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The Next 25 Years in K-12 & Higher-Education

Just reading the title of Facer & Sandford’s 2009 article–The next 25 years?: future scenarios and future directions for education and technology–had me excited, and I’m very glad it was on my chosen reading list this week. Though case studies and in-depth analysis of trends and findings tend to be more ‘useful’ as far as research and learning go, I find the broad-view, speculative nature of articles such as these to be just plain fun to read!

A paper from the UK-based  Beyond Current Horizons(BCH) programme, “a 2-year project tasked with interrogating potential socio-technical futures for education which brought together over 100 academics from disciplines as diverse as computer science, demography, psychol- ogy, and sociology of childhood, and involved contribu- tions from over 130 organizations and individuals from industry, practice, policy and research” forms the basis for the author’s conclusions and projections.

The researchers posit that in the near (25 years, give or take a few) future, Moore’s Law will continue, with the price of tech production going down and “massive increases in computing power” becoming available at cheaper and cheaper costs to more people, which will (hopefully) help continue to bridge the digital divide. The authors, like many others recently, have projected that 3-D printing and human-computer (biological / external) interfaces will become much more prevalent and important in the near future.

When it comes to education, though, what does it all mean? Well, that is less clear. The authors lay out several scenarios (based on projected future economic, social and cultural developments) and within those roughly-defined scenarios, paint a few different ‘types’ of education, from the highly atomized to the totally integrated. Some of their ‘predictions’ (at only one year old as of this reading) are already old news, such as their hunch that people will begin to take control of their own learning resources instead of looking to institutions for the content (“weakening of institutional boundarie”) and organization of said resources (read: Personal Learning Networks, NINGs, Scoop.It, etc.). Other predictions are still definitely ‘future-istic’–such as the deep immersion of technology in our lives and bodies, but it is definitely on the horizon rather than a sci-fi novel.

Perhaps the happiest ‘finding’, in my opinion? “Silver bullets” are not expected to be the cure-all for education in the future. Instead of mass standardization and robots helping to ‘teacher proof‘ schooling, in the future we will view the problems of the day as the complex, tangled webs they really are…or so the authors say…