Saturday, January 16, 2016

Behold, The School of the Future!

One of the best stories you can read about schooling was written in 1951, by Isaac Asimov. Called "The Fun They Had", it's about a generation that knows nothing other than teaching machines, and reminiscences about a physical gathering place called "school". Asimov knew futurism (and partly invented science fiction), but he, so far, has proven to be way off with this fiction.

You can read it, and see what you think. Certainly we all have our opinions about what the "school of the future" will or should look like, based on our own experiences, biases, and interests. A large part of what we think should happen in schools in the future is, I think, dictated by how disposed we are to see the past as better, or worse, than the present time. (This is mirrored in the larger debates over traditional/progressive schooling, and probably conservatism/progressivism in politics).

Here is a current Australian vision for the "school of the future". It frankly doesn't seem much different than the type of schooling predicted by Asimov: "electronic with a capital E!" But then you actually read the article, and it''s talking about things like" VCRs, laserdiscs, and telephones. Yep, the "school of the future" is already out of date.

I used to teach science fiction to kids, and I like to use images of what people thought the future would look like. This Reddit has some nice posts that you can look at. The human mind can always leap farther with its dreams and ideas than technology can. Filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick never thought to go past 2001 with his space odyssey. The Back to the Future movies had their own ideas about what 2015 would look like (and, strangely, hoverboards are here now).

I think technological progress is slow, relentless, and sometimes, paradigm shifting. Iteration upon iteration seems to be the way a lot of technologies progress. A lot of things in my house would be unrecognizable to my great-grandparents, but many would not.

The question to ask yourself is this: would Dewey in 1915, recognize your classroom as a place of learning, in 2015? My guess is yes. Yes, he would also recognize "21st century skills" such as creativity and critical thinking. You could teach Mr. Time Traveller Dewey how to use an iPad, and chances are, he would enjoy your class. I suspect he would quite like the opportunity to learn with modern tools.

Here are my predictions for the school of the future:

  • kids will still learn in a room with teachers
  • schools will continue to use the technology of their day (hopefully very effectively)
I am comfortable saying very little else about the school of the future.

As for "22nd century teaching and learning", i'm sure it will look a lot like "21st century teaching and learning". 21st century teaching and learning is really teaching for "the now", as my friend Mary says. What I am trying to say here is that human interactions and relationships will still be paramount. The "'school of the future" will "Human with a capital H".

File:School of the Future street facade.jpg

The actual "School of the Future" in Manhattan

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