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Predictions Questions about the Next Decade


Four Crystal Balls, by Valdemar Horwat ((Horwat, Waldemar. “Four Crystal Balls.” Flickr. 28 Mar 2009. Web. 27 Dec 2009. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/naturalturn/3393185440/>.))

Obviously, this started out being a list of predictions about 2010 and beyond. But, after working on it for about a week, I concluded that the questions we are asking, as we move toward the future are much more interesting. ..and, of course, the biggest and most interesting question for 2010 is, “What are we going to call it, two-thousand and ten or twenty-ten?” Anybody? Anybody?

Let’s get down to brass tacks, and getting down to brass tacks is actually a great way to begin. It’s not a very old expression, as expressions go — first used in an 1863 issue of The Tri-Weekly Telegraph, a Texas newspaper. The line said,

When you come down to ‘brass tacks’ – if we may be allowed the expression – everybody is governed by selfishness. ((Martin, Gary. “Get Down to Brass Tacks.” The Phrase Finder. Web. 23 Dec 2009. <http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/get-down-to-brass-tacks.html>.))

..and this, more than anything else, is what drives the future.  What we are able to imagine and invent is easy.  It’s limitless.  We can go in any direction we want.  The “want” is the question.  What will help us answer our questions, solve our problems, or accomplish our goals — as we perceive them or as we are persuaded to perceive them.  Will this new 3Gs iPhone help me do my job?  Will increasing my taxes bring down greenhouse gases, feed and house the poor, and provide a more relevant education for our children?

So, perhaps the best way to predict the future is to explore our questions/problems.

  • This first one really isn’t want-based.  But it’s one that nagging at us all.  What is Apple going to unveil at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, on anuary 26? ((Gelles, David. “Exclusive: Apple to host event in January.” Financial Times 23 Dec 2009: n. pag. Web. 28 Dec 2009. <http://blogs.ft.com/techblog/2009/12/exclusive-apple-to-host-event-in-january/>.)) My prevailing question is, “Will the built-in features of Apple’s alleged Tablet make it a (the) ideal learning technology? ..or will Apple have to contrive instructional applications as they (and others) have done in the past for their new ‘game changers’?”
  • This is a big one for me. Does learning performance, as measured by annual test scores, accurately and appropriately predict success in a future that is characterized by change? I’m looking for research to be done that correlates the level of life success in adults to their success as students.
  • Even if we conclude that high stakes testing is harmful to our children, no tipping point in the greater education conversation is going to kill it. An alternative is necessary, and I wonder what kind of killer app might emerge that makes electronic portfolio assessment (or other procedure) simply look too perfect to resist. Is there some new digital tool on the horizon or, might there be something that’s already out there, but has not yet reached a critical mass, that is going to change the game?  What’s the next big thing?  What will be the buzz at ISTE 2010? (see this conversation David Jakes started on Posterous)
  • Are we (teachers) going to become digital users or subscribers?  For decades we have been comfortable using packaged instructional content (textbooks, etc.) to help students learn, and this was probably necessary in closed learning environments.  But with astoundingly abundant information, might we become our own packers. I’m curious about the emergence of video search. Hulu, the web-based TV service, now allows viewers to search the closed caption text of qualifying movies and TV shows. ((Wei, Eugene. “Search Captions on Hulu.” Hulu Blog. Hulu, Hulu LLC.. Web. 28 Dec 2009. <http://blog.hulu.com/2009/12/21/search-captions-on-hulu/>.)) It’s a bit quirky, but another step toward making a universe of digital content more accessible and workable by teachers and learners. Will we take advantage of all this abundance of content, or continue to limit ourselves to the comfort of subscribing and prescribing?
  • What’s to come of social networking? Will we, as a larger defining education community, come to accept social learning techniques and integrate them, or will we continue to fear and block these opportunities?
  • Will the current economic bottom-drop curtail the proliferation of 1:1 learner to computer environments, or might it cause an acceleration? There are two other prevailing questions that nag at me,
    1. What technologies constitutes a true ubiquitous personal digital learning tool?
    2. How will ubiquitous personal digital learning tools affect the learning cultures of schools, classrooms, and our larger learning environments?
  • A huge question-mark resides over the future of textbooks. I continue to wonder if we might discover that going digital could be a cheaper way to help students learn than continuing down the road of pulp-wood based learning resources? ..and “Will somebody (textbook industry or open source community) create a new “textbook” platform that truly harnesses the qualities of digital networked learning?  Kindle is not the answer!
  • Where does my job as a teacher stop? I think that much of the network conversation, that will continue to take place out there, will be about this question.
    1. Just how much influence might I have, as a teacher, on the learning that my students are engaged in outside of my classroom and outside of the school’s bell schedule?
    2. How might emerging ICTs enable more interesting and potent learning experiences beyond the confines of traditional schooling?
    3. How responsible am I to pursue these opportunities or do I continue to follow the traditional role of teacher and leave tech and the networks to the “natives?”

