“What Does the Future Hold?”

By Margaret Combs
Heery School Report, 2010

Profound changes in the way students learn are dramatically altering the face of public education. Driven by rapid advances in technology, online learning, achievement issues, and a leaner economy, schools are reshaping with the far future in mind. Heery spoke with five superintendents from around the country currently modernizing schools in their districts with an eye toward 2020 and beyond. Among the innovations are virtual classrooms, flexible spaces, “machining pathways,” and college-like campuses.

The age of innovation

At a fundamental level, technology is transforming the bricks and mortar classroom. Thanks to the interactive and portable nature of laptops, iPods, PDAs, iPhones and the Internet, students are no longer bound to desks, textbooks or the classroom.

“For kids today, knowledge is something that exists beyond the classroom, and they know how to access it,” says William Mester, Superintendent of Snohomish Public Schools, WA. “The world of information is right at their iPhone. There are no boundaries to their knowledge, and no limit to how far they can go to transmit meaning, That is profound.”

Mester and other educational leaders agree that the days of thirty students facing a teacher before a black board are over. Even technology innovations of the last few years may soon be obsolete.

“I can see the school of the future almost like a space odyssey,” says Tom Bailey, Superintendent of Oak Ridge Public Schools in Oak Ridge, TN. “Right now we have white boards, but let’s look to the future when the whole wall is a computer, partitioned and embedded with different kinds of software and two students are working interactively side by side.”

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