What’s the next big thing in education?

It’s a funny question- what’s the next big thing in education.  Being a teacher for over 15 years, I have seen many “big things”.  Some were fads (trying to use Palm Pilots as instructional tools) while other have done well (interactive whiteboards).  Still, to answer the question, we need to see where we’ve come from.

The Desktop Computer (way back when…)

Osborne 1 open.jpg

The first one was the desktop computer.  While I was not privy to the golden years of being a teacher in the 1980’s, I do remember when my father brought home our first computer - the Osborne I.  Said to be the world’s first portable computer, it boasted a 5″ screen, dual 5 1/4″ floppy drives, and 64 kb (yes, kb) memory.  While it did help me type papers (on a daisy wheel printer; we’re talking pre-dot matrix), it also played a cool game of Space Invaders and Zork.  However I would be hard pressed to see it having much benefit in the classroom.

The dawn of the projected classroom

As computers progressed and improved, teachers struggled with how to best utilize them. While educational programs blossomed and students could actually learn on them (anyone remember the Oregon Trail game?), it was pretty ridiculous to ask a room full of students to crowd around one screen.  Now we had 32″ TV’s mounted in the room displaying our DOC and PPT files.  Now we were onto something.

Interactive whiteboards

The new century came with a new technology, interactive whiteboards that allowed the teacher to harness the power of a computer and the interactiveness of a whiteboard at once.  It allowed teachers to teach to the multiple intelligences explained by Gardner and keep a digital copy of their notes for students to see at anytime.  However, students were still using the same notebook they used 75 years ago.

Mobile Technology in the classroom

What’s the next big thing in education?  I believe it will be the student correctly utilizing a digital tablet.  This tablet will have the ability of a computer to run programs, the display of a TV (albeit a small HDTV), and the functionality of an interactive whiteboard.  Instead of merely writing notes, a student can incorporate videos onto a digital page.  Washington crossing the Delaware now becomes a living, breathing experience with handwritten notes, an animated video, and the teacher’s audio notes as a reference.  Students will study together either physically (squatting in a local Panera) or online (squatting in a cyber version of Panera) utilizing the newest versions of Skype and Facetime to help review and interact.

Bottom line- the next big thing in education isn’t a “thing”.  It won’t be one product made by Apple, Samsung, or some other company that hasn’t been created yet.  It will be a shift- a shift in the way students learn and teachers present their knowledge.  And it will definitely not look like the classrooms that I currently teach in or that you attended.

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