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.
Last year the school introduced a whole-school homework timetable – this meant that as a core subject we have to set homework every week. I’m not saying we didn’t set it regularly as that’s not the case – but I’m not convinced that setting homework for “homework’s sake” is the right way to go about things. I believe we are professionals and should be allowed to use our judgement as to when homework is appropriate and beneficial to the students learning. It’s an area quite close to my heart as it’s a topic that I have done quite a bit of research on as part of my Masters, but I’m not going to get all academic here and at the end of the day, I know that its not an argument I’ll win so am going to continue to set homework according to the timetable.
However, as a school, homework submission is an issue – when this timetable was first introduced I monitored the time I spent administering homework (and I’m not talking about marking it, I mean collecting it, checking who hadn’t submitted it and chasing that in subsequent lessons, issuing detentions and then setting the next weeks homework) and over 2 weeks I spent roughly 19% (I know!!) of my teaching time – obviously that didn’t continue, it just couldn’t – not only is it unsustainable but I would argue that it is wasn’t beneficial. I like to think that I am quite open minded and I’ve tried all sorts of modes of delivery: worksheets, booklets, online, posters .. you name it, I’ve tried it.
This year I am determined that homework will not become “a monster” and want to start the year all prepared so I put a shout-out to twitter world for ideas that weren’t just another worksheet – the response was mind blowing – I’ve collated them below and I’m definitely going to be using some of these ideas this year. If you have any ideas you’d like to share drop me a mail [email protected]
1) Completing a tarsia puzzle from @karenshancock. I like this idea – were I to do this I would probably print it out full size but then reduce on the photocopier to reduce the number of pages used (my gaffer is tight!) and I’d ask them to sellotape it together.
2) Ask students to visit a supermarket and take photos of 5 special offers and work out the cost (@jojobee21). This could be either the cost before the special offer, after the offer or both.
3) Looking at maths in real-life is a great suggestion: @VictoriaARiley suggested students looking at those “rubbish stats” on TV ads – we all know the ones!! 90% of 12 people agree nonsense! – I like this idea and I’d probably ask them to collect as many examples as they could and then start the lesson with a discussion why they are misleading (or not as the case may be). She also suggested getting students to take photos of 2d (and I would add 3d shapes) and says they’d make a great display. @andylutwyche came up with the idea, which will be ideal when I do some averages of them having to calculate the average goals from the football games on a specific Saturday in the premier league (there are also other sports apparently!).
4) Produce a poster based on what they have been recently learning, works for @Team_Maths. Getting creative with maths could be something that the students don’t often get the chance to do and I can see some of my students loving the idea of this, but I would want to make sure that the topic was suited to it.
5) Posting on a blog is a suggestion that I am really keen on exploring, so thank you @TheMathsMagpie and I’m going to be talking to ICT about setting this up and what permissions etc I need to get. Initially I think with certain groups I will ask them to draft their blog post and then submit to me via email before unleashing on the big wide world. @Team_Maths also suggested posting a question and using padlet for the students to post their answers on.
6) @Maths4ukplc suggested posting an answer on a discussion board and the students have to post what the possible question could be – each one must be different – so the later ones have to work harder. I particularly like this as it might help drive engagement with homework and I think that once we get our class blogs up and running I can post the answer as a blog post and they can pose their answers in the comments section.
7) We use MyMaths (well … when I say we use it, I mean we subscribe to it) and I have set HW on there before but suspect that its very much an exercise that the students do and aren’t that bothered on the actual result (I remain open minded!). Several tweachers suggested other sites and software including Manga High and Study Ladder (@Gruffthree) or Mathletics and MethodMaths (@MrRHughes)
8) It is important that there is a reason for setting homework and I like the idea from @jojobee21 of the final HW of a topic being the production of a textbook (as a group) or powerpoint slides. I’ve taken this further and had students plan their “ideal lesson/s” on the topic – complete with lesson plan and resources. I have even been brave enough to let a few of them deliver the lessons. I have to say, you need to really trust the students to do this, and thankfully the students did this really well. Lesson planning as homework is something that works really well at KS5.
9) Planning a lesson could be extended – if they had the technology – so that they end up making an educational video (@Ticascott). Staying with the theme of them filming themselves doing maths – my year 10s were asked to write a “Chris Moyles quiz maths question” and that involved them doing some of the preparation for HW – we then filmed it in class (I’ve blogged about it before).
10) Researching a topic seems quite a common suggestion (I’ve never tried, I’ll be honest!) but @reflectivemaths suggested getting the students to put together a time line of maths and @jojobee21 suggested a dictionary of maths words with pictures – I like that idea and maybe worth doing as a longer term project as there are lot of words, and I would probably produce a list of words and get them to take them to pull their word out each week. Coincidentally @RJS2212 has put together a massive list of maths words that I’m going to use – this list of maths words is seriously massive and would also make a superb classroom display.
11) Students HW task is to create a worksheet for someone else to complete as HW the following week – I would ask the student completing the homework to do some kind of assessment of the quality of the work set – I’d extend this a further week so that the “maker” then had to mark the work. 3 weeks worth of homeworks 🙂 … idea courtesy of @sarahestocker I really like this idea and think that is going to be the first idea I use with my year 11s when we get back.
There are so many great ideas, so why not give some (or all) of them a go … I am!!