Traditional methods of getting information are already gone. Google Maps replaced the paper map in the glove compartment long ago, and a quick search on Yelp! will find you the best local plumber far more quickly than flipping through the Yellow Pages. Conversely, most educational institutions still rely on the old ways of educating – lectures, textbooks and articles copied from the New York Times. If schools do not adapt to the new ways of learning, they will find that they have become irrelevant.
The 21st Century Fluency Project identifies 21 things that will be obsolete by 2020, including homework, language labs, a fear of wikipedia, and centralized institutions. Much has been made recently of the higher education bubble, where forecasters are predicting that traditional institutions with their fixed locations and skyrocketing costs, will soon lose their steady supply of willing students. What will take it’s place is still in question, but it will likely be a more self-directed learning environment where students create and maintain networks in order to educate themselves. In an interview in Salon Anya Kamenetz, author of DIY U: Edupunks, Entrepreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, defines DIY education “as the mentality that there’s another way to provide the benefits of higher education to the people who need it. It’s an idea that puts the learner at the center. Rather than the game being, ‘How do you get into the most exclusive institution possible?’ the idea is that you as a learner are identifying your own goals and assembling experiences that will be the most valuable for you to achieve those goals.”
The changes to higher education might take several years to come, but certainly K-12 schools will need to follow to retain relevancy themselves. The KnowledgeWorks Foundation reports that the future does not hold better schools informed by technology, but “entirely new types of learning environments.” Similarly, they predict that we don’t really need teachers to get better in the traditional sense, but that “tomorrow’s learners will need guides who take on fundamentally different roles.” The Horizon Report, published every year since 2005, predicts what technology will be prominent in education in the short-term and, through an extensive review of research and literature, follows important trends in teaching, learning and creative inquiry. These trends are ranked by the Advisory Board whose members concur that these trends will be the driving force of the timing and types of technology adoption in schools:
- The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators in sense-making, coaching, and credentialing.
- People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want.
- The world of work is increasingly collaborative, giving rise to reflection about the way student projects are structured.
- The technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based, and our notions of IT support are decentralized.
These identified trends mean that however the transformation takes place, it WILL take place. Public education will not survive if it doesn’t.