy in the big education space. From serious games and learning simulations, to using pop culture games like Fallout 3 and Portal in the classroom, game-based learning is finding its way into classrooms as educators become more comfortable with exactly how they fit.

In hindsight: For whatever reason, game-based learning hasn’t caught on in K-12. There are many reasons why, and there are certainly exceptions, but more often than not, games in the classroom have usually been whimsical gamifications of traditional academic content through platforms like Kahoot.

4. Common Core dominates school faculty meetings but continues to be ignored in start-up space

Right now, the education start-up space is dominated by apps, “open learning,” and social learning platforms that offer new access, revised content forms, and improved connectivity.

But in the United States, the majority of K-12 learners are being fed Common Core-based curriculum, and thus far, the Common Core has been largely ignored by smart start-ups. Just not sexy enough I suppose. Honestly, I can’t blame them for three major reasons: it’s not global (U.S. only), it requires adhering to what districts are already doing (stifling innovation potential), and it’s dreadfully boring (seriously–have you read them?)

In hindsight: Accurate

5. Smarter MOOCs

OCW and MOOCs, in one way or another, are changing the way we think about learning. And there are even rumblings that official college credit may soon be available. Right now, the energy for them to improve is grassroots-based and honorable. To keep them from drifting into the shape of strictly profit-driven big business–as higher ed is now–will be the challenge going forward.

In hindsight: Wrong

6. A slight shift from social media platforms to social media APIs

Social media isn’t going anywhere, but using them as independent platforms could eventually be replaced by the “API approach,” where app and platform developers embed social media directly into the software itself at the root level in the same way social media sharing is now built-in on some many blogs and websites. The primary interaction then is not on twitter or facebook, but external.

In hindsight: This one was mostly accurate. While some new social media channels have risen to or surged in prominence (e.g., Instagram), others have fallen off (e.g., Klout), and the biggest progressions have involved APIs (software that allows one software platform to work with another–twitter integration with a website or facebook groups integrating with an eLearning platform).

7. Data experiments–visual data, data sharing; fewer data, more data

This is something that should’ve happened a long time ago–classroom teachers having access to real-time data from constant, minor assessments in a highly visual form. Not broad percentages, or binary stamps like “proficient” and “non-proficient,” data now should be persistently accessed, and then visualized in an easily consumable way–for teachers, students, and parents. With the rise of infographics and digital visual tools, the opportunity to finally make it happen is stronger than ever.

In hindsight: I haven’t seen a significant amount of growth in how K-12 uses data, much less doing so in parallel with the potential for how K-12 could be using data. Unless it’s happening in ways I haven’t seen, I was wrong here.

8. Struggles with Common Core—especially assessment

This one is a no-brainer, and probably doesn’t need an explanation.

In hindsight: Accurate

9. Growth of gamification and alternatives progress reporting

We’ve written before both about gamification, as well as alternatives to letter grades. Regardless, the letter grade will eventually be replaced, if the idea of a singular, summative score isn’t eradicated altogether.

In hindsight: The most common shift I’ve seen on a widespread basis is one towards standards-based grading and the ‘publishing’ of grades (especially throughout the grading term, rather than just once at the end of the grading term).  

10. Social learning encroaches on eLearning coursework space

Social learning platforms are first changing where learning happens, but will eventually change how it happens–at least the digital segment of the process. Straight eLearning platforms are often one-size-fits-all courses–eVersions of standard schooling. By incorporating social dynamics into eLearning spaces, said eLearning forms can change.

In hindsight: Not sure why I thought it would ‘encroach’ on eLearning rather than do what made more sense–be merged into it, which it has. It’s not always ‘facebook’–sometimes it’s just a closed-circuit/non-public socialization within the site itself.

11. Crowdsourcing of content (YouTube, Udemy, etc.)

YouTube’s recent ‘channeling’ of dedicated formal learning content is an under-appreciated step forward. This essentially crowdsources learning materials that are accessible to anyone with the will and an internet connection–much the same way the Khan Academy did, but with far more diverse content, and a truly crowdsourced approach.

In hindsight: One of the better examples of this in K-12 is online curricula stores like teacherspayteachers.

12. More Courseras

As Khan Academy turns into Coursera, Coursera will eventually give way to a new kind of free–or at least affordable–eLearning style that offers quality course content and collaboration. For this to happen, the standard business ecology of failure and success must continue to cycle.

In hindsight: Yep–but not exactly like Coursera. is one example of this approach extending from formal education into ‘the real world,’ and our forthcoming TeachThought University is another more niche-approach.

13. Fight between start-ups and corporate entities for control of learning spaces

While it already happens on a smaller scale, at some point–perhaps 2013–a company like McGraw Hill will butt heads with a smaller start-ups on a larger stage. What happens might surprise you.

In hindsight: Micro eLearning platforms have surged, but few in formal K-12 spaces. Education just isn’t ready for that kind of disruption. Creating these platforms requires a lot of time and money and expertise, which makes it expensive–which makes it a risky business venture unless you’re going to create something that’s very similar to what’s already out there. Imagine creating a new smartphone that worked completely different than Android or iOS: Big upside, but even bigger risk.

And a marketing nightmare getting people to trust and understand it,

14. Venture-Capital funding of alternative school models will get closer

For now, venture capitalists–and their supported start ups–are focusing on content, information, and social media connectivity. (Actually, the VCs are focused on profit, but I digress.) Eventually they will stumble upon how people actually learn, and “schools” and related programs. Once the power of capitalism collides with how people learn, change will be swift. This will likely not happen in 2013, but we will be closer than ever. (*awkward, raucous applause*)

In hindsight: I am not aware of enough examples here to say if this was accurate or not, but my sense is that this one was off.

