Challenges for Schools in the Digital Age

Frank B. WithrowBy Frank B. Withrow

With budget cuts eliminating teachers and other human resources in schools, ebooks, hand held devices and social media are stepping in to fill the void. Rip Van Winkle, if he returned today, would find the average school a strange place. For the most part educational reform has traditionally repackaged the old ways in only slightly different new formats, but the system has remained the same. The digital world, however, has the potential for radical changes.

Modern schools can be traced back to the 1700s because by then we were storing and retrieving skills and knowledge in relatively cheap printed books. Learning by the young was no longer limited to apprenticeships with master craftsmen or sitting at the feet of primary scholars. Libraries of information were no longer limited to scribes and scholars. Universal literacy was the doorway to learning and knowledge. Teachers replaced scholars as the guiding force for young learners. The United States of America led the world in providing schools for all children including disabled children. However, to our shame we created a dual system of segregated schools for Afro American learners. We have always had an elite element of schools that are not open to everyone. However, in general, our schools have been the open doorway to class mobility.

In the beginning of the nation, the John Adamses, Ben Franklins and Thomas Jeffersons had their own extensive private libraries. Today, with Ebooks, anyone can have extensive libraries or quickly gain access to the world’s literature. With social media, new knowledge appears and in a sense is vetted online instantaneously. Access to this world of skills and knowledge is at our fingertips in our homes, schools, and workplaces. We are still struggling to understand how to manage this Niagara of information:

  1. How do we organize and administer schools in this digital information age?
  2. How do we assess a student’s achievements?
  3. How do we certify a student’s progress?
  4. How do we mix traditional classes with the new learning modes?
  5. How are different learning modes certifiable?
  6. How do we support individual and team learning experiences?

By 2026, we will still have school buildings, but they will serve a very different purpose. Core learning resources will be available digitally 24-7.

The school will be the centralizing administration arm and offer various team learning experiences for product based programs. The school will provide facilities for sports, theater, and hands on science laboratories. They may even be the place where learners can design and construct solar homes in teams or build a solar-based vehicle. There will be traditional classes, but these classes will be supported with many actual work related experiences or projects. Teams of learners may include participants from schools across the world via social media.

The challenge for school administrators is how to blend the learning of their charges in informal experiences and formal classes. Just as the printed book gave rise to universal public schools, the digital world will change forever how we organize and think of schools. From preschool to graduate school, times are changing and new learning experiences are emerging. The new world will offer an enriched learning experience for all.

2 Responses

  1. […] Challenges for Schools in the Digital Age By Frank B. Withrow With budget cuts eliminating teachers and other human resources in schools, ebooks, hand held devices and social media are stepping in to fill the void. Rip Van Winkle, if … Source: […]

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