School in 2029

Students entering Kindergarten for the 2016-2017 school year will be on target to graduate in 2029. In their senior year of high school, school will look different that it does for graduating seniors in 2016. Predicting the future of education can be tough because there are so many variables in play. New and improved technology, evolving student demographics and abilities, politics, and the economy are just a few of the variables that will determine the future of education. Still, several generalizations about what school will look like in 2029 can be made, including; an increased focus on trade/technical schools, a greater need for technology classes, continued growth of the BYOD and 1:1 movement, a decrease in the use of textbooks, increased student work completed online with more online and cyber courses offered, and an increased need for psychological services.

According to Bill Gates, We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.  This may be an understatement when it comes to education though.  The educational system is very much driven by politics and the economy which are extremely difficult to predict.  While there are frequently new and incredibly hyped initiatives, many are never get completed due to financial and political roadblocks.  For that reason, growth in education may not occur as rapidly as it would in the technology or business world.

By 2029, students will be choosing vocational and technical schools at record levels. As technology continues to evolve, the need for skilled workers will increase. School districts will begin offering more technology courses and at earlier ages.  Students will begin taking courses on repairing and maintaining technology, not just using technology. The need for skills in the technology field will grow rapidly as advanced technology becomes more common in homes, cars, and other parts of everyday life. Technology may replace some of the skilled jobs that currently exist but in doing so will create a need for a new type of skilled worker.

According to Jim Daly in “These 14 BYOD Statistics Tell a Story of Opportunity and Danger” institutions are embracing the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement even though there is not a consensus on how to make it work. Many districts like the perception of having students bring their own devices to school to utilize them to learn. After all, this is supposed to be changing the way in which students learn. Unfortunately, as of 2016, there does not seem to be consistency of how these programs are implemented. In education, perception can be more important than reality so, even with the lack of a clear plan, the BYOD movement will continue to grow as we approach 2029 but will never become a universally accepted model.

As the BYOD movement and 1:1 initiatives (devices for every student) become more widespread, the need for textbooks will decrease. Textbook companies will switch their attention to producing digital instructional tools to engage 21st century learners. Growing competition to produce digital instructional tools will benefit education as the digital instructional tools improve and become more user friendly. Competition and lack of overhead for the companies will drive the prices down and make the digital instructional tools more affordable for K-12 schools.

Students in 2029, will be more comfortable learning on a computer through instructional videos than they are learning from a person in a face-to-face environment. This will lead school districts to offer online course options for more and more courses. Lack of teacher training will be an issue and districts will look to hire new teachers with a background in online teaching.  Districts will need to determine the proper mix of  face-to-face courses and online courses.  

Depression, anxiety, drug use, and suicide will continue to be a problem and may become worse as students become less comfortable talking to their elders. This will be an increasing strain on school districts that will need to hire more workers for their psychological departments. As teenagers become more engaged with technology, they will attempt to find comfort in technology instead of seeking help from those close to them. Teenagers that are unable to determine what is and is not reliable on the Internet may end up in a more severe situation without anyone noticing. According to Kayleigh Lewis in “Heavy social media users ‘trapped in endless cycle of depression”, the more time that teens spend on social media, the more likely they are to become depressed. Mental health issues will become a primary concern of schools, local, and state governments and significantly impact the experience in schools in 2029.

When discussing the future of education, it is important to acknowledge the political and economic impact on educational trends. Public schools are largely driven by funding through taxes and state initiatives. Any new trend that involves technology will require money.  Districts need to carefully evaluate not only the initial cost of technology and software but also the cost to maintain the technology and software. Districts looking to increase course offerings in technology classes will need to determine if they will be able to fund the courses and that includes money to purchase and maintain the technology and potentially to increase the number of teachers in the technology department. Any district looking to implement a 1:1 initiative or BYOD initiative needs to determine costs of initial purchase and maintenance as well, which may include hiring more individuals for their IT department.

Any changes to course offerings, such as offering more online courses or increasing technology classes also need to be approved by the school board. In that case, politics and the general beliefs of the school board may act as a roadblock for change. The school board must weigh the value of each new initiative against the potential for raising taxes and angering the tax base.

For several reasons, change in education does not occur rapidly. Whether it is politically or economically motivated, there are often roadblocks to change. Unfortunately, while change is slow to occur in education, the business and technology world continue to evolve. The question is whether school districts will be able to evolve enough to provide students with the skills they will need to succeed in the real world. Schools will look different in 2029 but probably not as different as most people might think they would.

 

Works Cited:

Cummings, David. “Overestimate the Next Two Years and Underestimate the Next Ten.” David Cummings on Startups. N.p., 27 Dec. 2013. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.

Daly, Jimmy. “These 14 BYOD Statistics Tell a Story of Opportunity and Danger.” EdTech. EdTech, 05 June 2013. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.

Lewis, Kayleigh. “Heavy Social Media Users ‘trapped in Endless Cycle of Depression'” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 24 Mar. 2016. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.