OK, so I do have some predictions after all for 2010

  • Personal Learning Networks (PLN) will not get easier to explain.
  • We will see some form of augmented reality in the exhibit hall at ISTE 2010, so watch where you point your 3G iPhone.
  • Increased acceptance of social networking applications will continue, as security concerns are addressed and as we come to realize the benefits for conversational learning and learning management.
  • High stakes testing will die, and it will die quickly and embarrassingly.  But this will happen only after there is a compelling alternative.
  • The next big “cool” thing will be augmented reality.  But, although it will enable some interesting and useful instructional opportunities, like so many big “cool” things before it, AR will not live up to its hype.
  • Mobile and cloud computing will continue to rise in popularity and application, but not as fast as we wish.  They are both limited by infrastructure and penetration.

That’s it for now.  I may revisit this blog post in the next minutes or months.

Happy New Year!


  • http://www.johnhendron.net/ John Hendron

    I enjoyed this post… despite your reluctance to make some predictions, those you include at the end seem to ring true with my own expectations. The textbook issue and teachers as publishers is an interesting one – some teachers already are helping to create their own textbooks, this isn’t new. Great teachers long ago already learned to rely far less on the books… some teachers want their students to help create the “textbook” – through wikis, for instance. We’re in that mushy time where we have the power to publish, the incentives to publish, yet… where’s the time? If I were to play my wishful thinking card… I’d hope that 2010 and beyond becomes a period where the U.S. Education system finally made in-roads towards treating educators as professionals with more paid time to develop, innovate, write, and plan. But until that time, I see the textbook machine continuing to thrive, either in books or some digital format. Yet, I applaud my colleagues in this profession that have begun to publish and innovate away from the textbook culture.

    • http://www.mrkeenan.com Derek Keenan

      I really see publishing as an essential next step, and not only web content. I have my students publish as a class full projects (novels, plays, screenplays, etc.) and ensure that by the end there is a tangible product. If you really want to ‘create the textbook’ you have to give students the experiences that allow them to see what happens in real life. While our curriculum where I am located does not exlicitly require this kind of work from students, it does offer the flexibility that I can build it in without detrimental effects for my students in terms of expectations. They love it!

  • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com David Warlick

    John, I agree with you wholeheartedly about teachers having more supported (paid) professional time for development. It’s one of my ongoing rants. And I also agree about teachers already developing their own materials, depending less on the textbook. But I look for that to become the expected, that being a developer and publisher of learning materials becomes part of our image, our definition, of teachers.

  • http://www.johnwoodring.com John Woodring

    I read in the January, 2009 issue of U.S. News & World Report that research shows SAT scores are not a reliable predictor of if a student will finish college. The research showed grades of a B or better, particularly in AP courses, are a better predictor of college success. I agree that it won’t be long that high-stakes testing will be shown to show nothing.

    Electronic portfolios will be good short-term measures of work. Periodic prescriptive testing, if used correctly, can show teachers what is going on during the school year so adjustments can be made. However, I still believe tracking students after they leave high school is the best indicator. Schools should be measured by the percentage of students who finish college or successfully enter the working world or military. Vocational schools are held to this standard and programs can be shut down if a certain percentage of students are not working in the vocation they trained in.

    Social studies and science textbooks will be the first to go not to embrace new technologies but to lighten book bags. Someone will dust off a study showing the problems of kids carrying heavy book bags and back problems. Eventually, someone will make and market an e-reader/slate device designed for students. It will probably come out when the before mentioned study comes out.

    Of course this is the future and things will not always be what we expect. We are supposed to be going to work and school in our flying cars and planning vacations to outer space right?

