5 Big Ways Education Will Change by 2020

by Samantha Cole, Fast Company

 There’s room for more innovation, but the human factor will always be important.

We asked the world’s most innovative companies in education to school us on the future of the classroom, with predictions for the next five years. Here’s what we found out:

1. Students Will Interact With Others Remotely

Joe Williams [executive director of Democrats for Education Reform] predicts education tech will continue the push towards individualized instruction for students. Hadley Ferguson, executive director of the Edcamp Foundation, agrees: Kids can “reach out beyond the walls of their classrooms to interact with other students; other teachers; and renowned authors, scientists, and experts to enhance their learning,” she says. Some of those digital-native kids will grow up to become teachers, who will continue to build and use their own communities of learning online.

2. Tech Success Will Still Need Skilled Teachers

We might be sending kids to school in self-driving cars by 2020, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be taught by teacher-avatars and given tests via drone.

“Education needs will drive technology use, rather than the ‘coolness’ of technology trumping education,” predicts Shannon May, cofounder of Bridge International Academies. Instead of simply finding ways to put more tablets in kids’ hands, education technology will find new ways to supplement the best learning possible….

Jake Schwartz, CEO/cofounder of General Assembly, predicts that as technology advances, its limits will become clear. “‘Online’ is not a cure-all for education issues in this country, but it can help provide greater access to new skills training,” he says. “This is powerful when combined with curricula and programming created and led by practitioner educators. The human factor is always important.”…

3. We’ll Think Differently About The Diploma

Shannon May: “Today, diplomas granted by years in school are the dominant certification of ‘learning.’ Yet,…these diplomas certify nothing other than the fact that the person in question spent x years in school. Competency-based certifications testing specific skills, and bundling individual skills into professional groupings, will become a global currency for both employers and job seekers.”

The possibilities offered in technology feed into this shift. “A new curriculum is going to be created that builds on these possibilities,” says Ferguson, “allowing students to move away from rote learning and tackle real-world challenges and develop solutions for them.”

4. Students Will Have A Voice

Kirsten Saenz Tobey, cofounder of Revolution Foods believes…engaging and respecting students and families as wellness partners will become a new focus in ways we haven’t seen before. “Traditional education is very top-down, heavy-handed—sit down and read, be quiet, don’t ask questions—there’s still a lot of room for innovation.”…

5. Educators And Institutions Will Have To Adapt

By 2100, more than half the world’s population will live in India, China, or Africa. “Global policy leadership and sales of education goods and services will be shaped less by issues and needs in the U.S., and more by the issues and needs of Africa, South Asia, and China,” May says. “Market demand, and pressing policy issues related to urbanization and population growth, will shift the center of gravity of education provision.”

Put more simply, Tobey says, “We’re not quite stacking up to where the rest of the world is. [The U.S.] is feeling the pressure to be the world leader we think we are . . . particularly in math and science.”

“For schools of all types, content or curriculum will not be the core differentiator, but rather they will be judged on how well they coordinate complex offerings into a useful package for their students,” Schwartz says.

“Most professions can point to dramatic changes in the way they work, thanks to technological innovations” says Williams. “[Teaching] is starting to change, but it has been incredibly slow.”


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