The School of the Future
Please note that this article was originally published in 1998. For a more up-to-date discussion about how technological advances can impact the classroom, please read Keith Lambert's article on the rise of Artificial Intelligence in education and what it could mean for the future of the teaching profession.
What shape the school of the future will take is amorphous, but most educators and observers agree that the future school will go electronic with a capital E.
"Next century, schools as we know them will no longer exist," says a feature in The Age publication, based in Melbourne, Australia. "In their place will be community-style centers operating seven days a week, 24 hours a day." Computers will become an essential ingredient in the recipe for an effective school of the future.
Students, The Age asserts, will see and hear teachers on computers, with "remote learning" the trend of tomorrow. Accessing "classrooms" on their home computers, students will learn at times most convenient for them. Yet some attendance at an actual school will be required to help students develop appropriate social skills.
At Seashore Primary School, an imaginary school of the future created by the Education Department of Australia, technology is the glue that holds classes together. At the imaginary Seashore school:
- all teachers and students have laptop computers.
- teachers check voicemail and return students' calls on a special telephone system.
- students use telephones to find information or speak to experts in subject areas they are studying.
- all lessons are multidisciplinary.
- all students have individual learning plans created by teachers.
As Seashore's acting principal says, a laptop computer is the students' "library, homework, data storage, and connection to the wider world. (Technology) has changed the emphasis to the learning of kids rather than the teaching of kids."
A Real-Life School of the Future
Right here in the United States are public schools that strive to bring the future into the present. One of those schools, A.C.T. Academy in McKinney, Texas, was created as an actual "school of the future." Originally funded by a $5.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the school is now supported by the McKinney Independent School District.
At the school, knowledge is "actively constructed by the learner on a base of prior knowledge, attitudes, and values." Sophisticated technology is in place to support the pursuit of knowledge.
The 250 Academy students all have access to a computer. The 12- to 18-year-olds each have their own computer; 7- to 11-year-olds have one portable computer for every two students; and 5- and 6-year-olds use computers at fixed stations. In addition, the students use multimedia computers, printers, CD-ROMs, laserdiscs, VCRs, video editing machines, camcorders, cable television, online services, and telephones -- simple but effective research tools.
A.C.T. Academy has formed community partnerships and business mentorships to foster students' learning experiences. The school is also in partnerships with other schools, colleges, universities, and research centers. The goal: to learn through all the different kinds of resources that real life offers.
Teachers assess student learning through portfolios and creative performance tasks. Again, the object is to use real-life approaches to assessment.
Working Toward Future Schools
The Center for the School of the Future (CSF) is the brainchild of the College of Education at Utah State University. The center's main goals involve the creation and maintenance of a U.S. educational system that improves by selecting the most effective teaching practices. The mission of the center is to:
- identify the most effective teaching approaches, techniques, and ideologies,
- encourage innovations and their adaptation to specific circumstances,
- assist the creation of a community of parents and teachers who support each other in improving schools.
The CSF is forming a Research and Best Practice Clearinghouse, a Parent Academy, and a Teacher Academy. Those organizations will contribute to the creation of model schools. Such model schools, according to the CSF, will stand for:
- "equity and excellence,"
- teaching of basic skills combined with creative problem-solving,
- respect for individual values as well as diversity,
- preparation for democracy as well as a world economy.
Technology Is Key
Whatever the configuration of a school of the future might be, technology is always a huge part of it. Ginger Howenic, a consultant and director for The Classroom of the Future Foundation, recently made a presentation in the Lake Washington (Washington) School District. She was joined by Robert Clarke, executive director of the National School Co. Both emphasized technology.
Howenic formerly headed Clear View Elementary School, a charter school, in Chula Vista, California. At the presentation, she played a video from the school in which two boys studied bee anatomy with the help of an electron microscope and two professors. At the school, Hovenic says, kindergarten students use spreadsheets to track their height and weight through sixth grade.
