Search form

Education in the New Millennium

Technology in the Classroom CenterAs we (finally!) entered the new millennium that most of us were too impatient to wait for, we at Education World found ourselves equally impatient to know what the future of education would bring. We decided to ask the experts for their opinions. Learn what teachers in the trenches see in their crystal balls. Included: An opportunity to share your vision of the future on the Education World message board.

This month, Education World asked the tech team to respond to the following questions: What do you envision schools will be like in the year 2020? What do you think will be the greatest challenges those schools and their teachers face?

Show and Tell
Share your thoughts about schools of the future on today's Education World message board!
Not surprisingly, most of our experts predicted that technology will have a profound impact on education in the future.

"With the speed at which technology is changing the world, it is impossible to imagine education in the year 2020 not being immersed in technology," said Jennifer Wagner, technology coordinator at Crossroads Christian School, in Corona, California. "I envision that each student will have some sort of handheld personal computer that not only will allow students to take notes and print them but also allow them to communicate with their teachers, other students, and even experts in the field. I think e-mail and the Internet will be available in the palms of our hands -- and I expect it will all be voice-activated.

"Global learning," Wagner told Education World, "will not be a technique for just a few to use; it will be a must for all to use. Online conferencing, group projects, and chats will be the norm.

"A typewriter will be considered an antique," Wagner predicted. "A tape deck will be unheard of. CDs will probably be smaller than a quarter. Global positioning will be expected, and fiber-optic wiring will be everywhere.

"So will kids still need teachers?" Wagner asked. "Most definitely! A computer cannot transfer the smile of a teacher when a student finally gets the concept or provide a pat on the back for a job well done. A computer cannot console a child who needs support or give advice with the full knowledge of a child's individual circumstances and family situation. A computer might be able to tell stories and teach -- but it will never provide a human touch."


John Simeone, Webmaster at Beach Street Middle School, in West Islip, New York, agreed that technology has the potential to transform schools. "I envision schools being much different 20 years from now, due largely to our technological evolution and the advent of the Internet," Simeone told Education World. "I believe the Internet will be part of everyday school life and students will have high-speed access to it at any time of the school day. I think every school will have a Web site that students contribute to. I think technology will allow schools to bridge the gap between teacher and parent, giving parents 24-hour-a-day access to their children's school activities, personal records, and academic progress and providing a way for parents to interact with teachers and administrators."


"I think you will see some major changes in education over the next 20 years," said Cathy Chamberlain, a teacher in New York's Oswego City School District. "Children today have been brought up in a technological world. They use technology to search for knowledge and to solve problems. It comes naturally to them because they have lived with it their whole lives. This way of acquiring information and using knowledge will begin to make demands on classroom instruction. Teachers will have to truly understand technology and get up to speed on using it, not only to keep up with the kids but also because the kids will expect to use technology in their classrooms.

"I think wireless technology will become very prevalent, and students will most likely carry electronic notebooks they can write on or type in," Chamberlain predicted. "The writing will convert to a text document, making it easy for students to take notes in class that can later be manipulated on the computer. These small electronic notebooks easily access the Internet, so information will be readily retrieved. Communicating with experts in the field will become a common occurrence. Classrooms will have large screens that can easily display what appears on the teacher's computer.

"Students' projects will take on a whole new look," Chamberlain added. "Student Web page reports containing animation, sound, and video will become commonplace, and electronic presentations will be a typical activity.

"One of the biggest challenges I think teachers will face is the time they will need to spend getting ready for this technological revolution," Chamberlain told Education World. "They'll have to spend a good deal of time using the computer to begin to see how they can incorporate it into the classroom on a daily basis. There are so many uses for technology in the classroom, but teachers need the time to test and use the various resources. Technology changes rapidly, and it can be hard to keep up and understand these changes."

"We need a total reinvention of our idea of school so that it really is the place where life-long learning happens and is valued."


"I think the greatest challenge for teachers and schools of the future will be how to manage the information that is available to them and their students," agreed Kim Logie, technology coordinator at Cesar Chavez Academy, in Detroit, Michigan. "I think knowing what the important subjects are -- and managing the limited time and limitless information available -- will be among the greatest challenges of the future.

