October 06, 2017
Future Schools Imagined Using the Essential Fluencies of Learning
What will future schools look like in 100 years? For starters, one might begin with ideas gathered from science fiction. The unfortunate thing about many of these scenarios is that they issue us a bleak warning. In these visualizations technology is often seen as the antithesis of what it means to be human. As a result, they tend to predict that undue reliance on it may well be the downfall of humanity.
All this can be kind of scary. So instead, let's take a step back and imagine another scenario, one in which we really embrace technology for the better. Used wisely, technology is a valuable tool to allow us to get the job done.
The best piece of classroom technology available is, and always will be, a teacher. All other technology in our future schools is meant to augment human connections, not the other way around. It is, after all, these connections which are so much a part of great teaching and effective learning.
Imagine future schools in which students are totally engaged in a class and immersed in working together to solve real problems that matter. They are self-driven and are coming up with amazing ideas on the spot, and are concerned with each other’s well-being as part of a team, and their concerns reach far beyond the classroom to others all over the globe.
The truth is some of these things are already happening. The Essential Fluencies are being used by schools all over the world and you can explore some case studies about their incredible work. Everywhere in schools, it seems the future is now. So how will the Fluencies stand the test of time to define schools of the future?
Will they even be called ‘schools’ in the future?
The teacher/learner relationship is changing so that teachers are acting more as facilitators rather than keepers of all knowledge. Students are driving their own education to the path that they feel best fits them.
In the future, employers may not be as concerned with prospective candidates having a diploma. Instead, they'll look more at portfolios and examples of how students contributed to solving real-world problems, as well as how they interact in teams. As it turns out, all of these crucial life skills and many more are developed by the Essential Fluencies.
Future Schools and Problem-Solving
Information from the Internet is accessible everywhere and at unimaginable speeds, connecting learners to news around the world in real time. Imagine someone could put out a request to the global community to help solve an issue in their own community. Classes can choose an issue and work with other classes around the world in real time to create solutions. Here are some great examples:
- 10 Top Crowdfunding Websites
- The Makings of an Extraordinary Kansas City Challenge
- 12 Problems Solved by Tech in 2012
- 4 Innovations That Use Technology to Solve Social Issues
Future Schools and Information
As we already know, information is everywhere. Users can get overwhelmed by the constant flow of information, so the capability to understand what is true and what is not is crucial. That's where Information Fluency comes into play.
The flipped classroom has also turned lecture-based lessons on their head, presenting engaging content to students before they even come to class. Our learners can access the Internet as many times as they want to review the lessons. Can we imagine even brain implants to access information from the cloud?
Future Schools and Creativity
The world is now our canvas. 3D simulators and equipment used for brain scans help us see new worlds and allow us to experience things not viewable in the natural world. The music world is also experimenting with synthetic sounds and computer-aided graphics. Precision is now possible and imagination must reach higher and farther.
We now have the power to artfully wrap solutions into aesthetically pleasing packages. Apple's first iMac which took the world by storm is a good example of this. It's a hallmark example in a time where businesses began realizing (and rightly so) that how a product was designed was just as important as how well it functioned.
Future Schools and Digital Media
There will always be aural and visual stimuli, especially in the digital age. These appeal to our most basic senses. You see this in holograms, 3D printers, and more. Personal computers are getting thinner and smaller, and power is more portable seemingly by the moment. In fact, in future schools we might not even see pens and paper.
Future Schools and Collaboration
Basecamp, Wrike, Trello, and Asana and more are visionary for teamwork. Tools like these will allow future schools to collaborate in real time with all corners of the world. The ease-of-use factor for many digital media allows collaborations like Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir to be a joyful reality.
All students would be concerned about the world as a whole. They will know how to troubleshoot technical glitches with an expertise in the use of technology that allows them to collaborate seamlessly. Mastering the creation of practical solutions to benefit their communities and the world would be the norm.
Future Schools and Assessment
An assessment is incorporated intuitively into all of the Essential Fluencies, and assessment drives progress. How are students to analyze that progress and strive to improve? There are several possibilities besides high-stakes testing being reviewed. According to this NPR story, testing may occur in ‘stealth’ mode. As students work their way through math problems on a terminal, a program is keeping track of everything. It monitors their answers and speed and determines the effectiveness of certain questions.
Testing may be more comprehensive, as well. It could include assessing emotional well-being and content retention through using ‘game’ devices. It could also involve assessing student portfolios and bodies of work.
Future Schools Evolving Today
As we can see, the school of tomorrow is happening today. This is a very exciting time for our students. In fact, it's exciting for the entire field of education. Certainly there are obstacles to overcome—fear, lack of knowledge, cost vs. benefits, and more are prevalent. However, they shouldn’t prevent us from experimenting and meeting students where they are now.
This is an increasingly tech-centered world, and that technology can help us appreciate the natural world and all its inhabitants. As long as we go forth from here wisely, we'll overcome these challenges together. The students of today and the future will be glad we did. We all will.