Clarke's company offers SONY Web TV packages to school districts for $207 per unit. The packages provide Internet access through regular televisions, assisting students whose families do not own computers.
The school days when computers meant word processing or playing games are already behind us. Yet no matter how great a part computers and other technologies play in the school of the future, it is only a means, advocates of technology say, to the greater end of enabling students to learn through interaction with various aspects of life.
Article by Sharon Cromwell
Copyright © 1998 Education World
Please note that this article has not been updated since 1998.
The following is one of two winning essays composed for the 2012 The Mary Cone Barrie Scholarship. The scholarship is one of few annual awards that recognize non-traditional students and their pursuit of lifelong learning.
My name is Moon Soe, and I am a junior student at Metropolitan State University, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, pursuing a degree in secondary mathematics education. This spring 2012, I am taking four classes at the indicated institute above while also working full-time during weekdays. I am planning to finish all my required courses in spring, 2013 and begin my student teaching in Fall 2013. Coming to Minnesota as a refugee from Thailand, I was so enthusiastic and hopeful to continue my education for a better life. I attended Century College as soon as I got my GED six months after I resettled in Minnesota. I was the first generation who finished a two year college, and I’m now working on to finish my bachelor degree. I am originally from Burma (also called Myanmar) and also an Ethnic Karen, one of the very recent immigrants in Minnesota and in many other countries all over the world. While living in a refugee camp in Thailand, I was hoping for a better life, but I didn’t have a choice or a chance. Sometimes I blamed myself because I felt envious of the world and people that had more opportunities. Living in the camp for 13 years, I thought I was never going to be able to continue my education, and I had so little hope when I thought about my future. However, I am really happy now that I could start to dream about my future in real life and not a daydream anymore. Working fulltime and going to school fulltime might be a little difficult, but in order to finance my family without giving up on my dream, I motivate myself everyday to have enough energy. I understand how it must have been hard for my family since they do not speak English and understand much about life process in the United States.
When I started college, I was very happy, but clueless. It felt amazing that I had the opportunity to continue my education, but I did not know how to make it through my first semester. However, I said to myself that I should grab this great opportunity, or it would go pass me. I looked up for supports from every resource I could get from college, and surprisingly I made it through smoothly for the last three years. I feel so grateful and honored that I am going to be the first generation in my family ancestry who is graduating from college.
Undeniably, I believe there are many people in the world that are in the same situation as me. Having gone through a hard time to survive, I would say it is fortune and hope that bring me to this life stage. At the beginning it was challenging for me to declare my major because the world I grew up is too different to where I am now. However, I always knew in my heart that I love working with teenaged children. Also as a student, I always love math and have great desire to enrich my knowledge in mathematics education. After assessing what my passions and my abilities are, I decided to become an urban secondary math teacher hoping I could help guide these wonderful children to grow intellectually and pursue what they desire to.
My interest in teaching began while I was teaching as a non-licensed teacher for almost two years at a diverse post-secondary school in the refugee camp. However, I felt bad for I was not able to provide my students with the best quality education because I was not well-trained but given the job due to community’s need. Then, since 2009 until now, having worked in an urban secondary public school in Saint Paul as an educational assistant, I really love my job as an educator. As a result, I would like to take a step further to become a good educator for the lifelong learning journey of the new generations. After I get my teaching license, I am planning to teach at an urban secondary school. I am also very proud to be part of community education and represent many Karen immigrants in Minnesota. Receiving scholarship would really help me graduate timely. This scholarship is not going to be just a financial support, but for me it is evidence to prove to my urban students as someone who was once hopeless now has accomplished something great.
My last hope is one day I would like to become a useful resource person in my Karen community as a professional in education. My fellow ethnic Karen has been fleeing war and became refugees for many decades. Many generations missed educational privilege. Many children did not have educational opportunities because of life they had to go through. I was once like these children and was not happy with my life. Therefore, I hope to be able to help make a difference in these children life so that their dream may come true as other children in the world.
To learn more about the Mary Cone Barrie Scholarship, please click here.