This chapter is a bit different from the others. First, it is shorter than the others because only so much speculation is useful. Second, the focus is to prepare you for the relatively unknown. Al- though guidelines are possible, concrete applications for the future are probably not as useful as they are for the present. This is particularly true not only because technology will change, but because standards, goals, and curricula will also change. Even the definitions of “schooling” and “education” may change while you are in the classroom. In other words, there are many ways that the future of education could take shape, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
It’s hard to say, for example, what learning goals will be in the future— the pendulum between learning to think and learning test-focused basic skills swings back and forth with regularity. It seems logical to be able to have students do both. Other chapters in this text show that basic skills are crucial to more open-ended learning, and students can mix skill learning with other more open instructional goals and succeed in both. For now, it appears that this dual focus will serve students well in the future. In addition, organizations that have developed national standards suggest that these standards will carry us far into the future. They note that the emphasis on thinking skills, building communities of learners, and both process and outcomes not only will take some time to implement fully, but will also prepare students for future challenges.
Therefore, the goal of this chapter is to help you to understand current trends in learning to teach with technology to help you prepare as much as possible for the future. Although it may be hard to look ahead when you’re just getting started, you should be aware of changes that might affect your classroom so that you can work with the changes instead of being surprised by them.
After reading this chapter, you will be able to:
Understand trends that indicate where learning and educational technology might be headed.
Describe guidelines to help you support students in the technology-enhanced future.
Reflect on current trends in technologies.
Help students think about the future through technology-supported activities.
Assess how well your students are prepared for their technology-enhanced futures.
The discussion, sample activities, and tool descriptions throughout this chapter will help you understand the many opportunities that the future may present. As you read this chapter, consider how you might work to make the best of these opportunities.
OVERVIEW OF FUTURE TRENDS AND EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY
Rapid technology changes occur constantly in health, medicine, science, and other fields. Many of these advances will eventually arrive in educational settings, but which and how useful they will be is a question. Many people are making predictions, suggestions, and statements about the future of education and educational technology. Some predict that schools built of brick and mortar will no longer exist and that the boundaries of education will be as broad as cyberspace. Others suggest that technology will increase the distance between the educational haves and the have-nots.
No one knows what the future will bring. However, it is possible to look at the past and present and develop some general predictions. Why should teachers look 5 years, 10 years, and even longer into the future? Teachers should have an idea what their students will have to be able to do in 2025 or 2030 in order to understand how to prepare them.
Looking at current trends is a fruitful way to predict what the future might bring. Information on the trends discussed in this chapter has been gleaned from the popular press, the Internet, and other media outlets. There are as many alternative views as there are trends described here, and they make for interesting reading and discussion for teachers and students alike. The trends highlighted here are likely to affect education in important areas such as funding, demographics, and sources of information.
Trend 1: Universal Access and Use
At the turn of the recent century, according to the Forum on the Future of Technology in Education (U.S. Department of Education, 2000; http://www.air.org/forum/issues.htm), the following priorities were emerging for technology in education:
All students and teachers will have universal access to effective information technology in their classrooms, schools, communities, and homes.
All teachers will effectively use technology.
All students will be technologically literate and responsible cybercitizens.
Research, development and evaluation will shape the next generation of technology applications for teaching and learning.
Education will drive the eLearning economy.
Almost two decades later, these priorities for universal access and use of educational technology are still only partially implemented. In other words, they have not been completely realized. This may be in part because many of the same barriers noted in the U.S. Department of Commerce report Falling Through the Net: Toward Digital Inclusion (2000) still exist. The report showed that students with disabilities or those living in impoverished conditions had less access to technology than others. First language, level of education, and age also continue to affect how technology is accessed and used. In addition, the U.S. gender gap that previously existed in who uses technology has not closed, and reports show that there are differences in why and how males and females use technology such as the Internet (Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2007; Price, 2016).
