Friday, 4 October 2013

The Perimeter Institute and TVOntario run week long conference to discuss education in 2030. The first task is to change how education is administered.

Education in 2000 as seen in 1910: Is this the bureaucratic vision we
can expect by educational authorities as we move to 2030?

The Future of Education: Online learning and content could trump the bureaucratization of the school system. 

By Tom Thorne

This week a conference about education, and where it is headed by 2030, is taking place at the Perimeter Institute at the University of Waterloo. Issues from this event are covered each evening by TVOntario’s admirable daily public affairs TV program The Agenda and live-streamed on the web at

My first take on this topic is that schools with walls will likely be passé or waning by 2030. Teachers will have an entirely new role as student facilitators and generators of educational media content. They may very well be online rather than live in the classroom. Constant change will not allow for curricula to develop in the way it is presented today by Canadian provincial Ministries of Education. 

Provincial curricula or state standardized testing and the issuance of diploma standards may go the way of the dodo. However, educational bureaucracies have a lot to lose, so we are in for resistance to change by some teachers but mainly by the bureaucracies of local boards of education. Bureaucrats oppose anything that smacks of a lack of rigidity. The stresses on their systems will be seen as an anathema to the status quo. Expect them to drag their feet.

The current top down industrial model of one size fits all centralized Ministry of Education curricula will give way, despite itself, to a much more open system where curricula will be designed by the new breed of entrepreneurial teachers and their learners. It’s the nature of information societies to fragment large bureaucratic structures. 

Educational bureaucracies trying to control the school system with centralized curricula will be experience a fragmentation and constant frustration of their plans. Teachers are already feeling the stresses and conflicts built into the existing system by its administrative style.  The administrative anchor will be funding models to stem constant change and pressures brought by teachers who deal daily with classes where special needs trumps the needs of most of the class.

Teacher’s colleges will become more irrelevant than they are today because teaching education will also be online undergoing constant change and innovation. Web based teacher education will be practical, and immediately useful for students. Much is happening already. Resourceful teachers can find endless materials to engage their students and link them as a class through educational social media that mirrors Facebook and Twitter and makes learning fun and engaging.

For many who are devoted to the current hidebound system of public education this change will be seen as chaotic descent into a new Dark Age. Imagine a system that is no longer a bureaucracy and a place where steps and increments to education are replaced by individually designed interest modules cost effectively assembled for and by students and their teacher facilitators. Maybe this is the way for special needs to be implemented cost effectively.

Grades from Kindergarten to grade 12 will be erased replaced with self evaluation and learning at your own pace will become the norm. The basic job of primary panel teachers will be a return to the 18th Century elementary education topics. Its main function will be to ensure that students can read, write, research, do basic sums and cope with constant change. That too can be done in an engaging way by online educational media.

The greater part of the new educational environment will be on line. In 17 years time (2030) the integrated computer networks will be using first nano techniques and eventually quantum physics to create flexible hardware-software fusions.  This level of cyber techniques will handle, store and dispense most of human knowledge and reprogram themselves as needed. The system will be operated by artificial intelligence that can learn and construct its own hardware and software. The big issue will be maintaining human control over these artificial minds. Hopefully, this need will not become another educational or government bureaucracy.

The search engines will also learn the needs and interests of the learner and constantly present options, ideas and creative ways to think about problems and opportunities.  All new information coming onto the new internet or SUPERNET will be automatically sent to the attention of learners or researchers of that topic. The big problem will be how to manage and organize mega amounts of information and content. School will at last have no walls in fact the concept of school may well give way to content generation, constant lifelong learning and and sifting for decision making.

The internet at this superstage will be the school or an educational repository of data and information turning into usable knowledge and that trend is clearly now already in development and in may cases happening. The only part of this equation not in place currently is intelligent software that can relevantly learn and assemble endless data, information into knowledge cores that constantly change and update and do so in a relevant  and comprehensible way while retaining a trackable history of sources. Today there is a large volume of data and information but knowledge can still be hard to generate from the information glut. 

Education and learning in 2030 will be automated and the important point is how it will be controlled, accessed and dispensed to and by educators and learners. There will be an attempt to create bureaucratic controls because funding will always be an issue. Much of the change to education will need a new mindset that is entrepreneurial and flexible. Sadly this has never been a hallmark of public education which is now a politically correct bureaucracy that is timid and without vision.

© Copyright 2013, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved

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