PostCards 2020 – The Future of Education

I’m sitting here in the year 2020 reminiscing over the last decade and wondering just how much the business of education has changed?

Students still need to be educated and qualified, but they are so much more active in the process, delivery and outcomes and the way we do it is almost unrecognisable from a decade ago.

The days where learning required a room full of people that were physically present have long gone. Today it’s increasingly a blended mixture of physical and virtual education worlds.

Even the thought of online still makes me laugh. I remember at the start of this century struggling with the notion of online learning. For many of us it was the holy grail of education and in its early days we asked solitary distant learners to engage with on screen static material which offered them little interaction, stimulus and feedback. Today it is a rich immersive interactive and highly engaging world.

Today’s telestudents (remote learners) may rarely physically meet their classmates, but yet do still see them regularly as they engage in word battles together; share and learn with them and from them; collaborate on assignments, present and submit their work together, as if they’re face to face.

Physical classrooms however have not disappeared and are now far more open and adaptable spaces used for a multitude of purposes. Corners and learning nooks can be readily fashioned within the space for intimate discussions and sharing and then easily and simply rearranged for larger conversations and interactions.

Ubiquitous technology abounds within the space, but is hidden and seamless and is merely another tool upon which learning is played.

Classroom learning technology has also evolved. The physical textbook is now almost obsolete, as students have ready access to live constantly updated material on their MC’s (mobile computers).

These devices are the cornerstone for learning, sharing, interacting and engagement as multi-sensory real time up to date course materials, lecturer notes, assignments, communication and assessments are all securely and routinely exchanged. Non-academic staff also use these devices for enrolment, course changes, results and correspondence.

The blend between the physical learning environment and the virtual is the most fascinating to me. I routinely stare in amazement as medical students learn their anatomy and surgical skills on virtual synthetic humans; as new teachers are given virtual classrooms of students to control and teach; as engineering students collaboratively construct virtual bridges and architectural students design 3D holograms of tomorrow’s man made landmarks.

To these digital natives it is the most natural of educational environments. To today’s educators and administrators it offers endless possibilities to innovate new education pedagogies, paradigms and practices.

One of the other major changes I’ve seen over the last 10 years is the strengthening co-operation between primary, secondary and tertiary schools. Teaching and administrative staff, academics, curriculum, resources and buildings are increasingly shared as we all continue to seek maximum return on our scarce education dollars and assets.

Interestingly this has not stopped at geographic borders with schools around the globe forming alliances and collaborative networks which is fueling the notion of global education and qualifications which by 2030 is likely to be the norm.

It is now the norm for there also to be strong engagement between the education sector and private industry. Subjects are often taught by industry leaders, seconded for their expertise and relevance.

Industry is increasingly becoming more involved in the shaping of education and far more aware that their future employee’s, today’s students, are lifelong learners and that the gaining of their qualification is merely the end of the beginning of a lifelong need for wisdom and up skilling.

The educational world of 2020 and beyond is a world where students will have at least six (6) distinct careers and 14 jobs and will work in industries and careers doing tasks that even in 2020 we can’t imagine as they travel through the next 70 years of work towards a life expectancy of 120.

It’s taken quite an adjustment over the last 10 years for the education industry to come to terms with these changes and I know in 2020 we’re still not there, but if we are going to live up to the challenge of continuously shaping tomorrow’s minds with quality bleeding edge education that informs and serves the future, then we must accept the reality that education will forever be innovating and evolving.

Another installment from my Postcards from the Future series.

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