WHAT OUR CHILDREN HAVE TO LOOK FORWARD TO

As any parent, teacher or school leader will tell you, technology is having a huge impact on children’s personal, social and academic lives.

And its effects can be both extraordinary and scary. It’s therefore our responsibility, as society’s role models, to teach children how to use technology. Wisely and constructively.

Integral to that responsibility, is an understanding of the technology trends that today’s schools must now prepare for.

Phrases such as cloud computing, social media, big data and mobile computing are more than just fleeting buzzwords. These developments are paving the way for an entirely new classroom experience – for both teachers and students.

And for many forward-thinking schools, these changes are already taking effect.

So how will tomorrow’s schools prepare children for tertiary programs and careers that don’t yet exist? And how will classroom technology help them to become creative, independent and resourceful professionals?

Introducing the classroom of 2025.

A new ‘classroom’ paradigm

Since age-old time, the classroom paradigm has been predictable – across centuries, continents and communities. It entails a single teacher at the helm who addresses a group of students in a physical setting. Teaching tools are fixed and centralised. And students are passive participants.

But the classroom of 2025 will be more adaptable, fluid and vibrant.

Teachers will be physically unrestricted – with the freedom to move around as they teach and work. They will ‘facilitate’, rather than stand in front telling children what to do. Meanwhile, students will take more control and ownership of their learning.

Classrooms will also regularly adopt a ‘flipped’ approach where students take charge and share their thoughts with peers in real time. Students will collaborate in groups at every opportunity– sharing ideas and resources seamlessly and efficiently.

‘Anywhere’ learning

Classrooms of the future will not depend on one’s physical presence. Students can learn from anywhere. And teachers can teach from anywhere.

Our world is already moving this way with the massive emergence of online courses.

But think of the efficiencies that can leveraged during a typical school day. Being sick may no longer be an acceptable excuse to skip ‘attending’ class from your bedroom. And working parents will have no reason to miss their children’s presentations and performances – with the ability to watch from the convenience of their office chair.

What’s more, with advances in virtual reality technologies, educators will one day be able to deliver ‘virtual field trips’ – whereby students don’t have to travel anywhere to authentically ‘experience’ places and interact with people in other parts of the world.

Individualised and adaptive learning

Say goodbye to the ‘one size fits’ all approach to tasks and timeframes in the classroom.

In 2025, teachers will be able to deliver highly personalised lessons. Individual work habits, interest levels, learning styles and attention spans will be easily identified, monitored and tailored to suit the specific needs of each child. Strengths will be leveraged. Interests will be emphasised. And challenges will be addressed.

For example, eye-tracking techniques will help teachers understand how students absorb and understand the learning content. Even though this is not a new technique (advertising researchers have been using eye-tracking technology for years), it will become an accessible and affordable form of technology for everyday schools.

Feedback and evaluation

Schools of the future will be able to capture and stream audio and video clips of children as they work – which can be played back for evaluation and sharing during parent conferences. In other words, teachers and parents can physically see the child as they progress over time – and as they build on increasingly difficult skills. Learning outcomes will become more specific and measurable.

Just like the rise of 360 feedback in the workplace, teachers will also be under the microscope. Students will be able to digitally rate lesson content, activities and set tasks – allowing teachers to adapt their approach in real time.

Experiential learning

With the prolific rise of Google, Wikipedia YouTube, Facebook, online gaming and smartphones, kids today have very short attention spans. They expect answers to their questions instantaneously. And they crave ‘entertainment’ 24/7.

It’s no surprise then, that schools are already discovering the growing ineffectiveness of traditional teaching methods. Rote learning and textbook quizzes are simply not cutting it anymore.

So the challenge will be to develop ways to leverage the very tools once considered a major distraction to learning – video games, social networking and simulation – to teach and engage. For example, students are already starting to benefit from motion-sensing technology to master sign language, sporting skills and musical instruments.   

Experimentations and mistakes will also be encouraged as simulations are made possible through 3D printing and game-based learning. Real-world consequences and costs will be no barrier.

Ultimately, children of the future will no longer see learning as a chore – but rather as a gratifying part of life which requires proactive involvement.

What does this all mean for schools in 2015?

Given the evolving technology lifecycle, it is more important than ever to think strategically about the technology roadmap and ensure any technology investments in schools are future-proof, flexible and scalable.

Whichever way you look at it, today’s schools will need one major thing to be prepared for the future. And contrary to what you might assume, it’s not software, iPads, servers or file storage.

They will need a fast and robust internet connection.

Whether offsite or onsite, schools, teachers, students and support staff will all be connected.