The year 2020. When I hear that year mentioned, regardless of what it is referring to, it scares me. It scares me for multiple reasons. 1) I will be turning 30 – yikes!! 2) It sounds like a “futuristic” year that I imaged when I was young would have aliens living on Earth and flying cars. 3) It is less than 4 years away.
To think that the year 2020 is less than four years away is quite incredible, and it will most certainly be here before we know it. As an educator it is hard to imagine how much will change in the world of education by next year (2017), let alone by 2020. If I think back to four years ago (2012) I was still in college earning my Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics Education, and we were not learning about hardly ANYTHING that I have been using in my teaching. Of course some of the constants such as IEPs, learning objectives, and lessons plans still exist, but the capacity in which they are used, presented, edited, and accessed has changed drastically. I was taught to type up my lesson plans, print them out the day before, and keep them all organized in a binder, along with all of my other resources. Now, my binders full of lesson plans and resources are worthless, and my folders on my laptop that contain my resources and lesson ideas are a treasure trove that I would freak out if I ever lost.
The way that we gain access to resources and ideas for our lessons has changed so much, that inherently the way in which we present those lessons and ideas must change as well. The blended classroom and its integration into the face-to-face traditional classroom is a major catalyst for this change. Students no longer learn in a world full of college-ruled paper notebooks, large heavy textbooks, and 20-page study guides that their teacher spent hours copying in the copy room. They are now learning from online textbooks, taking notes on their laptops on collaborative documents, and using programs, applications, and simulations to study and learn new concepts.
Changes in the world in which we are living are also a huge reason for these changes. We are not simply teaching students the skills they will need to be successful in a four-year college. We are teaching students who will enter the working world right out of high school as a trade worker; we are teaching students who will be serving our country in the U.S. Military; we are teaching students who will attend a two-year, four-year, or doctorate program in a more traditional college setting. Regardless of what path our students take in this world their exposure to technology and collaboration are things that will remain constant. We are doing our students a disservice if we do not prepare them for the wealth of technology that they will be using in any career that they choose and how collaborative that technology will be, and this is what should drive our decisions as educators to prepare them for this in the best way possible.
Changes in education are therefore also going to be affecting changes in the world. Because we are now producing students who are prepared for technological positions in the work force, the technology that is out there and available for everyone to use is also going to be changing drastically. As more and more students are able to use and manipulate this technology, its capacity will only continue to increase. These students will move into careers where they will create new programs, applications, and software that will inherently change the way that many current technologies that we use operate. The perfect example of this is the iPhone that Apple has created. Just 10 years ago, without the iPhone (or similar devices made by other companies), the entire way that the human race communicated was completely different. Gone are the days when you would wait for the landline to be open so that you could call your friend. Teenagers don’t have to deal with the times when you couldn’t get on Instant Messenger because your parents were using the phone. Now communication and collaboration with anyone and everyone is at our fingertips, and it truly has opened up “a whole new world”.
There are of course advantages and disadvantages to this “new world” of communication, both of which have affected the educational system as well. Our students are now constantly connected to their parents and friends, and texting and using social media in school has become the norm. In my school district we have adopted a fairly lenient policy where we allow phones between classes and during lunches, but not all schools have accepted this as of yet. In 2020 I believe this will be the policy for the majority of schools. Cell phones are not going away, and they even have educational merit if used correctly. Many programs such as Kahoot!, Schoology, Google Docs, Wolfram Alpha, and other school-created applications all have apps and websites that are cell phone-friendly and usable from those devices. By restricting our students’ access to their devices we truly are slowing them down, because in the real world they need to learn the balance of using their cell phone appropriately in a work situation.
For all of the reasons above and more, being a teacher in the year 2020 is sure to be different than it is today. The choices and innovations that I chose to implement and experiment with in my classroom in the next few years are going to be a direct reflection of what my classroom looks like in 2020. If I were to chose to fight back against the laptops, cell phones, programs, and technology that are popping up left and right in schools, I am sure that I might be able to manage to fend off the tech-savvy world that is sure to be coming in 2020 for a little while. But the real question is – WHY!? Why would an educator want to limit the access of their students to these programs, applications, and tools simply because there are some disadvantages. By the year 2020 I hope that educators can get on board with these changes and stop trying to prevent them. By embracing what they have to offer and by focusing more on how to successfully implement them in our classrooms, rather than spending all of our time focusing on how to keep them out, we will be able to find the silver lining that many of these programs have to offer. I look forward to how much the educational system will change by 2020 and I for one am on board and excited to see what the future has in store. 🙂