I’ve been to the year 3000!

Don’t worry, this is a not a waffle about Busted or even the progression of my radio station. When I am writing this waffle I’m actually thinking about the year 2020, but I just couldn’t resist a reference to the BUSTED song. Why am I thinking about the year 2020 – well, we all know that technology and the way we learn is changing rapidly. Trying to predict what the technology will be like in a thousand years is virtually impossible although within education, we need to definitely engage with what the learners will be using within the next four to five years in order to ensure that we are ready to accommodate these changes within modules. So this waffle is all about what I think we should be preparing for in anticipation of the learners of 2020.



This waffle has been prompted by two meetings. Being involved in primary education means that I can be aware of the changes which are happening with technology with respect to the ‘future learners’. The first meeting I attended was actually focusing on this – how would the current learners within primary school be using technology when they reached higher education and, the second meeting, was with the Information Learning Services to discuss almost the future role/needs of IT with respect to teaching and learning. I’ve been watching the television programme which follows a family as they progress through time, one year per day. They are currently up to the 1990s and technology has started to change rapidly. The Commodore 64 computers have been and gone and the ‘mobile’ age is arriving with phones and GameBoys becoming common place. When I think about how students will be learning in 2020 I tend to relate it more to the provision which we, as the institutions, will have to provide. For me it is essential to focus more on creating systems which are adaptable rather than reliant on one technology. With this in mind, here are my usual three waffle points when considering the learners of 2020.

Well, maybe there is another revolution on its way – do you hear the people sing?

  • There can be only one… – I’m on a roll today with songs titles and quotes from films! I have always liked and actively searched for compatibility between my devices and services. One of the reasons I like Apple and Google so much is that I know that when I am using one device or service owned by them, it will general link seamlessly with the others making sharing and collaboration between them easier. Despite what you might be thinking, I am not suggesting that all other devices and services apart from Apple and Google should be banned and eradicated by 2020 – far from it. The initial title for the section is probably misleading – sorry. As learners in 2020 arrive within higher education all systems should be welcome into the fold and that they should be able to link seamlessly with what ever system the university is using. This is currently reflected in the way the wifi is used, with all devices being able to link to this and use the free connection. I wrote a waffle some time ago about students bringing their own device to sessions. I still believe this is the way forward. I don’t think we will be handing out free devices like some institutions currently do, technology is personal and so systems should be prepared for this. Virtual learning spaces and portfolios should not be based on a corporate model and remain static, they should be able to be changed and reorganised by the learner so that they are suitable for them. If they want the assignment hand in date at the top of the module page, then they should be able to alter this so that it is. We promote personalised learning, so personalised technology should also be encouraged.

  • Sharing and collaborating – Every now again, the topic of technology disengaging us socially or keeping us in doors raises its head. I actually don’t know who is reading this waffle, who you are or even what you do – but I do know that some people are reading it – well they clicked on the link…well…just let me believe. If I was sat in this coffee shop just speaking my thoughts out loud then, apart from getting a range of funny looks, I’m sure that my content would not actually be engaged with or even reach the people who might be interested – slightly or otherwise. As time progresses, the need to collaborate and share is becoming more and more prevalent. Learners will continue to do this, but technology needs to support this in order to remove the barriers which can sometimes be associated with either of these two operations. Cloud storage will need to be instant and unlimited allowing learners to share and work on documents in real time without losing ‘saved changes’ or getting that message – ‘locked for editing’. In a similar way – tutors and learners will need to share resources instantly with a swipe. I look forward to the time when I can stand at the front of the session and with a single swipe, the link, resource or even document is sent to all the learners’ mobile devices instantly. Perfection!

  • Communication – When I arrived at university to work, I didn’t realise the number and amount of emails which I would actually engage with. This seems to be one of the main communication systems within institutions although it might not actually be seen as the most effective. As learners change the way we communicate also needs to change. Just as devices will become more personalised, the ways of communication needs to always reflect this personalisation. Social media – yes I am including Facebook and Twitter – is how learners interact and communicate with each other and institutions need to embrace the range of methods for communication within the future. Before everyone hunts me down and shouts at me, I do understand that there needs to be work done on how ‘available’ we are when we are including these forms of communication and interaction. This is, however, a different matter. If we, as tutors, answer emails after working hours, then learners will learn to expect this. If I get a message via Twitter or Facebook from a learner, then it is up to me as a professional how and when I interact with it. I don’t think for a second that learners use social media in order to get a more immediate response from me, I see it as an easier way to communicate and less of a bind than sending an email. It is almost like a instant conversation that is limited – when on Twitter – to 140 characters. I’m sure that when emails came along there was resistance to move away from letters. Well, maybe there is another revolution on its way – do you hear the people sing?

  • I’m actually not happy about the middle section of this waffle, I think I have gone slightly off topic, but I am currently on a tight deadline for this waffle since it is Mother’s Day and I want to go and see my Mum – in real life! Yes I know – I knew you would be shocked. Learners are changing and as they do, systems need to also change. We as educators might also need to change how we do things and that might mean moving away from processes and systems that we trust and understand to what many might perceive as the ‘dark side’. I believe strongly in the ethos of personalised learning and think that this extends to how we engage with students both in and out of the classroom environment. Technology, just like learning, is not going away and we need to be prepared to adapt and be flexible not only this week but in years to come. Of course, if there is a push to go back to pencils and paper for everything, then I might not waving my revolution flag or singing with as much vigour, but I would still be waving and singing, since it is for the people…I mean learners that I am in this job.

    After that somewhat patriotic last paragraph, I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.

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    Have fun and I’ll catch you later