Scientific Education


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2014-12-13 post date.

The Future of Education Technology

Humanity is in the midst of one of the most transformative times in history. We are experiencing ever more rapid waves of technological innovation and disruptions. The speed of change has accelerated to the point that it is environmental; we live in an environment of change. In fact, the speed of technological change now will be the slowest it will ever be for the rest of your life!    
We have entered a new millennium, a new century, a new age, the Shift Age, and a new decade, the Transformation Decade. This is an inflection point in history, a time of shifts and basic change.
It is in this context that educators, particularly those in K-12 education, are trying to cope with and look ahead to what technologies will become an integral part of education in the future and how they might fundamentally change how we teach and students learn.
What will the educational technological transformation look like in the next five, 10, 20 years? As a futurist who has written a book and spoken all across America about the transformation of K-12 education, I must provide a warning. If you don’t like change, if you don’t think that education should be open to fundamental technological change, you should not read any further. In fact, if that is your mindset, you might want to consider finding another profession soon. The changes coming are that profound. If on the other hand, you stand with the growing number of K-12 educators that are leading and living technological innovation, this might be a possible vision of what the rest of your years as an educator could look like.
First, it is important to quickly take a look at the larger context in which this transformation is occurring.
We have entered a new millennium, a new century, a new age, the Shift Age, and a new decade, the Transformation Decade. This is an inflection point in history, a time of shifts and basic change.
The three forces of the Shift Age are the flow to global, the flow to the individual and the accelerating electronic connectedness of humanity and the planet. We have entered the global stage of human evolution. As individuals we are more powerful than individuals have ever been. Both of these forces are amplified by this accelerating electronic connectedness, certainly the most powerful force in the world today and one of the most transformative ones in history. The Shift Age began in the middle of the last decade and will probably last well into the 2020s if not the 2030s. As we now look back on the beginnings of the Information Age in the early 1970s as a time long ago, we will feel the same when we look back on 2014 from the 2030s.

A Quick Look Back

The one room school of American lore was the model for schools in the 1800s. This was when America was largely an agricultural nation. It was at this time that the school year was largely formed. Spring break was for students to help with the planting and the long summer vacation was in step with this way of life. Then as the Industrial Age took root, vast numbers of people moved to the cities and the K-12 system developed grades, periods and a more structured curriculum and experience. Desks in rows and bells that indicated the beginning and end of classes prepared students for the largely industrial, factory economic model.
During this period, and up through WWII the technology of education was largely that of pencils, paper, blackboards, print textbooks and the spoken word. There was little technological innovation. Slowly, in the decades after this war, new technologies were introduced. Film introduced a new visual technology and language labs introduced a new form of audio learning. This was followed by the early personal computers in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 50 years after WWII, technological change was very slow, linear and iterative. Many of you reading these words were both schooled in and became teachers in this environment. So that was the baseline experience.
Then came the Internet in the mid to late 1990s. The recently installed computers, thought of as individual machines, became connected terminals. This brought the world into the classroom electronically and live. Anyone reading this article can remember how much this changed the way you were taught as students or taught your students.
At the same time the effect of Moore’s Law took effect. Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel suggested in 1965 that the power of computing would double every 18 months and the cost of computing would decline by half every 18 months as well. The consequence of that was that computers could be purchased for schools at ever lower costs and therefore in ever increasing numbers. And they could all be connected. Moore’s law continues to this day.
So, from the late 1990s to the late 2000s, the wired Internet profoundly altered the education landscape and very quickly rendered some technologies obsolete. Remember the CD-ROM? Educators settled into the new world of integrating the wired Internet into the classroom. Then high-speed wireless came along and all those “wired” classrooms were outdated relics.
Then the speed of technological innovation in education sped up. We now had high-speed wireless connectivity for the school’s computers and then the smart phone and the tablet were introduced. Light, portable, personal and all with touch screens, and all connected; in classrooms, hallways, libraries, cafeterias and at home. Having already moved from analog to digital, we now moved from physical to digital content. Content that previously was printed in textbooks was downloadable. Assignments and syllabi that had been handed out or spoken, were available online as were grades.
The good news with all this rapid technological transformation was that it was happening in society outside the school. How could parents or school board members who were becoming active users of such technologies in their lives not support them in their community’s schools? I have consistently heard across this country from school superintendents that this dynamic allowed them to lead broad initiatives such as providing or requiring tablets for students, starting with high school and working down through grade school.