If, in fact, the priorities of universal access and use are to be met, attention must be paid to students’ circumstances both within and outside of school. Administrators and teachers need to think about new ways to allocate the computers in their buildings, as noted in chapter 2. They also need to notice which students are using computers more frequently and support those with less confidence or less assertiveness. In addition, schools need to help students be flexible and effective in why and how they use technology.
Communities are working toward addressing these issues in a number of ways, including starting financially supported student laptop programs (e.g., see a story about East Rock School District at www.education-world.com/a_issues/schools/schools020.shtml), creating community computing centers, and funding more technology for public libraries (e.g., see the Public Library Association site at www.ala.org/pla). The results of these programs are not yet in, and some have generated controversy (for example, see reports supporting 1-to-1 laptop programs such as Doran and Herold, 2016, and an argument against it in Schrader, 2016). However, if these solutions prove workable they should have an impact on this trend.
One trend that has recently gained momentum is the move to Open Educational Resources (OER). This movement supports free digital materials across the curriculum; these include books, videos, and more. According to Rayl (2017):
OER allow educators to adapt instructional materials to the individual needs of their students. This helps ensure that content and resources are up to date and relevant and fit the unique needs of diverse student populations. Because of publishing timelines, traditional classroom materials like textbooks can often be out of date by the time they’re implemented in the classroom. And that doesn’t even take into account the curriculum adoption cycles that exist in most districts, which result in content areas updating resources on a two-, three-, or four-year rotation due to budgetary constraints.
OER also guarantee that cost is not a barrier to accessing high-quality, standards-aligned resources.
A number of OER repositories exist, including OER Commons (www.oercommons.org), Curriki (www.curriki.org), and OpenEd (www.opened.com). The benefit of these sites is that resources are vetted and aligned with standards. This is not always the case, however, and teachers must be wary of “free” resources that are not officially Creative Commons licensed but rather are clickbait (tempting) or lead to a commercial web site. OER resources can be remixed, revised, and distributed freely. Adapted versions can even be uploaded for others to use. For additional OER resources, see Rayl (2017).
Trend 2: Coding
The trend toward an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM), along with the focus on critical thinking skills, supported from the federal government to business to school standards, means a greater emphasis on students learning to code. Coding programs are starting as early as kindergarten, with simple coding programs like Blockly and Hopscotch (for others, see Patterson, 2014). At upper levels, code.org and other programs provide videos, tutorials, practice, and examples to help both teachers and learners with coding. Learners can even code in Minecraft, a very popular open-ended sandbox app used from K-12 both within and outside of school. Learning to code is expected to help learners think analytically, create, produce, and communicate in addition to being prepared for the very technological future that they face. However, teachers cannot teach coding if they do not understand it themselves. Myriad teacher resources exist, from Davis (2016) to local volunteers sponsored by Hour of Code (hourofcode.com/us). Some states are even including coding in their standards and are working on requiring teachers to have a computer science endorsement in the future. Teachers can get a head start by checking the resources noted above and searching for additional ones on the Internet.
Trend 3: Web 3.0
An important trend in technology in the last 15 years or so was that more people could contribute to and participate in media. With the advent of social computing, called “Web 2.0,” students were building social networks and connecting to other users through blogging, creating wikis, programming virtual worlds, developing lists of social bookmarks, and supplying video, audio, graphics, and text to be shared with millions of unknown users around the world in forums such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat.
Most of this happened outside of classrooms, but more recently some teachers have taken advantage of this trend and used some of these tools in effective instruction. These tools are used to help learners see different perspectives, learn to write for an audience, create information that should be shared, and meet other learning goals.
Predictions say that the so-called “Web 3.0” (coined by John Markoff, a New York Times reporter, in 2006) or “intelligent Web” will take this trend to another level, with web browsers that learn what people know and like and can function as personal assistants. Based on artificial intelligence, the computer will be able to understand information that humans provide in the same ways that the users do and adapt to the users’ needs. The computer will be able to understand words, sentences, and contexts and connect users across multiple platforms and devices seamlessly.
