Learning, Innovation & Tech

Bombs & Breakthroughs

21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020

CJ Westerberg, October 13, 2014 12:23 PM


A Classic post.

"Within the decade, it will either become the norm to teach this course
(high school Algebra I) in middle school or
we'll have finally woken up to the fact that there's no reason to give algebra
weight over statistics and IT in high school for non-math majors
(and they will have all taken it in middle school anyway)."
                                   - Shelley Blake-Plock

21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020

by Shelley Blake-Plock

Last night I read and posted the clip on "21 Things That Became Obsolete in the Last Decade." Well, just for kicks, I put together my own list of "21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020."

1. Desks
The 21st century does not fit neatly into rows. Neither should your students. Allow the network-based concepts of flow, collaboration, and dynamism help you rearrange your room for authentic 21st century learning.

2. Language Labs
Foreign language acquisition is only a smartphone away. Get rid of those clunky desktops and monitors and do something fun with that room.

3. Computers
Ok, so this is a trick answer. More precisely this one should read: 'Our concept of what a computer is'. Because computing is going mobile and over the next decade we're going to see the full fury of individualized computing via handhelds come to the fore. Can't wait.

4. Homework
The 21st century is a 24/7 environment. And the next decade is going to see the traditional temporal boundaries between home and school disappear. And despite whatever Secretary Duncan might say, we don't need kids to 'go to school' more; we need them to 'learn' more. And this will be done 24/7 and on the move (see #3).

5. The Role of Standardized Tests in College Admissions
The AP Exam is on its last legs. The SAT isn't far behind. Over the next ten years, we will see Digital Portfolios replace test scores as the #1 factor in college admissions.

6. Differentiated Instruction as the Sign of a Distinguished Teacher
The 21st century is customizable. In ten years, the teacher who hasn't yet figured out how to use tech to personalize learning will be the teacher out of a job. Differentiation won't make you 'distinguished'; it'll just be a natural part of your work.

7. Fear of Wikipedia
Wikipedia is the greatest democratizing force in the world right now. If you are afraid of letting your students peruse it, it's time you get over yourself.

8. Paperbacks
Books were nice. In ten years' time, all reading will be via digital means. And yes, I know, you like the 'feel' of paper. Well, in ten years' time you'll hardly tell the difference as 'paper' itself becomes digitized.

9. Attendance Offices
Bio scans. 'Nuff said.

10. Lockers
A coat-check, maybe.

11. IT Departments
Ok, so this is another trick answer. More subtly put: IT Departments as we currently know them. Cloud computing and a decade's worth of increased wifi and satellite access will make some of the traditional roles of IT -- software, security, and connectivity -- a thing of the past. What will IT professionals do with all their free time? Innovate. Look to tech departments to instigate real change in the function of schools over the next twenty years.

12. Centralized Institutions
School buildings are going to become 'homebases' of learning, not the institutions where all learning happens. Buildings will get smaller and greener, student and teacher schedules will change to allow less people on campus at any one time, and more teachers and students will be going out into their communities to engage in experiential learning.

13. Organization of Educational Services by Grade
Education over the next ten years will become more individualized, leaving the bulk of grade-based learning in the past. Students will form peer groups by interest and these interest groups will petition for specialized learning. The structure of K-12 will be fundamentally altered.

14. Education School Classes that Fail to Integrate Social Technology
This is actually one that could occur over the next five years. Education Schools have to realize that if they are to remain relevant, they are going to have to demand that 21st century tech integration be modeled by the very professors who are supposed to be preparing our teachers.
(Ed. Note:  Check out Plock's 2010 nomination for best blog post:  "Why Teachers Should Blog")

15. Paid/Outsourced Professional Development
No one knows your school as well as you. With the power of a PLN in their backpockets, teachers will rise up to replace peripatetic professional development gurus as the source of schoolwide prof dev programs. This is already happening.

16. Current Curricular Norms
There is no reason why every student needs to take however many credits in the same course of study as every other student. The root of curricular change will be the shift in middle schools to a role as foundational content providers and high schools as places for specialized learning.

17. Parent-Teacher Conference Night
Ongoing parent-teacher relations in virtual reality will make parent-teacher conference nights seem quaint. Over the next ten years, parents and teachers will become closer than ever as a result of virtual communication opportunities. And parents will drive schools to become ever more tech integrated.

18. Typical Cafeteria Food
Nutrition information + handhelds + cost comparison = the end of $3.00 bowls of microwaved mac and cheese. At least, I so hope so.

19. Outsourced Graphic Design and Webmastering
You need a website/brochure/promo/etc.? Well, for goodness sake just let your kids do it. By the end of the decade -- in the best of schools -- they will be.

20. High School Algebra I
Within the decade, it will either become the norm to teach this course in middle school or we'll have finally woken up to the fact that there's no reason to give algebra weight over statistics and IT in high school for non-math majors (and they will have all taken it in middle school anyway).

21. Paper
In ten years' time, schools will decrease their paper consumption by no less than 90%. And the printing industry and the copier industry and the paper industry itself will either adjust or perish.

Editor's Note: A "classic" from the Teach Paperless blog and previously published December 2009,   Shelley Blake-Plock is a self-described "artist and teacher . . . an everyday instigator for progressive art, organization, and education. In addition to his work teaching high school Latin and Art History, Shelly is a member of both the experimental Red Room Collective and Baltimore's High Zero Foundation . . ."   It will be interesting to see how his predictions fare over the next few years . . . 

