The World in 2020…
This may seem far away, but in four years, 2020 will be a reality. In four years, we will see continued growth in technology, which will no doubt impact education as well as the teachers and students who live in this world. In 2016, we are seeing a surge in online education, new web-applications to support teaching and learning, and video-based programing that allows teachers and students to connect and learn from the comfort of their own home. Teachers lead students to discovery, but with the Internet, students are more likely to develop their own path as they use the Web to learn. By 2020, the amount of information available to students will be even larger than it is now, which will be a challenge as teachers start to guide students through the web. Technology will be used to facilitate this learning, even more so than used now. The future of education is already here, and the year 2020 will likely include more online learning, changing the roles of both students and teachers.
Teachers who are currently instructing in a traditional environment will likely find themselves in a more blended teaching environment. Textbooks, learning materials, instructional resources are mostly online because students need flexibility with when and where they can access their learning materials. Learning units will likely be more performance based and include the use of technology. If teachers are not instructing online, they will, at the very least, have an online teaching page that includes classroom resources as well as a teacher blogs recounting instruction for the day. This, again, will be necessary, as students may not be conforming to a traditional school schedule. In a true blended environment, teachers would be teaching face-to-face part of the week and using online instructional when not teaching face-to-face. The time that teachers and students have together will likely be to prepare students for assessments and facilitate group projects.
In a blended/hybrid environment, teachers facilitate learning while students create a more individualized learning path. While state standards will continue to be implemented and used to assess student learning, it is likely that curriculum will be designed in such a fashion to support student learning and creation of their own academic path. Both students and teachers will use blogging to sharing information, creating a more global learning environment. Digital footprints for both students and teachers will increase as they use WikiSpaces to collaborate, blogging to sharing learning, RSS feeds to bookmarks newsfeeds for learning purposes, and use various web-applications to design engaging presentations to demonstrate their teaching and learning. Students will spend less time in class and more time online learning about a topic and, ideally, heading out into the world to see their learning in action.
Traditional school, however, is not going anywhere. In fact, the information presented above is likely to be seen in private schools and programs, as they will have the money necessary to fund this change. What traditional schools will likely see is implementation of their own cyber programs, separate from traditional classroom learning. This means that students will have the option, or be required, to take courses either face-to-face and/ or online. The online component will not be supplemental but canned curriculum purchased by the school. Online learning will be offered to students for a variety of reasons, one being health issues keeping them from coming to school but still wanting a rich, academic experience. Classroom teachers may be paid extra to supervise these online courses, as well. This could potentially reduce class sizes and create more in-class opportunities for collaborative learning experiences.
For schools who cannot afford or do not have the desire to start their own cyber program, district or county cyber programs may be in high demand. For example, the online program for which I work in run by the Chester County Intermediate Unit but serves districts across South Eastern Pennsylvania. We also serve urban districts like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. An online learning model like ours is attractive because districts can offer their students online courses within their home district. They can choose to be online full or part-time but still receive a diploma from their home school. These online programs use certified teachers who hold office hours, live lessons, and attend live events to meet students in person and create rapport.
As far as technology is concerned, there will be an increase in devices within classrooms. More so than today, students will be using Ipads, Iphones, and tablets to guide their learning. Students will likely have experience with these devices as early as primary school, so their use in middle to secondary school use will be second-hand. This is positive because less time will be needed to train students on devices leaving more time for learning. Teachers will also need to be skilled in using these devices to instruct and support student learning. Web-conferencing tools like Skype and Google Hangouts will be used by both teachers and students to connect outside of the traditional class schedule. This is because students may require more meeting time as they develop their own learning path and collaborate with classmates. Teachers will need to be flexible in order to connect with students and support their learning.
On a more personal level, I see teachers, like myself, who have been teaching online for many years, becoming leaders in the online world. I imagine my job will eventually include both instruction and training, possibly outside of my program as schools and districts look to train their teachers in virtual instruction. I also see those with online experience building our own content, moving away from the canned curriculum we feel so restricted by in our current classroom. Our experiences learning about different learning management platforms will prepare us for the day when we build our own curriculum to meet the varying needs of our online learners.
The world of education is changing, and there is no doubt that technology is playing a role in that change. Our job is learning as much as we can to be best prepared for this not-so-distant future and support our students. The advantage of this change is that teachers and students will need to work together in order to support each other and keep up with the changing times. The better we prepare our students for change and the more equipped they are with the technology, the better professionals they will be in a world that will be even more reliant on technology, a world past 2020 and much more into the future.