One advantage for students of Web 3.0 could the ability to study anything anywhere, on any device, and still be connected to a teacher and class. Another benefit may be the ability to more easily use voice and other types of commands and receive exactly what was searched for, rather than hundreds of possibilities.
However, just like one possible disadvantage of the proliferation of social Web sites and other tools is the tendency of students to believe what they read, Web 3.0 can make the need for declarative and procedural knowledge seem unnecessary to students. Exercises and tools that facilitate student critical thinking (such as those in chapter 4) will be more crucial than ever if this trend continues. In addition, risks inherent in Internet use by minors increase with more time, information, and accessibility online, and all stakeholders must ensure that safety policies (chapter 3) are effective.
These trends may or may not continue and may or may not have the suggested impacts on education that their supporters believe. However, teachers must be aware and prepared to respond to these changes.
Future Roles of Teachers
The traditional role of teachers as information-givers has changed, as noted throughout this text. Teachers need to and are becoming facilitators, co-learners, and mentors. However, change is slow in education. Although new technologies are often seen as the agents of change, only teachers can make changes in pedagogy (such as creating new kinds of tasks, integrating technology in effective ways, and providing support and feedback that meets the needs of individual students).
As the availability and importance of technologies change, teachers must be able to address the academic, linguistic, and social needs of students so that all students have opportunities to learn. Trends that are beginning to help teachers become change agents in their students’ lives include emphasis on social justice, equity, cultural responsiveness, differentiation, and access to information. The guidelines throughout this text that focus on these issues may play an even more important role in the future.
GUIDELINES FOR SUPPORTING STUDENTS IN THE TECHNOLOGY-ENHANCED FUTURE
All of the learning goals outlined in this text aim at supporting students’ learning, and in doing so also address students’ futures. Teachers can implement the following guidelines now to help students meet the goals and be ready for the future.
Guideline #1: Help students handle information. Students are often bombarded with information from multiple sources when they are using computers, cell phones, and other technologies in class. Teachers must be aware of the divided attention or distraction that results from the overwhelming amount of information. Teachers need to help students sort out what is important in the information stream and how to organize and use it. Some students will feel at home with the flow of data, and others might get lost. Strategies for teachers include:
For students who are comfortable with it, “continuous connectivity” allows them to tap into what is called the “back channel,” gathering information to support the task or event they are working on through numerous resources. Teachers can allow these students to access a variety of resources at the same time and teach them how to give credit to the authors of the sites they access.
Other students may need more structured, selective use of technology. Teachers should carefully preselect Web sites or software modules and provide step-by-step instructions on how to proceed.
A flood of information can support learning for those who can multitask, but it can also create barriers to true, face-to-face social interaction from too much attention to technology. By observing and working with students, teachers can work toward an appropriate balance of technology use and social interaction for each student.
Guideline #2: Keep an eye on trends. Knowing where education and educational technology are going (and should go) means being aware. Teachers should consult useful resources such as ISTE’s Web site, news media Web sites such as CNN and MSNBC, and blogs and other resources that directly address the future of technology. Teachers can also enlist students in finding and presenting information about trends, documenting where the trends seem to be going, and mapping the trend as it progresses.
One interesting site to review is Imagining the Internet: A History and Forecast, provided by Elon University and the Pew Internet Project (www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/publications.xhtml). The 2006 survey, The Future of the Internet II, asked hundreds of technology experts to look at trends and predictions for the year 2020. The site creators provide teacher tips and tools for teaching about the future and working with predictions, including “Back 150 Years,” “Forward 150 Years,” and a KidZone.
TRENDS IN TOOLS AND TOOL USE
There are so many emerging technologies and changing uses of tools that it is often difficult to keep track. By the time you read this book, blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other “new” technologies may be commonly used in schools, increasing online interactions and collaboration and providing a variety of students with access to content and skills. Google for Education, MinecraftEDU, and other tools will be prevalent in K-12.
