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Vision 2020

November 2, 2012

Did you ever think what education is going to look like in the next decade? Will you still be teaching like you are today or will teaching and learning be drastically different. We are starting to see a shift in education that could change the landscape of education in the future. Online Education has taken off both at the university and K12 level. We are seeing the delivery of educational content via the web. This has allowed students to have access to courses they could not take before. I happen to teach a high school online course using APEX learning. APEX is a company that started out providing AP courses to small rural districts around the country. Like Florida Virtual School and other providers, APEX has made its way into mainstream high school settings. It is estimated that by 2019, over fifty percent of all high school students will be taking at least one online class. This is an amazing stat when you compare it to levels at the beginning of the 21st century.

It is difficult to imagine a classroom in 2020 without looking at some of the changes that have taken place over the past few years in online education. First, learning management systems have gotten much better, tools such as Moodle  help instructors  build, maintain, and offer quality online courses. I have already mentioned online providers such as Florida Virtual School; they have steadily made their way into the mainstream of K12 learning. What we are seeing is the development of online education at the university and K12 level becoming part of the norm. Administrators and instructors no longer see online as something only for the student who needs remedial credits, but identify that the structure of online learning can benefit all students.

Another factor in the development of online education comes out of the development of technology. Prices for computers and tablets have steadily declined, and the hardware has become really good at a very affordable price. In the near future, probably by 2020 or sooner; we may see the mass introduction of tablets and laptops in our schools. Google, Microsoft, Apple….you name the provider, they will be competing for the educational dollar with the introduction of tablets in the classroom as they replace textbooks.  Google has already introduced Chromebooks and the price of laptops keeps going lower and lower. This has made technology accessible for more and more students. These laptops can do many wonderful things when it comes to the world of education.  Students can simply use their own computers in labs at school or at home. Some have suggested that districts will offer subsidies for low income students, or publishers will provide tablets instead of textbooks. The point is that the hardware is getting cheap enough that we will eventually see a transformation in our schools. Textbooks as we know them will become obsolete and students will now have media rich capable technology at their fingertips. Mobile technology will also become more prevalent as we move forward. The IPhone and other cell phone developers are making learning truely mobile with many features that allow instructors and students to keep up with course content and collaboration.

Collaboration will be the structure of 2020 classes and we are seeing the seeds being planted for this in our classrooms today. Online is at the cutting edge of Web 2.0 technologies. Online groupware and productivity tools have greatly improved and Microsoft is not your only option anymore. Google Docs, Office 365 for Education , and Zoho are powerful tools that promote collaboration, allow storage and presentation of every type of content that might be of use to students and teachers. All of this information can be made private or public and is just a web browser away. Google Docs has particularly made things easy for instructors and students. We are seeing all of these productivity tools become easier and easier to use in collaboration.

There are many things that instructors can now use to make collaboration and research amongst students much easier in both the online and regular classroom setting. Wikis, blogs, webquests, and other Web 2.0 tools are helping instructors/ students create, collaborate, and share information and learning. Whether using education-specific web tools like edublogs or leveraging more general services like Wikispaces, the sheer numbers of communication and collaboration tools are easy enough for every educator, student, and parent to use. Virtual classrooms and social networks have helped to close the distance in distance learning. Everything from Ning ,WizIQ, Google, and  Facebook  allows for interactions and information sharing and are available inexpensively to educators. Although, many districts have had to really look at how these social networks are being used and come up with acceptable use policies for these social networks specifically beyond what they already have in place.  We are also seeing the introduction of some of these tools in packages provided to districts by companies such as PowerSchool. PowerSchool is all inclusive: attendance, grading, teacher web pages, blogs, all in one package that school districts buy for use throughout the district.

Of course there is much more going on in education as I believe we are in a “big shift”. Charter schools centered on technology and online education are spreading around the country. States such as Idaho, Florida, and Louisiana have developed plans centered on offering online or virtual schools. So, what will 2020 look like, well things that we consider cutting edge should become the norm in 2020. Online education should continue to grow at the K12 level, probably to the point that high schools will have blended learning and online classes. We may see the structure of the school day change as a result. Could we see schedules in our high schools similar to what we now see in college. I believe at the high school level, students will shape their schedule to include in seat time along with online time. As an example, at my school (block schedule) students may want to only be on campus 2nd and 3rd period. They would fill their 1st and 4th block with an online class.