The Next Five Years

In the next five years to 2020 there will be as much technological change in American schools as there has been since 2000. This is a tripling of the amount and speed of transformation. Here are some of the changes that will occur in this time frame:

The Cloud

All assigned content will be in the cloud. Grades will be in the cloud. Schools and entire school districts will have unique cloud storage with access by teachers, students, parents and administrators alike. Cloud connectivity will become the norm.

Digital Content

Content such as textbooks and all reading assignments will be digital, largely eliminating the heavy backpack syndrome. Much of this content will be interactive and will allow students to move more quickly through lessons and learning. This will drive accelerated learning and will further break down the concept of age-based school grades. How can a school system say a child must wait until the age of six or seven to start to learn to read when that child has been on touch screens learning since the age of two or three?

Business Models

Schools and school districts will pay for content — software — and the hardware will be thrown in for free.
Digital will define the landscape, eliminating the historically high level of content costs. The inherent high cost of physical content — which meant students often were using textbooks several years old —will be eviscerated. Such digital content will be updated constantly, no longer based upon an anticipated three-year lifespan of a textbook.
This interactive, lower cost digital model will further challenge the concept of age-oriented grade levels. A 10 year old who can matriculate algebra? No problem. A 12 year old who is facile with languages will surge forward via interactive self-learning and enter “high school” being semi-fluent in three languages. This is one of the major changes that teachers will have to adapt to. Someone who has always called herself a “third grade teacher” will have to learn a new definition of the term.


By 2020, the Baby Boom Generation, whom I have called the Bridge Generation when speaking or writing about K-12 [as in the bridge between the middle third of the 20th century and now] will largely be out of education unless they have become transformative change agents.
The Gen-Xers will be in charge and will be leading a new wave of Millennial teachers who have grown up with rapid technological change and will best understand its transformative possibilities for education. These generations will lead and participate in the first major structural change of K-12 in 100 years.

Looking Out to 2030

There currently are huge and significant technological forces starting to reshape global society today. These forces will be integrated into K-12 in the 2020s.

The Internet of Things

Everything is becoming “smart.” Not just our hand held devices, but also our infrastructure, our buildings, our clothing, our appliances and our cars. The home, the school, the community and the transportation systems will all “communicate” with each other. Combine that with smart clothing worn by students and teachers and all will be connected.

Big Data

The Internet of Things, wireless connectivity, GPS, Apps and social media will allow us all to not only be fully connected and individually recognized but will allow massive amounts of new data to be correlated to better learn human and thus educational behavior. The mapping of human behavior in real time has begun. Think of this as real time sociology and anthropology. Nothing less. How could this not change our educational structures, behaviors and thinking?


The field of robotics is rapidly evolving and entire new types of robots are being created. Please think beyond the anthropomorphic view of robots so often held. Instead think about how machines changed our view of labor, how computers changed our view of professions. Robots may well provide us with the first opportunity to relieve much of humanity from repetitive labor and allow us to evolve to a higher level of interaction, creativity and thought. Is that not part of the definition of education?

Artificial Intelligence

This combines all of the above with ever more powerful quantum computing and ever more personal smart devices. We may well be the first iteration of humanity to have to psychologically adjust to the reality of having a close to equal, if not equal intelligence co-existing with us on Earth. If the IBM Watson intelligent computer could beat human Jeopardy champions a couple of years ago, could not such ever more intelligent technologies profoundly alter the education landscape?
What all of this ever more rapid technological change means is that educators must accept, adapt, learn and lead. Humans and humanity — the ability to provide the “aha” moment, to open the doors of discovery, the ability to forever change the lives of our young — will continue to be central to K-12 education. However, it will be human educators — interesting that this will become a new distinction — who deeply reflect upon and explore the vast new opportunities of all this technological change that will be front and center in redesigning K-12 education for the 21st century. Looking back will be the same as being lost. Lost in the new landscape of this new century.
Today, in the middle of this decade, educators more than ever before must face the future.

Source:  by David Houle