"Students seem to fall into two distinct categories," Logie told Education World. "They are either at grade level or way behind. The challenge for us teachers is -- and will continue to be -- how to give all students instruction based on their strengths and abilities and still keep our sanity. The wealth of information and increasing demands on schools to provide complete and all-around information, without structure, guidelines, or resources, must be addressed if schools are to grow and complete their mission, which is to provide all children with the best possible education. Technology is advancing at a pace that is difficult for schools and teachers to manage now; 20 years from now, the possibilities and problems will be limitless."

Fred Holmes, Webmaster at Nebraska's Osceola High School, believes that schools of the future are likely to struggle with the same problem that many districts face today.

"Here in Nebraska," Holmes told Education World, "the biggest problem is, and will continue to be, finding and keeping teachers in the profession. Many teachers leave to find better paying jobs, especially in the tech/science/math professions. As so many people leave the teaching profession, those who stay find they are required to do more and more. Schools compete for a smaller crop of teachers because those who might have entered the profession find that they can work from 8 to 5 with better pay and fewer headaches than teaching offers."


Eve Datisman, library media specialist at Forks High School, in Washington state, sees some problems with high-tech visions of the future.

"I've seen a promotional film done by Boeing and Microsoft," Datisman told Education World. "It shows schools with politically correct ethnic representation and multi-grade classes of about 15 students meeting three times a week in what looks like a conventional school building in order to allow students to interact face-to-face with an instructor and to hold meetings with team members. The other two or three days a week, students set up multi-point and point-to-point conferences with their team members, and the instructor, if necessary, to solve the problem du jour. The implication of the film is that school happens all year long and that students advance at their own pace in this constructivist classroom.

"In this school," Datisman continued, "all the students have industry-standard technology, a teacher who follows them through several grade levels, and a fully equipped class facility. All the students are upper-middle class with two parents who are vitally involved in what their kids are doing and learning. These parents do more than bake cookies for the birthday celebrations; they follow a clear curriculum and plan activities, such as going to the local museums and arts events, for their families so that educational enrichment is a natural part of their urban life style.

"Would I like to be in that future?" Datisman asked. "Who is going to be foolish enough to say no? But who is going to be rich enough, influential enough, and philanthropic enough to make sure that this is the reality for all our children?

"I live in a rural area where one of every four kids lives below the poverty level, where one of every three households has at least one family member who is an alcoholic or a drug addict, where one of every 75 kids lives in a two-parent family with his or her birth mother and birth father, and where one of every three 18-year-olds has been emancipated from his or her parents before graduation from high school," Datisman told Education World. "Tell me how these students will have the money and the access to Boeing and Microsoft's vision of a technological superior future? Where will the teachers be found to provide one instructor for every 15 middle and high school students? Where will the money come from? Where will the support from public and private agencies be found?

"The building I teach in has four major sections," Datisman continued. "The oldest section now in regular use by students was built in the early 1960s. The heating system has not been upgraded since then; our windows are single-pane glass set in aluminum frames. There are two electrical outlets in each classroom. We have a mini-lab of at least 12 computers in each room and lots of power strips; we can guarantee each room will blow the circuits each day.

"So what's on my priority list for what schools should be like in 20 years?" Datisman asked. "We are going to have to change our focus so that we pay more than lip-service to the idea that our children are our most important resource. We need social service nets that bring the students and their families out of poverty and offer training and education for all, regardless of age. We need a total reinvention of our idea of school so that it really is the place where life-long learning happens and is valued.

"We need support and funding from state, local, and business sources -- support that recognizes that we are no longer an agrarian and assembly-line society in which one program fits all. We need leaders who don't believe that if it works in metropolitan areas, that's all that matters. We need free access -- both monetary and physical access -- to technology hardware and software and services to bridge the gap between digital 'haves' and 'have-nots.' We need to make teacher training and recruitment a priority because there is no way that we will ever reach a 15 to 1 ratio at current staffing levels.

"We have big challenges ahead of us," Datisman concluded. "Not all of them are technology related, but technology can certainly be used as a tool to help us solve the problems."

The Education World Tech Team includes 40 dedicated and knowledgeable educational-technology professionals who have volunteered to contribute to occasional articles that draw on their varied expertise and experience. Stay tuned in the months ahead as members of the Tech Team share their thoughts on a wide variety of topics.

Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 2000 Education World

Related Articles from Education World

Please check out our featured theme this week: