As I explored the theme of communications and the Internet this week, I thought about the future. Specifically, I thought about my future as a teacher, and I wondered where I would be in 2023 and what my classroom would look like?
I searched the Web on the topic of the future of education and kept coming across the term disruptive innovation. Now, in teacher parlance, “disruptive” is not a term generally associated with positive images, and warm, fuzzy feelings, so my first thought was, “Oh no!”
What I learned after more research, however, was that a disruptive innovation need not be feared at all. In fact, it generally means good news for most of us. In it’s simplest terms, a disruptive innovation is a game changer, or shift-maker. It creates a change in the status quo.
In the case of education, online educational programs, such as virtual schools, and massive open online courses (MOOCs) are considered disruptive innovations, because they are creating a shift away from the traditional K-12 school model. (This, of course, is my simplified interpretation of the theory of disruptive innovation. You can read more about the theory developed by Dr. Clayton Christensen here.)
This shift, resulting from the expansion of online programs, increased use of social media, and integration of other emerging technologies, is exciting because it offers a more flexible and personalized learning experience for students. However, I still wanted to explore what the changing landscape might mean for my students and me, for my school, and for my classroom. So, I continued my research.
A glimpse of the future through different lenses.
Some of the predictions I came across for what learning might look like in the future indicated a radical change from where we are now. One such prediction by KnowledgeWorks takes the idea of personalized learning to the extreme.
In the scenario imagined by KnowledgeWorks, students, who may or may not use “augmentations” (medications or cognitive implants that help humans manage the vast information flow they receive and must process each day) work with their parents and a team of “learning agents” to develop an individualized “learning playlist” tailored to their unique needs, interests, talents, and availability. The students could attend a learning center, a traditional “brick and mortar” school or just learn independently, at home or wherever they are, under the guidance of their parents, meeting periodically with a variety of “learning agents” to help them set and meet their individual learning goals.
Other predictions I read dealt with rise in popularity of online K-12 charter schools, also known as “cyber” charter schools. Many of these virtual schools offer a completely online learning experience for students from kindergarten through twelfth grade. With online programs also offered by colleges and universities, a student could potentially never step foot in a brick and mortar school. Although some educators such as Ali Carr-Chellman, have raised concerns about private, non-profit, virtual schools that compete with the traditional, public, brick and mortar model, proponents of online schools say they appreciate the personalization and flexibility that these programs offer.
Will brick and mortar schools be replaced by personalized, online learning programs?(And where would that leave me, as a “brick and mortar school teacher?”)
A recent blog post by Michael Horn, from the Clayton Christensen Institute explains what his organization feels might actually happen to K-12 education in the future. In his post, Horn summarizes the most recent paper published by his organization on K-12 blended learning titled, Is K-12 blended learning disruptive? An introduction to the theory of hybrids.
A key idea presented in this paper is the concept of hybridization, which Horn points out, is a new concept in the world of disruptive innovation. In explaining how this works in education, Horn points out that it is difficult for an innovation such as online education to totally replace brick and mortar schools because in order for a disruptive innovation to supplant an existing technology or entity, there has to be a growing number of consumers who are not served by what the existing entity has to offer.
This is not true in the case of schools in the U.S. he writes, because “every student has access to a government-funded school of some sort.” Where disruption is likely to take place however, according to Horn, is at the classroom level, since the blended learning model offers students who attend traditional schools more opportunities for individualization, specialized courses, credit recovery options, and so on.
Horn, also writes that his organization feels there will likely continue to be a market at the K-12 level for consumers who choose totally online programs. However, this model will probably not overtake the traditional school. Instead, the Clayton Christensen Institute concludes that traditional schools will most likely “leverage online learning for academics… [and]… focus far more on providing well-kept facilities that students want to attend with great face-to-face supports, high quality meals, and a range of athletic, musical, and artistic programs (Christensen, Horn, and Staker, 2012, p.5).”
A plan for the future.
In the end the only thing I can control with regard to the future of education is how I respond to it as an educator. Following are some principles I came up with to guide me as we head into the future:
- Keep up with technology and best practices by continuously developing and nurturing your Personal Learning Network (PLN). Change is happening so rapidly and we are bombarded with so much new information everyday. As educators we will all benefit from helping each other navigate the shift in our educational landscape.
- Stay flexible, and look for ways to take full advantage of the new resources as they become available for learners. There are hundreds of ways to benefit from the technology that is and will be available to extend and personalize learning for our students. We can use our students as resources, too. Last year, a student asked me if he could use Evernote, which he had on his phone, to work on his paper in class instead of hand-writing a draft and then retyping it at home. I asked him to explain Evernote to me. It made sense, so l let him use it. I got to learn about a new application that I could use myself and that I could invite other students to use to enhance their productivity.
- Look to recognized certification, resource and advocacy organizations such as The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) for standards and best practices. Organizations such as this are developed by educators, for educators and their students.
- Be proactive as a change agent at school or within the school district, and get parents and students involved, too. Teachers have an important voice in any conversation about how classrooms are reshaped and redefined as technology becomes a more integral part of instruction. Teachers are “on the front lines” and will be the ones responsible for implementing changes in our classrooms and using the technology to help our students learn.
- Hang on and enjoy the ride. It’s an exciting time to be a teacher, to experience emerging technologies as we use them to transform the way our students learn about and interact in the world.
How do you envision your classroom and your role as a teacher in the future? What guiding principles would you add to help us, as teachers, navigate our way through the future?
Barseghian, Tina.(2013, July 25). What the future of learning might look like. [Web Log Post] Retrieved from http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/07/what-the-future-of-learning-might-look-like.
Christensen, C., Horn, M., and Staker, C. (2013). Is K-12 blended learning disruptive? An introduction to the theory of hybrids [white paper]. Retrieved from http://www.christenseninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Is-K-12-Blended-Learning-Disruptive.pdf September 11,2013.
KnowledgeWorks forecast 3.0: learning in 2025. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.knowledgeworks.org/learning-in-2025 September 9, 2013.