This section lists tool trends that could affect education in the near and far futures. They are not listed in any particular order, because all could equally signal important changes to educators.
A move away from commercial operating systems like Microsoft and MacOS to Linux and other open-source, free programs. This is currently a slow-moving trend that is gaining momentum. Since many of the programs that schools currently use may not work on these new operating systems, it may impact school economics.
A move away from desktop machines to integrated mobile units. Technologies are combining, and some of them are wearable. For example, GPS, cell phones, and watches; blogs with video (e.g., www.vidblogs.com); courseware that includes telephony software like Skype. The trend toward mobile computing means that students can access information almost anywhere. This implies that the classroom of the future might be wherever the student is.
Internet telephony (Voice over Internet/VoIP). Programs such as Skype are taking the financial burden out of instant voice connections and allowing students and teachers to communicate with authors, artists, scientists, and classrooms around the world. These free programs are changing the economics of electronic voice connection and the possibilities for schools to use it. However, VoIP requires a fast connection, so it is still not available in some schools.
Ease of use. Technologies are getting easier to use as interfaces become more supportive, more visual, and more user-friendly. For example, to find specific items in a Web or site search, users used to have to type special symbols and order terms in a certain way. Now most browsers do not require the “http://” in front of the URL, and symbols are rarely needed.
Additionally, animation software like Animation Master (hash.com) makes it easy for people to do simple animations. Students can create animations of stories, concepts, and ideas to help their audience understand their presentations. Also, Web sites are using new coding and software to make them more interactive and responsive to users’ needs. Many sites include site searches provided by Google and instant technical support through telephony software. All of this makes these tools and information more accessible to a wider range of users.
In the far future, advances in virtual reality, wearable computing, and other technologies may allow even greater access to information and communication. However, teachers must make sure that these and other technologies are used effectively, responsibly, and in pursuit of learning goals, as outlined throughout this text. In part, this means teacher digital literacies and online safety. For more information, visit WiredSafety.org.
ACTIVITIES TO PREPARE STUDENTS FOR THE FUTURE
One way to prepare students for the future is to facilitate their progress toward the learning goals that frame this text. Another way is to have them start thinking about the future using both real and fantastic approaches. The activities in this section incorporate both of these ways. Each activity is listed with a short description and possible resources. All of the examples address a set of the learning goals. Each activity can be adapted to suit student needs, interests, and context.
Example 1. Tools of the future
Think about what technology might be able to do in the future.
List current problems that technology use could solve.
Predict what problems the technology could cause.
Create a “documentary” or opinion piece to present their ideas.
Use Time Travel resources from Nova (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/time/resources.html) to engage students in the unit and get them thinking and other Web sites for support and development (e.g., Creating a Documentary from Apple at www.apple.com/ education/documentary/).
Example 2. Future occupations
Access lists of current occupations.
Chart the current and future need for the occupation based on data.
Note how technology might change the occupation.
Create an advisory bulletin (news report, pamphlet, FAQ file) for students making career decisions.
Use occupational trend data found in the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS; www.bls.gov/emp/) to get started.
Example 3. Fortune-telling
Examine the basis for and veracity of fortune-telling.
Choose a type of fortune-telling—e.g., palm reading, tarot cards, the stars, a crystal ball—that is of interest to them (and that does not go against any of their beliefs or expected behaviors).
Explore the background of their chosen method, including its cultural significance.
Create a presentation or product to show others what they found and what they believe about it based on evidence they collected.