15. Increased division between traditional and non-traditional learning models

As learning forms wiggle, sprout wings, and fly, existing models–with a century of dogma and infrastructure–will have to justify themselves to stay in business, and may indeed be rude about it along the way. This will increase existing divisions between staunch ‘academists’ and ‘hippie’ learning innovators. Should be fun to watch.

In hindsight: In 2018/2019, the most significant widely-adopted progressive learning model remains the flipped classroom, so unfortunately I was wrong here.

16. Rise in credibility of entrepreneurial learning

Right now, entrepreneurial learning is just “cute.” It feels good to think about, but only a handful of organizations are taking it seriously. The resources necessary for always-on, self-directed learning are more than available. As frameworks and models are added and new curriculum forms emerge, it is almost certainly the way of the future.

In hindsight: Wrong

17. Higher education seeks to alter perception on a wider scale

In 2013, we could see higher education finally respond to the changes in learning on a wider scale. Some of this may start with marketing that seeks to alter the perception of the value of formal institution certificates. There will also likely be continued progression of programs like EdX that can be more meaningfully tied to the learning of current university students.

In hindsight: Surprisingly, this also turned out to not be true. While some programs like Stanford’s ‘free’ college have surfaced, higher ed continues to struggle with rising costs and changing social definitions about what college is and why we do and don’t need it.

18. Evolution of Project-Based Learning

What started out as projects in school and evolved into a process of learning that is guided by projects. This evolution is now extending into digital spaces–some innovative, some less so, but all a part of the process of change.

19. Less about iPads, more about apps

If 2012 was the year of the iPad, 2013 will hopefully be less so–more about apps and mobile learning models, and less distraction about hardware. In fact, this change will have to occur if iPads are going to continue justifying their considerable integration cost of time and money moving forward as school districts crunch data more resolutely.

In hindsight: Partly true. iPads have certainly given way to Google Classroom in terms of adoption in US K-12 education, so it is indeed ‘less about iPads.’ The problem with using apps in many classrooms is the same problem with using game-based learning, hip-hop, and other non-traditional content sources and mechanics: It requires an expert teacher with expert background knowledge and significant autonomy for design and curriculum in their own classroom, not to mention technology in many cases. And that just still isn’t true on a widespread basis.

20. BYOD success—in pockets

I never expected BYOD to be such a controversial idea, but it clearly is. Some swear by it, while other educators express deep concern about equity, legal issues, and even cost. In 2013 it is unlikely that BYOD will see widespread momentum, but the districts that choose to confront its challenges and make it work will likely see strong results.

In hindsight: Unclear

21. The rise of vlogging

Blogging is so 2009. Once facebook exploded, blogging started to look a bit long in the tooth. But now education has expanded needs in literacy across content areas as a result of Common Core adoption. Further, digital literacy is swelling in importance by the day, emphasizing the need to consistently combine media forms–something that is very accessible through most blogging platforms.

YouTube channels are already seeing content access for self-learners, enrichment in public schools, and flipped classrooms–and YouTube channels = vlogging.

In hindsight: 100% accurate–few things are ‘hotter’ on the internet than YouTube and its motley crew of content and ‘stars’

22. Shift from school improvement to community improvement and integration

So I’m not super confident about this one, but I am hopeful. In 2013 I’d love to see a shift away from improving schools and a shift towards improving communities. Unfortunately, this is hard to measure and beyond the scope of the Common Core. But I can dream.

In hindsight: I have heard more efforts involving models like place-based education, but this one, unfortunately, was inaccurate.

23. A continued increase in homeschooling

This one is a mathematical certainty–homeschooling is showing strong growth across the United States, growing every bit as fast as the more vocal charter school “movement.” True growth here will only occur once the old-school connotation of homeschooling is replaced by an image of a digital and self-directed learner capable of self-actuating the learning process–and critical collaborative actions–on their own.

Vanderbilt University Scholar Joseph Murphy explains part of homeschool’s growth:

“This gets at the heart of why home-schooling has blossomed. “The hallmark issue in the home-schooling movement is control,” Murphy says. “As power and influence were passed from parents and communities to government agents and professional experts throughout the 20th century, real costs were experienced by parents, costs calculated in terms of loss of control over the schooling of their children.”

Homeschooling needs branding beyond the stereotypical image vision of social outcasts studying the Bible at the kitchen table.

In hindsight: The growth isn’t as fast as I’d have thought, but depending on the data source you’re looking at, it is indeed growing.

24. Visible failure as non-experts innovate—and fail—in the now white-hot education space

Learning–both formal and informal–is hot right now. As that trend continues, more will be attracted to this ‘space’ to give a shot. And by the laws of business, many will fail, especially as business and technology experts build their own capacity for understanding the learning process.

In hindsight: Accurate. For every successful learning app like Duolingo, there are 100 that flounder or fail.

25. A diversification of blended learning forms

As blended learning continues its predictable growth, more organizations and platforms will enter the fray. This will create diversity, choice, adaptation, and eventually continued evolution.

In hindsight: Accurate, though this wasn’t really a bold prediction. LinkedIn, for example, offers eLearning now, and I expect this to continue to happen outside of major digital brands. The challenge is creating a sustainable revenue model while producing something original enough to attract loyal users.

Image attribution flickr users danzen and torres21

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