One cannot begin to imagine future learning scenarios if we can’t see where we’ve come from. I remember sitting at my desk with my textbook and notebook open and the teacher at the front of the class lecturing. In the afternoon I would go home to reread the texts and notes, my eyes glazing over and my head nodding in exhaustion. The tests and assignments came and went. We learned to ‘play school’ with startling exactness. At least that’s how the core classes went.
I then think about those classes that stuck with me and still affect me positively to this day. English comes to mind, with Mr. McGrath gushing over Shakespeare and Robin Williams. There was Ms. Pleasants bringing Thoreau’s Walden house to life in our minds, and one of my creative writing assignments being singled out to be read to the entire class.
Music also affected me because here we were doing project-based learning. Collaboration was there in our small chamber rehearsals. It was about problem solving, self-driven practice, and high profile performances. We were expected to do well and we lived up to the occasion.
What will come into play in future learning scenarios? What does the future of education hold for teachers and students alike? Passionate teachers, opportunities for peer collaboration, problem solving, self-directed learning, and real-world solutions.
Our List of Future Learning Scenarios
Much has been postulated in the media, on the Internet, and in fiction as to how learning will evolve. Teachers around the world wonder how they fit within the ever-changing sphere of education.
What can we expect in our future learning scenarios? Here are some ideas to get you thinking about what’s possible.
1. A Classroom Without Walls
Think about this: adults and children alike are now experiencing an unprecedented accessibility of information. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, and experts are available at the click of a mouse. We can instantly look something up, learn something new, and connect with relevant professionals. Learning takes place in the home, at the ballgame, and while playing games. Teachers will increasingly take advantage of this paradigm.
Flipped learning is already duplicating the teacher’s lecture presence online. Students can review concepts as many times as needed without the real teacher present. Catering to differentiated learning proponents, the flipped learning concept is allowing students previously lost in the classroom to ‘catch up’ on their own.
Online quiz programs allow students to take quizzes until they really ‘know’ the material. All this time is allowed to be fertile with higher-order thinking.
2. Custom-Made Learning
How about students customizing lesson content to their skill level? Would this kind of thinking tear apart the structured ‘classroom by age’ concept? Will students who learn slower be empowered to take control of their education and learn at their own pace without being penalized for not following the rest of the pack? This is a revolutionary idea becoming much more possible with online learning.
Truth be told, nothing can replace hands-on learning; not simulations, not gamification, and not sitting in front of a terminal. But the Internet is already levelling the playing field, and it is only a matter of time when more schools will take this for granted.
3. Real-World Connection
Because the world is in our digital face nowadays (although the Internet world can seem more unreal than real), we have to teach students to engage with it. They must learn to weed out misleading and incorrect information to make the best decisions for themselves and their environment. How many of us get our news from friends’ Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, and Quora feeds? The truth is that what is ‘real’ is subjective, and that makes it more difficult for all of us.
The driving issue here is solving our local and global problems, and determining what will concern the upcoming generations. How will we humans survive a climate increasingly hostile to life as we know it? How can we help our less fortunate neighbours benefit from a high quality education?
By getting learners to engage in solving problems that are important to them, teachers can afford them with relevant field experience when they graduate.
4. Enhanced Assessment and Feedback
Statistics gathering will be accomplished in real time and used to make predictions about student success. In turn, this can be used to gear them toward appropriate careers. Tests online can send and analyze data before the students walk out of the classroom.
This phenomenon will best be used by teachers to hone their teaching to more effectiveness, allowing them to see immediately what works, and who is being affected. They can then change direction as needed or offer much needed extra help to strugglers.
5. A Flatter Classroom
Because standardized tests are inadequate for rating the whole child, exams will rely more on field experience and observation. Building on field experience and classrooms without walls, we have to find a way to get experience to count as part of their grade, rather than just using the paper score.
This is indeed a tall order. It implies more work from teachers who are already seriously underpaid and overworked. But in a way, technology can have a hand in making this possible—another real world problem that begs to be solved.
6. Teachers as Mentors
We already acknowledge those teachers who were indeed mentors to us. If students are to take ownership of their learning, teachers have to let go of some degree of control and allow students the joy of discovery. We will continue to see teachers help students to navigate through their own learning, fostering habits of lifelong learning in the process.
But what about those things that we wish will change for the better in the future?
- Better nutrition in cafeterias
- Real-world math over textbook math
- Better anti-bullying policies that also help the bullies
- Get rid of needless awards ceremonies in favour of Growth Mindset thinking
- Do away with schools putting undue emphasis on extracurricular activities over others for the sole purpose of school promotion
- No more school bells moving students to their next destination
- Different lenses to see poor performing students as not being simply dumb or lazy
- Using technology to serve the lesson and enhance learning rather than take over the teacher’s presence
- Arts classes must continue to be heralded for their importance within a comprehensive curriculum
- Allowing teachers the freedom to pace harder topics differently than less significant ones
- Parents and teachers see themselves as partners rather than adversaries
The Big Picture
The driving question to be asked regarding future learning scenarios is, “What is most effective and relevant to students today?” Steve Jobs once said this to former Nike CEO Mark Parker:
“Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”
We have to constantly assess what we are doing in our classes. Are we doing things right? Can things be done better? What kinds of things can we throw overboard that keep students from their goals? As long as we keep asking our questions and honestly answering them, we can ensure that student learning will improve for the foreseeable future.