    • Edie

      I enjoyed your post, and it brought out what I tell my students on a daily basis, there is not a single test that defines you, rather it is the quality of work that you do everyday. It is hard for me as a teacher to see a student who is an exceptionally hard worker see their dreams of getting into a first rate college dashed because of lower SAT scores. As a teacher, and in my previous career as a sales manager, the students/workers who give 100%, are self-motivated and take pride in their work are the ones who succeed. As an educator, it is interesting to see which students are successful in college and their careers. Ninety-nine percent of the time is the students who gave it their best effort, not the ones who were merely good test takers.

  • http://balancedtech.blogspot.com/ BalancEdTech

    I can just imagine all the wonderful uses for AR in a classroom. “That’s a 10 year old map of the world that is already out of date.” “That’s a $6000 interactive whiteboard that gets used only as a projector.” “That’s a bulletin board full of student work that could have had a real audience if published on a wiki.” And, when pointed toward the front of the room, “That’s a teacher using only a small percentage of their capabilities, diligently teaching their students to pass the test.”

    On the other hand, I can imagine all sorts of educational uses for AR out in the real world if you are willing to count informal learning. Will this be another digital divide? Maybe so, because I bet it will involve some level of parent participation like geocaching or letterboxing.

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  • http://www.transleadership.wordpress.com Tony Baldasaro

    I really hope you are right about high-stakes testing coming to an end (I hope that portfolios and competencies could provide compelling arguments as alternatives). Having been in school and district-level administration since NCLB, I feel as though I chase data more than I focus on what is right for kids. My frustration lies in the fact that I spend more time looking at averages, excel spreadsheets, pivot tables, and graphs than I do researching new and effective strategies for teaching and learning.

    • Alisha Lieber

      I see and agree with your frustation about having all of your time devoted to getting ready for high stakes tests. In my district there is a huge need to make sure that we do better every year since we are on the District In Need of Assistance list and so is our school. My principal has even went to the extreme to have us create tests that are similiar to high stakes tests that our students take. We have to give them to our students, discuss the questions, put the data into spreadsheets to see which questions our student are missing and then create lessons to help our students be able to understand those types of questions. It has become really overwhelming. Do you have to do anything like that at your school?

  • http://www.cellt.org Thom McCain

    Thanks for great set of comments. I’m hoping that this will be the decade that we’ll find ways to help students show not only what they know, but what they can do. I’m excited that electronic portfolios may finally find their way into the mainstream of teaching and learning. To have an ePortfolio learners have to make important decisions related to living in this new digital era. Some seem so trivial — like saving, indexing, labeling files (so they can be used and found in multiple ways). Some are really rather revolutionary — expecting student created evidence of learning in non-linear forms. That will certainly be a helpful process for teachers and learners to find their way out of the “sausage stuffing” learning facts pedagogy suggested by high-stakes testing. But to me the start of the new decade will hopefully find ways for teachers and schools to help explode the walls of the current classrooms — both virtually and by travel and adventure. The world of tomorrow keeps promising to be one of change and dynamism. We have to increase the opportunities for students to experience both virtual and community-based learning opportunities. What a horror it would be if schools only opened the doors of the classroom to virtual environments and not the ones that surround their school buildings. This is a great time to be a teacher.

    • Edie

      This is the age-old question, do these tests really show what knowledge the students have gained or just how prepared they are for a particular test? I teach 10th grade in NC, and our students have their last formal writing test in the tenth grade, so I live with the high-stakes test on a daily basis. As a teacher, I would much prefer an electronic portfolio in which the students could see their progress, and we could explore different genres of writing. I see first hand the amount of improvement my students make, but is a grader who is taking two to three minutes to grade this essay know of this progress? As most of us have seen, a 90-minute test cannot accurately predict success in any given area; it is merely a reflection of the students work during that particular timeframe. Is there any state besides NC that gives a writing test in HS? If so, what are your thoughts?

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  • Alisha Lieber

    I really enjoyed reading this post, because it really made me start to think about what is going to be happening in the future with education. I would hope that high stakes testing would be gone and there would be some other type of assessment that would show learning. If this were to happen I know that I would remember where I was at when I found out there were no more high stakes tests. It is also interesting to think about textbooks and where they will be at in the future. There is so much money spent on textbooks and there are more and more budget cuts. Our district in Iowa is really suffering from budget cuts. There is no way that my district is going to be thinking about increasing their technology resources when they are not even going to be able to hold on to teachers. I am a second year teacher and I think of myself as being optimistic. I look forward to the change and increase of technology in the classrooms. I hope that there are going to be some good changes in my district to increase student achievement. Our technology resources should be moving with our students.

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