22nd Century School - The Future of Education

Needless to say, the purpose of schools (not necessarily the schools themselves) has evolved over time. During the late 19th century/ early 20th century, conformity was the emphasis. Technology was developing with the advent of the airplane, the automobile, and the submarine, all within a relatively close timeframe. Furthermore, the assembly line had been invented by Ford, democracy was on the rise, and industry was booming. Because of this, trade/apprenticeship skills were diminishing and, in an assembly line fashion, conformity was emphasized among the general populous. This trickled down to the education level and created what has been termed the “factory school.” The goal was that everyone be on a level intellectual-plane when they graduated through standardized tests and a list of defined outcomes for high school graduates. Much like an assembly line, they could then be placed where they are needed and further trained (or conformed) to a particular skill set (medicine, engineering, etc). Over the years, this agenda has only grown. Today, however, education seems to be shifting from this outcome-based assembly line approach to one that is more relativistic and personalized.

While many believe the concept that everyone learns differently and has a predisposed inclination towards different subjects, most schools thus far have not acknowledged it in practice. This is most likely because it’s more work, both in time and money. Technology is booming like never before and new information is developed every day and delivered in an equally instantaneous manner to individuals. This sudden influx of technology and information, however, also creates (or at least creates awareness of) an equivalent number of problems and issues. Creativity and innovation is essential to meet these problems and has recently begun to be emphasized in the classroom. Furthermore, communication has exploded and the necessity for working across cultures and in teams has been a product of that. Computers and calculators have further diminished the need for “formula memorization” in science and mathematics and has replaced it with the need for critical thinking – The “how” has been replaced by the “why.”

Fast forward to the year 2100 and, of course, we’ll all be in flying auto-controlled cars, have robot maids, and be accustomed to an even faster-paced lifestyle than we have today. Of course, I kid about the first two but the latter is extremely probable. With this increase, adaptability and maneuverability are going to be even more crucial in the education setting. In essence, our current reform trend in education will only be amplified. We will need more creativity, more innovation, more cultural competence, and a greater emphasis on individual learning and multiple intelligences. In my mind, schooling would begin at an earlier age with more purposeful, organized manipulatives at the pre-k/kindergarten stage and then progress to more structured, typical material that develops from more concrete examples during elementary and middle school to more real world problems in high school – a conscious shift from textbooks (us serving them the information and knowledge) to applications (student’s feeding the information and knowledge to themselves). Schools themselves would not have such a conformist view and students would be required to pass certain exams, along with going through a portfolio presentation and exit interview at their school before graduation – this can be completed at each individual’s rate and is not contingent on a certain age or number of schooling years. The schools would be very involved not only in their community but also on a global level with sister schools in other states and countries. Schools would collaborate with these sister schools not only in student exchange programs but also in virtual classroom instruction/discussion and project collaboration.

Again, this futurist view is merely my viewpoint and, like the future itself, will likely change some based on events and knowledge learned. Are there any other ideas and concepts that you believe will be evident in a 22nd century classroom?

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