Only thirty years ago, the future of classroom learning seemed pretty secure. Students sat in neat rows of desks. Or if the teacher was on the progressive side, they might have those desks arranged into table groups. No matter the desk arrangement, each student had a clear view of the chalkboard. That was the center of every classroom, because that was where the teacher most often dispensed information.
Students also had clear expectations about how, when and what they were learning at any given moment in their highly scheduled day.
School was a place to learn because that’s where the learning materials were. The teachers, administrators and textbooks were all within those scholarly walls. And occasionally, if the school was wealthy and cutting edge, one single computer was nestled into the back corner of the room. This was just the way things were, and how we expected them to always be.
But things have already started to change. Here are a few ways technology will affect the future of classroom learning:
Less Teachers, More Algorithms
The trend towards computerization has already started. All across the world there are “blended” classrooms, those which combine the best of human instruction with programs designed to track and monitor student progress. For instance, the teacher uses a computerized curriculum that constantly quizzes students on the material they have learned. Based on these assessments, students can either move on to the next lesson or must review with the teacher until they master the lesson.
In such a classroom, there will be less need for traditional lecture style teaching, and more need for teachers as facilitators, allowing for higher and higher student/teacher ratios.
Less Classrooms, More Chatrooms
One other unexpected change just on the horizon of classroom learning is the need for a classroom at all. There is already a virtual education movement being led by organizations such as K12 and Connections Academy, to move public education fully online. The teachers and students at these schools never meet face-to-face in a “bricks and mortar” classroom, but rather meet at prearranged times online, often utilizing conferencing applications such as Skype, Tinychat or Google Hangouts.
Champions of online learning state that the online platform offers incredible benefits to learners, including the ability to overcome demographic and geographic challenges. And just like the “blended” classroom setting mentioned previously, online learning environments are customized to individual learners.
Whether students physically congregate in the same building or only virtually congregate online, there will always be a need, as far as we can tell, for congregation of some kind. So in that sense, schools will not become a relic of the past any time in the near future.
Less Textbooks, More Web Pages
However, textbooks, have already become somewhat of a relic for some teachers, though printing itself has become a sustainable industry. The fact is, we live in the information age, and print just can’t keep up.
For instance, a few years ago, scientists announced that Pluto was no longer classified as a planet. In the print world, it will take ten years or more for that single fact to be updated in all the textbooks in circulation around the country. However, on sites like Wikipedia, that fact can be corrected in two minutes.
In the future, printed materials will be used for recreation and luxury items, but not as a primary way of distributing information.
Less Drills, More Games
Long gone will be the days of memorizing spelling and math facts, the act of which often encourages students not to think.
In future classrooms, students will be playing games instead of memorizing facts. The reason games are so beneficial to student learning is that they provide a safe place for students to make mistakes and receive immediate feedback.
In a good game, a player must make mistakes, learn, improve and then finally feel successful. If the game does not follow this pattern, it would either feel too easy, too hard, or just plain boring. Coincidentally, this mistake-feedback-success loop is an excellent way to motivate learners of all ages.
Information is King
So while we can’t predict whether students will be wearing computerized glasses and watches, or if they can print out their homework assignments on a 3D printer, we can predict some things about the future of learning.
Most certainly, there will be less emphasis on the dispensing information from teacher to student and more emphasis on how to find, sort, and use that information wisely.
Nick Rojas is freelance writer, Californian, traveler, loving Husband. Fan of Oxford Commas and cursive.