Posted by The Daily Riff December 10, 2010 - a TDR classic

Related articles and posts:

Visions of Mathematics:   A Radical View that Works - by Ben Daley from High Tech High

High School Stinks: One School that is Breaking the Mold - Science Leadership Academy -
Chris Lehmann

The Daily Riff:  Am I Teaching Students for My Age or Theirs? 
by  C.J. Westerberg 

  • Philip Jones

    I teach social studies in a middle class community in southern Indiana. Our students have been steadily moving toward a teaching environment that resembles what is being described in this article. They each have one to one devices, access to virtual learning, and increasingly their classrooms are becoming paperless. As a result of all this innovation I have noticed the following:
    •The ability of a student to research and formulate valid arguments has been replaced by the first thing they Google.
    •Their ability to sustain a thought has also been replaced by the immediacy of an internet search, copy and paste.
    •The vast amount of interning resources such as games, social media, and a plethora of music and videos is a constant source of distraction.
    •Individualism is being replaced by a new kind of digital culture group think.
    •The putting out of fires of disputes has exponentially increased as students post, text, and digitally bully each other. Drama among students has reached a fever pitch.
    •Learning has become more of an illusion as powerful software tools and online editing practices replace real student creativity. The digital dog and pony show has replaced sensible learning activities that demonstrate meaningful learning.

  • jx64

    this is bullshit

  • Ariana Salisbury

    As a high school student who is currently taking online state standardized tests, I can say that I hate technology in schools. Although taking tests on the computer and reading textbooks on a tablet are more environmentally-friendly than a stack of papers, they are NOT as helpful for students. They hurt my eyes. Sure that sounds silly but when you're taking a state standardized tests on a computer, you don't want a headache and sore eyes to influence your record and the possibility of getting scholarships. Further, trying to find a page in a book on a tablet is time-consuming! These ideas sound great but in a real high school scenario, they just wouldn't work out! At least not for SEVERAL years. So STOP pushing it onto the students.

  • Kerry

    What about actual classrooms? With the rise of online education, being present in a classroom may become obsolete too. UCT and GetSmarter have just made two of UCT's postgraduate diplomas available entirely online: commercepostgrad.uct.ac.za This may be the start of an online learning revolution!

  • Sysco McNutt

    While some of your ideas aren't bad (the desk one sounds great, I hate my cruddy plastic desks in Math, English and Bio class), the whole thing of just replacing paper and pencils with I-Pads sounds like the Lazy Age talking. And as a student myself, I am shocked, not to mention disturbed, that you're suggesting using Wikipedia as a source and just ditching materials only because I-Pads are the trendy new thing. Is this what the students want, or what you want? We aren't living in an episode of The Jetsons, and the only lesson you'll be giving children by removing print books, paper and such out of schools is how to be lazy. Some children hate digital technology and prefer to learn traditionally, and doing everything in this list would remove most social communication and the human factor from education. If I had a screen spitting out info at me every day instead of having a real human being taking the time to teach me about the real world, I'd go insane. FYI we aren't robots. What about art class, where most kids would rather draw with pencil crayons and paper than a touch screen and stylus? What about the kids who like reading real paper novels and not just chips and plastic? Paper certainly won't become obsolete. I dread to think of what future generations will be like. Will they inherit our history, substance and meaning, or will they all be sheep? Don't get me wrong, in moderation technology is useful (otherwise I wouldn't be typing on my Windows 7 Asus right now). But I don't have an I-Pad, I never read E-books, I don't have Netflix, television or a cellular phone and my whole family is the exact same, and we're living just fine. I-Pads are just toys for adults. What we should be teaching kids to do is to stop living in this frenzy of trendy technology and focus more on important technology, like using technology for medical purposes and in hospitals. We should be teaching kids that although they can easily make a digital camera video at the click of a button, it lacks that nostalgic old spark that a super 8 home movie or Kodachrome slideshow gives you, and that there's so much more to life than flashing lights and glowing screens. We should be giving them the technology available today, but teaching them that at the same time, they have the power to choose wisely and use more traditional methods, and we should give them the option of both. Give them I-Pads but don't take away paper. Give them digital cameras but give them traditional film and show them darkrooms as well. Give them Kindles but give them an illustrated paperback, too. Show them that learning is an enjoyable experience and that you can have the power to choose how you pursue your interests and education, and the world will become a much more intelligent, diverse and amazing place.

    P.S. If schools stopped using paper and print books and paper became obsolete, that would really leave authors out there in a load of trouble. I publish fictional print books. If paper was gone, I would have to resort to publishing Ebooks. Anyone can publish an Ebook so long as they have Adobe software and internet access, but a very miniscule amount of people ever make enough money to live off of by just publishing books. Ebooks would ruin the writing industry if they were all there was for reading material. People have been writing and drawing for centuries. We've had all this digital crud taking over for maybe twenty years. Should we really toss away substance that we've had for ages for a lot of flashy lights and buttons?

    P.P.S. Suppose a nuclear bomb attack happened? Sure, that's rather extreme, but the initial blast alone would burn out most, if not all, electrical devices in the vicinity. Would the kids of tomorrow know how to survive without their texting and internet and instant social media access? Or what if someday it all just broke down, no reason why, but if that happened, would kids even know how to live without it?

    “Words are the oldest information storage and retrieval system ever devised. Words are probably older than the cave paintings in France, words have been here for tens of thousands of years longer than film, moving pictures, video, and digital video, and words will likely be here after those media too. When the electromagnetic pulse comes in the wake of the nuclear blast? Those computers and digital video cameras and videotape recorders that are not melted outright will be plastic and metal husks used to prop open doors. Not so with the utterances of tongues. Words will remain, and the highly complicated and idiosyncratic accounts assembled from them will provide us with the dark news about the blast. The written word will remain, scribbled on collapsed highway overpasses, as a testament to love and rage, as evidence of the wanderers in the ruin.”
    ― Rick Moody, The Ice Storm

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