Resources include library- and Internet-based texts, Web sites, experts, readings, and practitioners. Students can start with definitions in encyclopedias such as Wikipedia, then check fun sites such as iVillage’s Crystal Ball (https://www.horoscope.com/us/games/divination/game-crystal-ball.aspx), Fortune Cookie ( https://www.horoscope.com/us/games/divination/game-fortune-cookie.aspx), and GenieSays.com’s Genie (www.geniesays.com/). Other background information can be found in Leland’s historical account of fortune-telling (www.sacred-texts.com/pag/gsft/index.htm),
Example 4. The most important question
Determine the most essential questions to answer about the future.
Brainstorm, consult peers, family, and experts, and use feedback from a data-collection site on the Web to compile a list of questions.
Develop criteria for narrowing their list (perhaps “affects the most people,” or “easiest to answer”).
Debate, survey, or use other methods to determine which questions best fit their criteria.
Figure out ways to try to answer the questions.
Share their answers in an appropriate format with those who provided input.
Resources can include blogs or Web forms, email, articles and readings, and production technologies. Students can get ideas and opinions from The Speculist blog (Seven Questions about the Future; www.speculist.com/archives/000019.html) or ABC News experts (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/ces-2015-biggest-tech-trends/story?id=27966276).
These brief examples show how teachers can integrate knowledge and ideas about the future, crucial learning goals, and educational technologies to support student learning.
ASSESSING STUDENT PREPAREDNESS FOR THE FUTURE
Students will need to be more independent, resourceful, and technologically literate in the future. Many of the assessments described throughout this text can help you to understand where your learners are proficient and where they need more support. Evaluation can assist teachers and students in understanding where to put more effort so that students meet the goals they need to be successful. Teachers and students can adapt checklists and rubrics to their contexts and beliefs about the future. For example, the language may need to be simplified or examples provided for some learners, while additional criteria addressing what students need in the future could be added.
Students can use checklists to evaluate their skills as independent, resourceful, prepared learners. Students can complete the appropriate rubric one or more times and reflect with their teacher on where they need to improve. Then teachers and students can make a plan for how to achieve the goals on the checklist. For example, to use time more wisely, students may make a list of ways that they typically do not do so and then have a peer or the teacher remind them to check it. Likewise, students can keep running records of their progress on a criterion such as participating in the group, noting when they participate most effectively and working to enhance those group features that help them to participate. The checklist criteria could also be posted around the room to remind students to reflect upon them every day. Such evaluation checklists could be usefully integrated into a portfolio or a progress report.
Through assessments like these, teachers can help students to invest their time and effort in tasks and skill-building that will serve them well in their futures.
It is not certain that the changes suggested in this chapter will or even should happen. In fact, with every gain, some kind of loss is experienced. This idea is underscored by some of the trends presented in this chapter. For example, when networking becomes more social, the amount of face-to-face interaction appears to decrease. Or, as computing becomes more mobile, student expectations of schooling might change in ways that schools are not ready for.
According to Bruce Sterling (2005), author of Shaping Things, there are two future scenarios that technology might help bring about—greater community around the world that leads to peace, prosperity, and a cleaner, fairer world, or a government-ruled, 1984-type future where the flow of information is controlled by the elite. Either is just as likely as a lot of other visions, but teachers must prepare to have an important role to play in the outcome.
Understand trends that indicate where learning and educational technology might be
Experts and others continue to make a variety of predictions about the future, some of which appear more likely than others to happen. What seems clear is that technology and education will change.
Describe guidelines to help you support students in the technology-enhanced future. Teachers must help students find a comfortable place in the flow of information and keep up on trends that might affect their teaching contexts.
Reflect on current trends in technologies.
Many technologies are changing so rapidly that it seems impossible to keep up with them. It is important to be aware of those that can help students meet their learning goals and to focus on effective use of whatever technology is employed.
Help students think about the future through technology-supported activities.
Well-crafted activities can help students meet learning goals as they think about and imagine what the future may bring.
Assess how well your students are prepared for their technology-enhanced futures. Part of this assessment is helping students be aware of their current knowledge and skills and to understand where they need to be better prepared for their futures.
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