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Google Apps For Education

Google Apps for education is a productivity suite that offers many options for educators. With the Google Apps, students can collaborate, plan, share, and organize content. Google offers the ability to add additional apps in order to meet a variety of needs including video editing, photo editing, and much more. This suite of tools gives teachers many options for educating students.

With an increased emphasis on reading and writing due to standardized testing, the need for a good word processing program has grown. Students can easily write, share, and collaborate on documents using Google Docs, a cloud based tool. Documents can be shared in numerous ways and teachers can control the ways in which they are shared.

Google+ Hangouts is a great tool for online and distance classes. With Google+ Hangouts, students can video conference and easily collaborate on projects.  Learners can connect directly with an expert in the field and observe via video.

Google offers many other tools such as Sheets, Slides, and Sites which allow students to easily create, share, and save work. Students in economics classes can easily utilize a Google Sheet to analyze business productivity or create a presentation for a History or English class using Google Presentations.  For teachers looking to have students keep a portfolio of work, a Google Site can provide the space for students to create their portfolio.

My Paperless Classroom

My 11th-12th grade Psychology class has been paperless since the 2013-2014 school year. All content is delivered through a learning management system (LMS) like Schoology.  All student work is completed using Google Docs and submitted through Schoology.  In my classroom, I have never used a textbook and since we started having laptops in classrooms in 2008, the majority of my coursework has always been completed online. During the 2013-2014 school year, I decided to go entirely paperless.

As an elective, my course attracts a diverse group of students. Some of my students are comfortable using the Internet and technology to complete work while others strongly dislike it at first. Each task during the first unit of study for my class is designed to help students become familiar with a paperless class and to teach them how to complete and submit work. I have found that this acquisition process is a vital part of my paperless class.

A paperless classroom makes it easier to build a learning network beyond the classroom but student motivation will always be a factor in their ability to learn. Students in my classes today complete the same activities that they completed before I decided to go paperless. I modified all of my assignments to fit into a weekly discussion format. Students still take tests but now they are done through our LMS.  I have found that students that complete the weekly discussions score significantly higher on tests. This is most likely because the students are engaged with the content and in discussion with peers when they complete the weekly discussions. Some students that may not have spoke up in class, are now participating because they are more comfortable completing the work online.  At the same time, the students that do not participate in work outside of class are missing this valuable learning experience.

Having a paperless class has become easier each year. However, a teacher needs to have access to the Internet on a daily basis in order to have a paperless class. I have been lucky in that my district provides the resources that enable me to teach using a paperless class. Having done so for three years now, I would not enjoy returning to a class that was not paperless.

Textbooks: No Longer Necessary

In Will Richardson’s book titled “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms,” he discussed 10 Big Shifts in how to best teach students in the 21st Century. Big Shift #1: Open Content is of particular interest to my teaching practices.  The Open Content shift emphasizes the way in which students interact with information. Teachers are no longer the primary controller of information. Textbooks no longer need to be the primary source of information. Now, students have access to information from various sources and in various formats. This shift has led to the motto in my classes, “It’s not about what you know but how quickly you can find it”.

I began teaching in 2004 and I have never had to rely on a textbook as a source of information. From 2004 to 2016, new technologies and new sources of information evolved and have made it even easier to teach without a textbook. In my classroom, I uses videos, the Internet, blogs and other sources of information accessed on the Internet to teach the content. My students are asked to find deeper meaning in the concepts that we learn rather than memorizing information from a textbook. We use real world examples to connect with the information. Each year, finding those real world examples becomes easier because of open content.

As technology and the way in which students consume information change, teachers need to be aware of the changes and continually adapt the way in which they deliver the content in their classroom.  School districts can help by offering professional development on the new and current technologies that students are using to consume information.

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

The Value of Skype

Skype is a great tool for businesses and distance learning classes. A few years ago, I traveled to Puerto Rico for work for 22 days. At the time, my kids were 1 and 3.  I used Skype daily to talk to my kids. It is nice to see someone that you care about when you are talking to them. It makes conversations feel more personal. Skype is a very effective tool for long-distance communication. Skype is not very relevant to most current teaching practices however.

In most public schools, students must live in the district (i.e. nearby) in order to be enrolled in that school. Therefore, there is not a major need for long-distance communication. Even with online classes in high school, most students are required to attend the school to complete their work.

In distance learning classrooms, Skype can be beneficial tool.  Skype is also beneficial to businesses.  When interviewing an employee from out-of-state, businesses can use Skype to make the interview more personal.  Observing facial expressions during a meeting can be beneficial for many businesses.

Connectivism as a Learning Theory

In their blog, Group A argued in favor of connectivism. They stressed how many networks (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google) today’s students belong to and how those networks can be used to build knowledge. The group also pointed out that there are both individual and collaborative components to connectivism which are reinforced with social media.  I agree with the facts that group A presented but I do not agree that connectivism should be considered as a learning theory.

Is connectivism really different than constructivism?  They both emphasize learning collaboratively. Constructivism was around well before connectivism. In my opinion, connectivism tried to capitalize on the infusion of technology that occurred in the early 2000’s.  Connectivism is not a new theory on how we learn. It is constructivism through technology.

