Saturday, July 23, 2011

2020 Vision ?!?!

I can hardly believe that the year 2020 is about 8.5 years away.  Yet to students, the year 2020 seems very futuristic and would be a time we are taken over by aliens or some kind of being from another planet.  As I sit here thinking about the future, all I can think about is how kids minds automatically go beyond with their futuristic thinking and how creative and positive their outlooks are.  To the elementary student 8.5 ears away seems eons away and cars will be flying by then!  Yet, my thoughts don’t foresee much of a change in the next 9 years (approximately).  I don’t have a negative outlook, but am not sure that much will be different by 2020.  9 years ago, I was finishing my student teaching and beginning the adventure as a public school teacher in Pennsylvania. As I look back at the last years I’ve been teaching not a lot has changed but a lot of changes have been talked about.  Constantly great changes are discussed and anticipated but funding usually creates an obstacle for having those changes or implementations actually occur.  I am sure that many districts across the state and country who had the same goals and visions as my district over the past 9 years were able to see newer technologies and ideas implemented in their district, so change is apparent and will occur in 9 years, but I highly doubt equally within all types of school districts.  
I have seen programs come and go across the curriculums throughout the years and I predict that will continue to occur in the year 2020.  What I hope will happen is that there will be less emphasis on standardized testing (because all kids will be 100% proficient as predicted with the No Child Left Behind Act) and more of an emphasis on increasing the technological abilities and knowledge of each child.  I believe that in the year 2020, education will have more of a virtual base than present.  Students and teachers will still be in the traditional classroom but it will be filled with more technology equipment than now.  Students and teachers will have the opportunity to collaborate with other students and teachers in various areas of the state, country and world on a regular basis.  This push and increase in technology equipment will aid in keeping kids actively engaged both independently and collaboratively.  Since these kids are the generation of the digital age, they need to be fluent/ proficient with the computer, web applications, software, etc because those are real world applications that every child needs while in school.  
I truly have high hopes that the future is filled with rich technological advances in the public school system.  But, my fear is that although these advances are warranted and much needed by teachers and students, will there be funding to support it?  The optimist in me assumes that the financial crisis and teacher lay-offs and programs cuts that we experiences this year will be out of our minds and rectified (but not forgotten) by the year 2020. I want to say that administration and government will have joined forces and realized that funding in public schools is important and what’s good for kids.  But, the realist in me, assumes that we will still be facing the financial problems and lack of money when it comes to technology, even though that is the same area that administration is constantly pushing for increase usage of.  
One area that I think will improve within the next nine years will be networking and security parameters, since the use of technology in a school will be more of a one-on-one setting.  According to Dave Evans, a Chief Futurist, “ The Internet will evolve to perform instantaneous communication, regardless of distance.”  Network capacity will increase and cost will decrease.  But, will privacy and safety concerns increase or decrease? Privacy and safety is the biggest concern for future Internet usage in a classroom.  As an elementary teacher, my concern is heightened for the younger aged child that is unaware of cyber threats.  Imagine the teacher dealing with cyber bullying, online predators and everyday “real-life” classroom issues all at the same time, truly a scary thought! Securities are placed on laptops but kids are very technologically savvy without proper schooling making it a constant battle to keep everyone “cyber safe.”  The technology team is constantly in a proactive state trying to be one step ahead from the older student who manages to bypass firewall after firewall.  Microsoft unveiled the second “test version” of its next Web browser, Internet Explorer 10, which will accompany the new Windows 8 operating system. Internet Explorer 10 will add some security options for Web applications and consumer privacy.  According to a Microsoft Study, Internet Explorer 9: Future of the Web, “45% of respondents think there will be no such thing as privacy online, making it clear that more and more people are becoming very concerned about online tracking and other intrusions on their privacy.”
Most of the stuff that will be around in 2020 is going to come from the minds of kids that are now somewhere between 7-14 years old.  And, honestly they don’t even know what those ideas are going to be, but view the current technologies as stepping stones for better advancements. These digital aged children are not afraid to ask “why not” where as the current generation asks “why.” Many experienced adults are still catching up with the current technologies, let alone thinking about what could be next.  
The 2020 paperless educational classroom will have kids using handhelds and laptops.  Kids won’t need lockers anymore for books, but for their charging accessories. Additional communication with teachers outside the school day will occur with text messaging.  Summer and additional elective classes will be offered on an online basis only.  Students who want to earn college credits at the high school level will be able to take online classes while in their respective high school buildings. From the outside, the buildings will look the same to parents, grandparents, and outsiders, but inside the way kids are learning will be completely different than when they were in school.  Yet, the teaching of social skills, civic responsibilities, respect, community responsibilities, and duties will remain the same.  

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