As schools guide today's children towards the future, those in charge of education need to remain mindful of changes in both society and our economy. They must consistently ask: "Where are we going?" "How are we going to get there?" "Is there more than one path to this future?" Rather than languish in irrelevance and quaint traditions of the past, it is imperative that our current educational leaders shape schools to fit the students' eventual social, technological, and economic needs.
Here are three ways that we've demonstrated our willingness and desire to accommodate a changing world. These new educational strategies and methods offer glimpses into the future of education, which will have to be molded to fit our children's future.
Flexibility in Scheduling and Learning Styles
Students do not come in a one-size fits all package. Unfortunately, too many public schools insist that all students learn with the same method in the same schedule. Students accumulate credits but have very little to show for what they learned. We believe that students of the future need to verbalize their skills and to show authentic ownership of their skills. Providing thoughtful answers to essential questions or demonstrating attainment of learning objectives are just a start.
We see today that workdays are beginning to lean away from the traditional nine-to-five structure that has been in place for decades. Businesses are offering greater flexibility, and schools will have to follow suit. Studies have demonstrated for more than twenty years that teenagers require more sleep and a later start day than the early mornings currently on most of their public school schedules. (APA.org) Even the CDC has shown the dangers of sleep deprivation on teenagers, stating that earlier bedtimes are not the answer. (CDC.gov) Unfortunately, many public school districts are not at liberty to offer later starting times due to conflicting administrative needs. (nea.org)
Nevertheless, this remains an important element in the future of education as families will have different needs: varying child and elder care schedules, as well as multiple jobs to tend to. Furthermore, students in the future will have greater internship and apprentice opportunities in the world of work requiring their schools to provide greater mobility in their days' structures. Studies from the North Carolina Association for Middle School education show that students benefit less with splintered days and more when the have a greater focus on projects whether they are singularly focused or have an interdisciplinary element. (NCMLE.org)
The needs of both globalism and our growing shared-economy require that students demonstrate more than standardized-testing requirements. Successful workers possess strong empathy and excel in team functions. These needs are only going to expand in the coming decades. Workers will need to be able to communicate to different people about a variety of topics, knowing that their delivery will have to adapt to their audience. They will also have to be able to understand how others respond to them.(Futurist.com)
Progressive schools today already tackle this by allowing students to work in teams. More than a traditional "group project" of yesterday where one or two students do all of the work, these projects require that everybody do a specific job and communicate with one another. Students use key vocabulary and solve problems together. Solutions focus on helping all stakeholders rather than one person.
Method is Project-oriented
The future of education is project-oriented. Hands-on learning and solving is essential for creating not just a work force, but a solid team of community leaders who can work with others and take charge in analyzing and solving the issues that will most likely affect them. They will need to have solid foundations in the core subjects: humanities, social studies, math, and science and be conversant in the applications these subjects offer. By tackling projects with real-life applications, they can begin to offer their community, whether it is local or global clarity on social, political, or economic dilemmas.
Project-based technology is a distinct area where all students will need to develop new types of literacy. It may start with basic coding but can easily expand to many different computer languages. Most of us agree that technology is growing at an astounding rate. In the future we will weave it into our lives even more intricately than we do now. Proficiency and fluency in different applications will become expected of the work force. Developing projects for technology usage will be one of the most important elements as students will be able to use what they've learned to create healthy and safe communities.
Education will remain a social enterprise. (Guardian.com) Experts predict that while there will be some new gadgets, for the most part, much of the continuing technology revolution will be about reorganizing our interactions with one another. Our information will be cloud-based and easily accessed. Teachers, therefore, will not be the guardians of such information but will rather become the guides for how to analyze, interpret, and apply it in different contexts. Allowing students to work with others when sorting through the ocean of data available to them will require them to continue engagement with others.
Education of the future feels daunting, but it does not have to. There is no need to barricade one's children against the coming realities. Instead, schools have the obligation to best prepare students for the realities of what is coming down the pike. With thoughtful curricula in a caring and empathetic environment, students in the future can thrive and be ready to take on a world that is going to look vastly different from the one in which we live today.