The way we teach should also change by 2020, Web 2.0 technologies that are being used in online classes should make their way into mainstream classes. Wikis, blogs, discussion boards, webquests, and other tools will be used to change classrooms from teacher-centered to student centered. This should be the goal of every school district in the country. Currently, you may have heard of the flipped classroom. In this setting students go home and access lecture materials and do their work. When they come back to school the next day the teacher than works with them on problem solving and helping them work through issues they may have. Basically, the ground work is done at home and the work phase at school, where the teacher can easily help. The classroom of the future will be media rich and push students to create, collaborate, and be more project-based.

Final Thoughts

I am going to leave this post by reminding you of something I posted in an earlier blog post:

“As most of you know, you are leading this disruption in education. You are in this class because you are using or hoping to use more Web 2.0 technology in your classroom. As an educator, you understand the value of learning and making yourself better at what you do. Some of those that we work with will resist this change, but it is in our best interest and the interest of our students to evolve and move forward. I would challenge you to find a way to lead in your school setting. You can set the pace for others to follow or you can sit back and ignore what is happening. I know that those who are in leadership positions will set those standards and have a voice. Those that sit back and resist this change will continue to struggle with reaching students and eventually will only fall out of favor with instructional leaders at the school site. This change may be slowly creeping up on you or can be coming at you full force at this point, but reality is it coming. I find this change to be positive and exciting, and for someone who has been teaching for over twenty years……refreshing. Congrats to all who have chosen to move forward and lead”!

More Resources for those who are disrupting education now!:

Big Think Blog


The Chronicle of Higher Education

Disruption in Education PDF


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  1. Robert-I found your 2020 vision to be quite impressive and on target. It is extremely exciting for me to “see” the shift that is occurring in education because of Web 2.0 technologies. The ability to collaborate online is amazing. The computer is not just a word processor anymore is it! This class has made me more excited than ever to share my knowledge of what the web can provide and bring to the table for learning. You talk about distances being broken down and barriers eliminated because Web technologies have become interactive…how true. I must say that even in this course, I have interacted with all of our “classmates” much more than I think I would have in a traditional face-to-face environment. What I like about online technologies for learning is that I think they can really enhance the learning potential for many of their users. For instance, let me share an example with you. When we were all in college, we had to go to class at a certain time on a predetermined schedule. If we were sick, tired, etc., it didn’t matter; we had to be there. For most online courses, there is freedom to log in whenever it is convenient for us. It allows for most responsible individuals to complete coursework when their undivided attention can be given to it (no distractions of sickness, tiredness, etc.). I am getting excited to see the programs that are being created for online learning. Many highly accredited institutions offer online learning as a major part of a degree. The medical school where my husband completed his training now offers a somewhat “flipped” approach. Students can enroll in a distance learning program and complete the majority of their coursework off campus. They meet once a week for a complete day for discussions and lab requirements. This lasts for the first two years of medical school. The last two (internship and residency) are required to be hands on as you can image, but the ability to blend distance learning and the traditional classroom have only become possible in the last few years because of Web 2.0 technologies. It’s amazing and opening doors for many people.

  2. Robert,
    Your post is thoughtful and insightful. I agree that we are on the cusp of a great change in education. It seems that change in education is more a process of evolution than revolution. Still, I am hopeful that we will see significant change by the year 2020. But… that is only eight years away. Still, a lot can happen in eight years. The iPad was introduced on April 3, 2010 but look at the shift in education that has happened as a result in the last two and half years.

    Students and teachers are using them to access digital textbooks, watch educational videos and create video projects, and much more. I watched a pair of middle school kids who were writing ideas down on a table, the surface of which is actually a white board, and I’m thinking, “Okay, when they are done, one of them is going to have to re-write those notes.” So I asked them who was going to have to do that. They said, “Oh, we just do this!” And then, using the camera in the iPad they took a picture of the surface and they had their notes. What a great Universal Design for Learning strategy.

    I’ve enjoyed learning more about web 2.0 tools and how they can be implemented in the classroom. You do a nice job talking about them in your piece. I know we only scratched the surface in this class, but I’m excited about learning more and implementing pieces of it.

    It’s been a pleasure working with you in the wiki. Best of luck to you as you go forward.


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