This is a story set in an elementary school room in 2030 in Luzon City, Philippines. But this classroom could be most anywhere.
Here learning is fun, adapted to each child’s needs. It harnesses the power of technology. This is not the only possible future for education. But it is a view of some of the most desirable possibilities. Exploring the future in this way helps us focus on where the education system, a system ripe for change, needs rethinking and redefinition.
The glow of the screen shines on Marta Gomez’s face as she looks over the student dashboard on her tablet. The students are working well this morning. But oh, what’s going on with Sergio?
A slow pulsing around his icon on the screen tells her that he’s struggling. She taps it and sees that Sergio isn’t understanding place value. He will struggle to learn the next lessons in division.
She taps through for a plot of his last few months of mathematics progress.
“Ah,” she says, “there it is,” and she smiles. A bit of misdirection a few lessons prior had left him unprepared for his current lesson. Now it was showing. Continuous assessment, instead of tests and quizzes, makes a difference in helping even challenged students to succeed.
Marta instructs LearnQuest to give Sergio the lesson as a game, bringing back earlier numeracy elements in a way he will enjoy. After a few minutes, she looks over. He’s not staring out the window anymore.
Still, she walks over to Sergio, and says, “How’s it going?”
“Oh, fine Maestra,” he says, his big brown eyes shining up at her. He had not known really that anything was wrong, but she wants be sure of his confidence.
Marta struggled in math too when she was in school in the 2010s. It’s good that LearnQuest can teach it. She only needs to make sure that Sergio and the other children are happy and feel good about their progress. Sometimes she thinks about how her own schooling would have been if she had had adaptive learning. Fewer nights in tears, for sure.
She looks over the dashboard as she walks among the 30 children. The midmorning is a quiet time in her classroom. The groups of students are at work on their lessons—all different subjects, according to their learning profiles, and so many other factors Marta doesn’t need to worry about. LearnQuest tracks their eyes and screen swipes, analyzing each child’s work. She doesn’t know how it works, but LearnQuest will alert her to any need.
In a window on her tablet, she also checks on the four children working from home today. Two missed the bus to school. Benny was sick, and she had a disabled student, Jamie, who always did his lessons virtually. Marta manages the work of those four from her tablet. She can chat with each of them by video.
Soon one group of students will go to MakeSpace. They will 3D-print their designs and art projects with the form maker. Marta likes MakeSpace because of how much fun the students have with it. The Ministry designed its curriculum to ready students for technical jobs, but they don’t know that they are even learning. They just explore, experiment, test, design, and build things. It is art, and science, and carpentry. It is teamwork, and design, and engineering.
Another group is ready to go to ImmersiveLearning. She instructs them to set up the holostage and aim the projector. Paco and Elena have convinced the others to visit with Leonardo Da Vinci to talk about his flying machines. The holograms bring places and people from anywhere to the students. 3D holograms still startle Marta, who never had anything like that in school.
Marta sits down and sighs, smiling at the morning’s progress. The children got so much done. She glances at the clock on her tablet, and calls out “Who wants to get dirty?!”, and back comes a burst of joyful sound. Sergio is already standing. To the children, it’s time for some fun outside. But Marta knows the lessons continue: it is play with a purpose. The river and the trees by the school are learning places too.
These ideas require us to shift how we think about education. It’s time to recognize the potential for change in fundamental parts of the system and prepare to jump-start positive change.
1). Redefine the teacher as a learning facilitator. Educators need new skills for this work. And we should invest in the software tools that give educators access to curricula keyed to learning objectives, and help them adapt it to each child’s needs.
2). Lower or remove the walls of the classroom. Embrace the idea of the world as a classroom and of technological tools as a key to tapping into knowledge, resources, and experiences from everywhere. A school needn’t be highly resourced to do this, so long as it has access to the Internet and some interactive digital tools.
3). Loosen fixed curricula. Rather than carrying a group of students through the one fixed lesson, harness the power of artificial intelligence to guide adaptive learning. Smart software can tailor information, media, and learning to each student’s needs, and continuously adapt to their progress.
4). Assess the efficiencies and economies in using technology to leverage educator talent more fully. There may be labor cost-savings that make a strong case for investment in education technology.
At the core of these ideas is a willingness to re-conceive the classroom for the future. There is plenty of change and innovation that will give us future success, but we have to let it into a system which is slow to change and innovate.