Last night I ran across a fascinating article by Thomas Frey, “The Future of Education.”

I'm interested in hearing others thoughts on his predictions. Personally, I believe he's right on the mark. And if he is correct what does that mean for our profession?
A few of my thoughts can be found here on my blog.

Feel free to post either place. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Tags: Education, Future

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Thank you for this reply. These are radical ideas... change is slow... but we do need to create a vision. From there we need to make and take short term wins that move us toward that vision. I think as Christensen (Disrupting Class) puts it - we should be experimenting in those areas of non-consumption. Those students that do not have an alternative. Right now the default is the classroom...
I like your thoughts.
And I would strongly agree with practically every 'radical' thing you stated. The problem as I see it, is an avenue does not presently exist to aid in remote learning. As Sean mentioned, Fourth Logic is working on this dilemma; yet I'm sure difficulties in transitioning over to remote (either in-district or across the globe) will not be easy. And you are absolutely correct that we need to weed out the bad teachers for technology can only make things worse if placed into the wrong hands.
Wow, yeah, im with you. Alan November says it well… “things will not change until the pressure on the outside to change, is greater than the pressure on the inside to stay the same"

Currently, text book companies, teachers’ unions, and other organizations with big voices, lobby to keep things the same, and are slowing down this type of revolution. This is one of the many problems. Also, education is governed by, and decisions are made by individual schools, districts, counties, and states. There are thousands of different education systems existing, as islands, under the direction of principals, district superintendents, county superintendents, and state superintendents. If your leadership chain has foresight, you will be able to innovate. If they don’t, you will be restricted. I have worked for both types.

I go back and forth between thinking that guys like Frey and November are helping to spark this type of revolution, and wondering why they do not stop identifying the problem, and start pulling great minds together to reengineer education and build the solution. Where does the change begin? Will the complex system governing education allow for a distributed model? Do parents need to demand the change?

As a kindergarten teacher for 11 years, I built a software driven assessment platform that allows teachers who assess students 1-on-1 to add their assessments, and use the program to assess. It allows them to administer their assessments in half the time, gives them more indepth data than they could get from paper, and allows them to communicate the information to parents without having to hand write/type reports. It spread to classrooms in 42 different states in 6 months, by word of mouth. We cut through the politics by going directly to teachers (the ones that benefit the most), and allowing them to enter their own assessments, so they didnt have to change what they were assessing. The teachers then brought it to their schools and districts, so the change came from the bottom up. (You can see the program at I knew we had to use a grass roots approach, after working for a large school district that was not innovative, and did not listen to their teachers. Change is difficult in education, especially when administration is comprised of weak leaders who are fearful and and lack trust in their teachers. By the way, while i was building the program, my district administrators tried to kill it using political pressure and "cease and desist" letters drafted by their attorney. Rather than embrace innovation, they tried to stomp it out. Fortunately, I was too stubborn. I imagine this is happening all over the country, and slowing down the revolution.
No apology necessary... I do not mind being kept on my toes. The students are why we are here, why we do what we do, and why i developed this tool. After assessing 30 students, say, on 50 sight words (1500 pieces of data), I wanted to know things like, -which word is the least known, and be able to group students by their needs. With 1500 data points, I couldn’t do this effectively when the data was on paper. I also wanted to spend my time after school integrating technology into lessons, rather than manually writing/typing notes to parents to communicate their child’s needs. The time that I used to spend after school counting check marks on paper, and transferring scores to a grid, and writing out notes to parents could now be spent setting up the computer lab with image folders for the kindergartners, so they could learn how to make videos using PhotoStory3. It is time intensive to use technology with 5 year olds, unless you want to put them in front of a drill and kill program. Here is one of my students photostorys, he understands the alphabetic principal, just need to work on the spelling ;) . Sorry for the long answer.. just wanted to make it clear that i am all about the students!

All of the programming i did was on my computers, at night, on weekends, and off track (we were year round). I realize i was venting about the way i was treated, and it sounded as if there could have been a good reason for it, but their issue had nothing to do with me working on district time, or on district computers. They knew that I wasn’t using district resources, and my school admin was very supportive of me, as I did a lot of technology implementation, training, i was on PTA, dad's club, and consulted for our IT department, as well as 6 other schools. I just wanted to make it clear that I wasn’t milking my job, but was very involved, and spent a lot of my time after school keeping technology running at our school. The issue was purely the kind of ego-driven politics that holds back progress, and has no place in education. Our district had 50,000 students, so there were a lot of layers of management. Their cease and desist letter was regarding me using the same assessments they used in the program. They were essentially saying that I couldn’t use the program to assess the alphabet, and sight words, as if they invented testing early literacy skills. I had attorney friends look it over, and they called it "saber rattling", and said to ignore it. Interesting thing is that now my district is a customer of mine. 2 things I have learned: 1. you are never "smart" in your own backyard, and 2. you can tell who the pioneers are.... they are the ones with the arrows in their back. Hopefully you work for a district that is free from big egos who only like their own ideas. I saw some crazy politics, and was privy to more information than I should have known. I had several administrator friends at the school and district level, who would tell me things that made me shake my head. It wasn’t “all about the students” to some people, which is sad.

