What Can Tomorrow’s Students Expect?

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

[Note: This article was first posted as a comment to Jim Shimabukuro’s “The London Olympics, NBC, and Education” by Harry Keller on 8.9.12. – Editor]

My own experiences with NBC Olympic streaming video ranged widely from fairly good to very poor.

What will tomorrow’s students expect? Do we really know? Online will be a component, certainly. However, what sort of interaction with their instructors will be the norm? Will it synchronous or asynchronous? Probably some of each.

Will textbooks be all online? Or will my vision of the future come true and textbooks in any form will disappear to be replaced by truly interactive online learning software?

Today’s interactive learning software makes a mockery of the word “interactive.” The online game companies know what interactive really means. Must learning software be games? Some think so. I strongly disagree. We can learn from them but don’t have to mimic them.

Regarding the physical plant part of educational institutions, I think that future will depend on the specific institution. K-5 will remain firmly physical. The top colleges, e.g., Ivy schools, MIT and Caltech, Stanford and Duke, et al., will be able to retain their hallowed campuses because their students gain so much for their futures from hanging out together physically. These institutions will also be reaching out to the world with online courses from the best instructors in the world.

What will happen to community colleges? If you can replace a CC campus with an Internet server farm, will it happen?

What about the “Big Ten”? Will football and basketball support the old style? You can’t make football games virtual. These teams must actually play. The alumni must be able to freeze in the bleachers in December while watching their fellows on the field and then donate, donate, donate!

And so it goes. It’s not just about the courses.

Make no mistake. Big changes are afoot. Also, do not make the mistake of rash predictions. The potential for game-changing innovation is strong in the current climate. J. P. Morgan, when asked for his prediction about the stock market, famously said, “It will fluctuate.” So, I say to all of you about the future of education, It will be different. The specific differences are not predictable with any certainty, but some overall expectations are:

  • Fewer colleges.
  • Different modes of instruction — especially extremely interactive online learning.
  • Instructors will be critical, not just dull lecturers and graders; they will probably be paid less for their work — at least per student.
  • Redefinition of what a degree means.
  • Increasing separation of teaching and publication (e.g., research) personnel.

Hopefully, all of these changes will settle down to something really good and worthwhile. More hopefully, the escalating cost of a usable college degree will decline markedly.

2 Responses

  1. I have been on a long summer journey of learning and this piece speaks to me. I have been thinking of the various learnings, exposures to new ways of thinking that I have encountered over the summer. One stellar experience was the ESRI conference and I am still trying to think how we get GIS, Geography and place into the school room when we really don’t usually teach geography.

    Harry would have been in love with the museum in Rome that I went to with our grandchild. It was physics and interactive learning beyond the pale. But it is in Rome. That’s a problem I guess. The museum was all hands on kids on and parents out of the way.

    I thought of some of the reasons that I used to get in trouble in schools and it was exactly this kind of thing but I did not have the big exhibits and the gathered resource. We used to do ESS and other
    hands on learning. We used to do Clay boats. I met a student who I had 30 years ago in the fourth grade and he said to me, I finally figured out about the clay boats , that the program was to make us think about density, etc and I have taught it to my child.

    Anyone remember “Colored Solutions?” We had hot and cold water and food coloring and we had to make our own knowledge . But the problem was that it was fun and the children were active. Lots of learning now is on the Internet so at leas the kids can do in in ramification, but I think the actual involvement is a hoot for kids and they enjoy it. I will post the pictures from Facebook that I took.
    of the museum experience.

    One other thing. We went to an art museum in Rome and there was a huge vial of water. Well in the children’s museum they used water as a tool , so our grandchild stuck his hand in this thing that looked like a big glass of water. I thought the guard was going to faint. He looked at her and said, is it an aquarium, I don’t see any fish.

    In the same art museum was a circle of ropes. So we were on guard to make sure that the temptation of jumping between the ropes did not become a reality for Luca. But the next incoming child deftly engineered a way to hop through the display and the guard was too late to catch him.

    Thinking was going on all of the time in the interactive museum . Perhaps games , simulation and modeling allows the same kind of thinking. Maybe a little fun is lost?

    Alexander Repenning takes a game we all know pretty well and uses the game to have us construct our own knowledge in agent sheets and agent cubes… the transfer of knowledge is great and fun.

    I took that course at the University of Colorado , and no teacher I know , or group I know understands why I think it is a great learning tool. I assume it is because they don’t get it. I made a game of the Mayan jungle, with monkeys, bats, scorpions, people elements of weather.. I had to construct my knowledge and try it out. Of course there are design elements in the game. When I designed it I forgot to add things like the birds , the layers of the forest and my scorpions were too deadly. But I had to bring knowledge to the game.
    I will admit that i got help in thinking about the elements of it. But I also got a lot of satisfaction in watching the elements play out in a smooth way. Who remembered that I started with Frogger. I probably took a longer time than most designing the various characters in the game, but the learning experience was great.

    Somehow we have to involve students more in the learning, physically, and or mentally.

    Bonnie Sutton

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