A simple search of the Internet turns up many evaluations of connectivism which were written by grad students.  However, it is very difficult to find scholarly articles supporting connectivism as a learning theory.  Connectivism simply never caught on and was able to be placed besides behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism as a learning theory.

Using Podcasting to Enhance a Lesson

Podcasts are a great way for teachers to share a voice with their students. Many creative podcasts already exist for many subjects. In Psychology, one of the most intriguing podcasts is The Psych Files by Michael A. Britt, Ph.D.  In the Psych Files podcasts, Mr. Britt finds many creative ways to bring psychology content to life. A perfect example of this is his podcast episode, “Did B.F. Skinner Raise His Children in The Skinner Box”.

In “Did B.F. Skinner Raise His Children in The Skinner Box”, Mr. Britt conducts a faux interview with B.F. Skinner. By utilizing an image of B.F. Skinner while the audio of Skinner addressing questions plays in the background, it helps to bring Skinner to life.  Podcasts like “Did B.F. Skinner Raise His Children in The Skinner Box” can be very beneficial in the classroom because they can help student to identify B.F. Skinner as a real person and not just a name in the book.

Today’s students have grown up with digital media. They are used to looking at images on screens and hearing voices come out of speakers. Many of my students do not like to read.  By using digital photos and adding voices to podcasts, students will become more engaged with the content.

Photo Sharing In The Classroom

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Photo Courtesy of Flickr user p.Gordon

With a heavy emphasis being placed on project-based learning in education, the ability to share and access photos can be beneficial. In 2016, teachers have many options for sharing and accessing photos, including; Flickr, Photobucket, Instagram, Google Photos and more. Choosing the best option to use in the classroom may depend on the desired goals.

Flickr was one of the first options for teachers looking to have students upload, share, and access photos for their project-based learning tasks. Flickr has seen some ups and downs since it’s inception in 2004 but currently boasts a large library of images that students can use in their projects. Flickr currently finds itself in a battle the Google Photos however with many users opting to utilize Google Photos.

Google Photos offers most of the same features as Flickr but while Flickr has chosen to charge customers for many of the features, Google Photos remains free.  For this reason, Google Photos is emerging as the leading tool for uploading, sharing, and accessing photos. Regardless of what service educators choose, photos can be used for a variety of project-based learning including; portfolios, digital storytelling, mapping, and more. For more information about using images in the classroom, check out 13 Ways to Use Flickr In The Classroom.

“13 Ways You Can Use Flickr In The Classroom.” TeachThought. Teachthought, 14 July 2013. Web. 29 Mar. 2016. <http://www.teachthought.com/uncategorized/13-ways-you-can-use-flickr-in-the-classroom/&gt;.

Bamburic, Mihalta. “Flickr Just Lost Its Appeal — and the War against Google Photos.” BetaNews. BetaNews, 09 Mar. 2016. Web. 29 Mar. 2016. <http://betanews.com/2016/03/09/flickr-vs-google-photos/>.
Gordon, P. Psychology Symbol. Digital image. Flickr. N.p., 7 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Mar. 2016. <https://flic.kr/p/dJCFTn>.

Wikis – Not For 11th/12th Graders

Around 2010, I took my first graduate class that preached the value of using wikis in the classroom.  Around the same time, my district adopted the idea of using wikis as well. So, naturally, I dove in headfirst. For one year, I incorporated wikis anywhere and everywhere that I could in my lessons. Then I realized something.  My students despised wikis.

Wikis were packaged and sold to teachers as tools to get students working collaboratively and constructing knowledge. Those were majors goals of many districts in 2010 and even get some mention now in 2016. From the outside, it would seem like wikis would benefit students. I believe that is completely dependent upon the age and motivation level of the students though.

My experience with using wikis in the classroom was primarily limited to 11th and 12th grade students. In general, the students are not extremely motivated. They are even less motivated to work collaboratively. I once had a student response, “Just tell us what we need to know”, in when I gave them a choice in how we could cover the material for the upcoming chapter. Because of my experience, I believe that motivation to use wikis and work collaboratively is higher with middle school and elementary students.

Collaborating With Peers

Social bookmarking is a great way for colleagues in a certain field to stay share ideas and resources with each other.  Whether you are a professional in the business field seeking to make a profit or a teacher seeking the best practices to educate your students, social bookmarking can help. In a world where time is a concern for many adults, social bookmarking can bring all the resources of a group together in a way that can benefit the entire group without each individual spending a great deal of time on their own.

In the field of education, collaboration is a popular topic. Educational trends point to collaboration as a beneficial tool for educating students. In the same way, it benefits teachers by allowing them to share best practices. Unfortunately, many teachers are not given the time to collaborate and thus are not aware of many of the positive things that their peers are doing. School districts should seek out more time within teachers contracts where they can collaborate and building a learning community that will benefit the students in the district.
Many Learning Management Systems which schools are currently utilizing have features built in that easily allow collaboration. If districts provide teachers with in-service time to begin the process of collaborating, then the teachers may see the benefit of the collaboration and continue with their efforts on their own time.  Just like with most people, it is important that teachers see the benefits of an activity before they are expected to embrace it as practice.