I agree that this program is evolutionary, not revolutionary. This is putting technology on top of what we already do. i shouldn’t mentioned it in this thread, which is about revolutionizing education.
Interesting. i knew i had done nothing wrong, and had put in too much time to stop, plus it was gaining traction in surrounding districts. it was really only a couple of people in my district who made me sour, most were supportive. I was just shocked that they would shun a tool that saved teachers time and gave them "better" data. These were the same people that listened to kindergarten teachers complain about being overwhelmed by all of the (1-on-1) assessing they had to do. There were so many layers of management in between the teachers and the top administrators, that they are shielded from the affect of their decisions. The experience really opened my eyes, especially having the inside scoop from others. I guess my main point with bringing this up in the first place is that politics can have a large hand in preventing the type of progress that can lead to revolution.

I'm sure you have never seen this type of behavior in your district over the years, and everyone you've worked with has student-focused, rather than self-promoting ;)

I can see myself joining the open source movement, once i have more time. i love building/working on solutions, and to not have to do it all my myself sounds fun.
Got it, thanks for the chat, I look forward to the next time. Just registered for this site, and am new at participating in online communities. The anonymity makes for an interesting dynamic. Have a good long weekend
Hey Greg, I'm going to show your program to my kindergarten teachers... It sounds great and I hope they'll agree. Thanks for the posts.
Great, thank you, I'll be interested to hear their/your feedback! We were at a kinder conference in East Lansing in November, and got a great response from the MI teachers.
OK, I've invited Tom to be a guest on my Future of Education interview series. He's scheduled for March 11th at 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern. More details:

This should be fun! Thanks for the discussion here.
The problem with schools is not what is being taught, it's how the cirriculum is being taught. The problem with elearning is not what is being taught, again it's how the curriculum is being taught. Elearning is taught just like curricula in brick and mortar schools. It's a transfer of knowledge by rote rather than a presentation of underlying theory. Traditional teaching is based on modeling problems. Students are shown situations and how to work the problem so they have to be shown a lot of problems to cover every possible situation. It's highly inefficient as Thomas Frey notes in his essay. Students should be taught the underlying theory and then be set loose to discover their own methods for problem solving. With a firm understanding of the theory, students can adapt to any possible situation. Teaching should be leading students to discovery not modeling. Elearning is falling into the same trap. Until we transform how we teach it won't matter how we deliver the curriculum.
I read Thomas Frey's paper, and it offers some food for thought. I especially agree with the need for user-generated ratings to help guide support and selection of the best educational software/courseware as long as the assessments focus on usefulness and fluency more than "satisfaction." Ultimately, I am devoted to what might be called "learning centered" learning, and by extension "learner centered" learning, which may seem obvious. However, even a cursory examination of traditional educational administration shows how little the learner is considered, and less, drawn upon and recognized seriously in the development of educational missions and practices. (My dissertation's critical evaluation of self-esteem research, testing, and curriculum, some 14,000 abstracts, several hundred articles, and 50-60 books, showed NOT ONE actual instance where a learner was asked what they valued and why they valued it!)

This is Frey's weakness as well. He is clearly an engineer steeped in the ethos of the Industrial Era, trying to see beyond it, but still stuck in the old paradigm in many ways- from his emphasis on objectification of learners and mental eugenics, "produc(ing) a faster, smarter, better grade of human being" to his overconfidence in a business model to develop learning courseware. I don't believe students are products, and business has more often than not been very INEFFICIENT by trying to maximize profit over maximizing learning. (Let's face it, educated consumers mean lower profit for you if there is a better product out there!).

I'm much more fan of the "wiki/democratic/grass roots" emphasis (which he does mention). Like with Linux, for-profit companies will do well (not so much in developing the courseware as) consolidating and reducing time in learning to use courseware through proprietary development of macros and streamlining of systems that more effectively filter information in a customizable way (i.e. a kind of Google 2.0, 3.0, etc.). I'm in favor of that. A teacher does not have all day to learn and teach something meant to help us learn, especially when a new version comes out every other month!

Frankly, I am mystified as to his emphasis on iTunes and Amazon. It would seem social media is a much better metaphor (Facebook, Twitter, Classroom 2.0, etc.) for self-organized, organic learning. Here is another limitation of Frey's thinking. He talks about "individualizing" education, still using the cognitive abilities and affective needs of individuals as his organizing unit. I think it may be more useful to talk about "customizing" learning, a term that encompasses both the individual and the social arena. Here we can enter in community and interpersonal connections as important to learning. To me, this is the true future of education, where intelligence and learning is seen as a door that swings outward in connection and self-aware engagement with the larger body of people and developing knowledge, and not simply inward in terms of individual filtering and assessment.

I have a feeling that Frey's analysis, helpful as it is in "evolving" the understanding of learning, will be overtaken by the very mechanisms he attempts to sketch out. But, hey, I expect the same for myself! I want my students to be smarter than I am, more capable, more able to contribute. I am searching for ways to have that happen more effectively. That's why I joined up here.
I fully agree to the statement "Sitting at a classroom computer or watching a video are other forms of technology isolation created by placing social barriers around individuals." It always seems to me that too much of multimedia makes people get used to working to yourself without anyone's interference. It's a technological isolation which leads to self-concentration and forgetting about outer real world.



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