Education’s impending changes

The world’s most innovative companies affecting education have spoken. General Assembly, Revolution Foods, Summit Public Schools, Bridge International Academies, and Democrats for Education Reform are just some of the companies involved that have agreed on the five major reforms that will take place before 2020.

Students will connect with each other on a global scale

Besides a few minor changes – Smartboards, slimmer desks, maybe laptops – classrooms look largely the same as those thirty years ago. Why?

Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, says, “with some exciting exceptions, public schools are one of the few institutions in modern life that have not seen radical changes spurred by technology. I’m not talking about having computers in class-rooms, but rather a lack of any seismic shift in the way things are done because technology is making the work easier or more efficient.”

Williams theorizes advances in accessible technology will allow students better access to individualized teaching from educators around the world. The executive director of the Edcamp Foundation, Hadley Ferguson, agrees, saying, “Kids can reach out beyond the walls of their classrooms to interact with other students, other teachers, and renowned authors, scientists, and experts to enhance their learning.” Some high schools have already begun building “Global Online Academies” where students all over the world are given access to the excellent teaching of these teachers.

Skilled teachers will still be necessary to make tech succeed

Maybe kids will take self-driving school buses to the classroom by 2020, but there will definitely still be a need for great educators.

Shannon May, co-founder of Bridge International Acadmies, says, “Education will drive technology use, rather than the ‘coolness’ of technology trumping education.” The point of new techs isn’t to find new ways to entice kids to tablets and laptops, but rather make available the excellent teaching and resources of teachers that already exists, albeit in limited quantities.

The diploma will lose value

One of the major problems crippling graduates straight out of school is crippling student loan debt. When society depends on skilled workers with a minimum of a college diploma, many are left out because they can’t pay the absurd 50k+ a year many schools require.

On this point, Schwartz offers, “This will help to force an innovation drive with an unbundling of degree offerings. The sector will see a shift towards more relevant competency-based programs and aggressive competition for students.” The education-employment gap will be a driving force in creating solutions to offer students training for fields desperate to hire them.  “Traditional education is very top-down, heavy-handed…there’s still a lot of room for innovation.”

When the diploma becomes less valued and a prerequisite for many menial jobs, the entire system suffers. Say a construction manager opening-level job requires a college degree. That student has wasted thousands of dollars and still has many thousands of dollars of debt to learn unneeded skills at college that don’t necessarily apply to their job. Rather, the industry will learn to balance a college education with focused job-technical skills at a lower cost to suit the industry that needs these kinds of specialized workers.

Ferguson speculates technology will allow “students to move away from rote learning and tackle real-world challenges and develop solutions for them.”

Students will get a say in their learning

Kirsten Saenz Tobey, who helped found Revolution Foods, works to better lunch foods and menus. She remembers distinctly one student, when asked about what they are fed, said, “Does this look like it was prepared by someone who respects me?”

Tobey says students are ultimately the constituents of the school. If they don’t feel listened to, just like citizens of a country, they won’t buy into healthier options schools now attempt to force on them. Revolution Foods works with students using a mobile app to see what they like most and give nutritional info in what is served at the cafeterias.

By respecting the student’s opinions in what they are eating we will see a completely new school environment. Traditionally school is very top-down, sit down do this listen to this, but in the next five years it will shift to listening to the student’s voices in their education.

The education industry will be forced to change

The education industry is one of the hardest set and unchangeable in the world. It has historically proven to be deadset against changing, and soaring college tuition rates show this is no longer viable. Education, from it’s very roots in this system, must change.

From May’s point of view, that means focusing on our newly globally integrated world. By 2100, India, China, and Africa will house more than half of the world’s population. This means the US has some serious competition, and it’s already falling behind. We’re certainly feeling the pressure to drastically improve our math and science scores but it isn’t enough, and these education leaders believe technology is the answer.

For most industries like technology or economics, it’s obvious things have completely changed from thirty years ago, when employees made punch card notes and wrote down stock orders by hand. For education however, things look largely the same and this is a huge problem. The entire system, from top to bottom, graduate school to elementary, must change in the US if we want to have any hope of being on top again.