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The Future

November 8, 2013


I just glimpsed the future of education.

This morning I subbed at Beaver Country Day School, where Ethan Zuckerman, the Head of MIT’s Center for Civic Media, gave a speech explaining how the internet opens up the cultures of the world.  The speech was given via Skype, which I have never experienced as a teacher, and it got me thinking about the role technology will play in the education of the future.

Earlier in my career, I was chairman of Harker School’s Diversity Committee.  While we worked diligently to explore the topic of multiculturalism, the technology wasn’t yet available to truly open the doors of the school to the world.  Harker attempted to change this by creating several exchange trips, so students could experience pockets of culture other than their own.  But these trips, while wonderful and enlightening, only provided glimpses of the entire world.  As I listened to Zuckerman engage the students by discussing the use of everyday media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, I  was struck by the thought that present and future technology will revolutionize education.

When I became a teacher in 1996, I daydreamed of designing a multi-disciplinary class to teach literature, geography and history.  I envisioned having the kids read Jules Verne’s Around The World In Eighty Days, while I travelled the globe using a satellite phone to engage my students back home.  My plan never came to fruition largely because of the cost, which was nearly $100,000!  Fortunately, in the future, educators will be able to connect their classes to experts around the world in realtime. How incredible it will be to Skype with a park ranger from Gettysburg, or have a virtual tour of the Great Wall by a Chinese historian? Regions of the world that have been dangerous for tourists will be explored in the safety of our classrooms.  Foreign language students will be able to write more than letters to “pen pals”, instead they will be able to create online friendships to both fuel and enhance learning.  Math and science teachers will travel virtually to labs and think tanks around the world.

Technology is sure to bring about an educational revolution.  This paradigm shift will require plenty of professional development to ensure teachers have the technological savvy necessary to teach effectively in the 21st century.  Curricula will change and so too may the subject matter.   Why study just the history of Greece and Rome when the world is an open book?  Teachers will assign homework that is radically different from today’s because it will be possible to work collaboratively outside of the classroom even after the bell has rung.  School will need to be designed differently to accommodate the needs of 21st century “AV Departments”.  I can remember in elementary school watching presentations that utilized film strip projectors, which paired an audio tape with a strip of film. My!  How far we have come and how far we will go.

PS – OK!  So, I had the epiphany.  Now what?

How do I transform myself so that I can utilize the tech of the present and prepare myself for the technology of the 21st century?  What do I have to learn in order to be the future for my students? Sugata Mitra stated in his famous Ted Talk a quote from A.C. Clarke, “Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer, should!” So, how to I integrate technology into my own teaching, not only to keep my job but more importantly so I can be a more effective teacher with the goal of helping my students learn?  What do I need to change about myself and my teaching style in so as to prepare them for the world that awaits when they graduate?


Here is a Ted Talk by

Here is a link to his blog


From → Technology

  1. Anonymous permalink

    Dave- I am in total agreement with you about the possibilities that technology holds. As most of the things you mention are feasible given the technology of TODAY, we have to look at the questions of implementation: money for technology (especially consideringthe rate with which current technology becomes outdated- 3years!), meaningful training for faculty to employ it, or what to do with veteran teachers who are good teachers but not tech savvy.

    • So true… Yesterday, I experienced a paradigm shift… I’ve always been a big fan of technology but I’ve been it as a way of improving my classes and helping my students to learn more. I’ve never seen it as more than an aid in helping me to teach… Yesterday, I saw it as more than that…

      Now as I move forward – I need to think about the nitty gritty real world issues that you raise in your comment. Luckily – I have always worked in schools that have had the budgets to make technology available to their students. But even at places with all the money in the world – they still need to figure out how to implement the technology they have the power to by… I’ve worked at school where teachers have received $1500 laptops but can’t even use the email… So I am with about the challenges we face.

      So, I guess the question is – now what? How do I have to change/what do I have to learn in order to be the future for my students? Sugata Mitra stated in his famous Ted Talk a quote from A.C. Clarke – “Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer, should!” So, how to I integrate technology into my own teaching so I can use it to be a more effective teacher?

  2. Richard Garner permalink

    Here’s my problem with “technology” in the classroom. If you need to jazz up the teaching with technology, then the students have not yet found the passion of learning. They have simply found the passion of technology. Sort of like the passion of the car, but not the passion of where they are going in the car. It’s fine that they have the passion of technology. Perhaps that is what they want to do. But it would be great to have that passion and, in addition, find a passion that is independent of that. In the end we will all use the technology anyway. That is where the world is. It is the air that we breath. But what can we do with that technology? Is there something out there that a student is passionate about independent of the air that we breath? That is where we need to get them.

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