Scary Possibilities – future of education?

Do you ever have those moment when you start to think about something and then actually get worried or befuddled (<--great word!) as your thoughts progress. I often get it when I start to think about the vastness of space or whether there is an afterlife or even whether that table is actually made of atoms. I was talking to the students about the effective use of technology within sessions and we started to wonder what possibilities might be available for the use of technology in the future and how it would support teaching and, more importantly, learning. I continued after the session with my thoughts and the possibilities might indeed be considered scary!


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teenager cyborg

Ready for Cyber Class Original Image from pixabay.com

Technology moves at a surprising rate. Even in my own life time, I have seen mobile technology take off and the internet become easier to access, even outside your house! It is often recognised that we don’t actually know the jobs we are training the younger generation for. One student mentioned that when they asked the class what job they wanted to do, two children actually said YouTubers. As technology changes the possibilities that are presented to both the teachers and the learners increase and, as long as change doesn’t start working against effectiveness, we would be naive to consider that the way we are teaching now in all sectors will still be the same in the future. But what could be possible? Well in what might be referred to as a philosophical waffle, I thought I would try and suggest some of the possibilities – Welcome to the learning of the future!

  • Virtual Teaching and Learning – As lecture capturing becomes common practice in many institutions, sessions are becoming more accessible from the internet. But this is probably just the start of the teaching and learning being transferred to a more virtual world. Some institutions already have a replicas of their campus on Second Life and will it eventually be that learners attend this virtual representation of the campus for their learning? Avatars would depict real people, with flying and teleporting common features of travel. Learners would not just be restricted to one institution. They would be able to attend different locations just by changing the IP address of their destination. Although currently we are mainly using text based chat systems in the virtual worlds, close proximity chat functions would probably control the volume of people talking so those close to you will be louder while others reduced to background noise – similar to the current busy campuses. Interactions would be varied and possible across international boundaries with no-one really needing to leave the comfort of their own home. I did say it might be scary for some people….

  • 24/7 sessions – As well as attending virtual campuses (campi?), sessions would not be limited to specific times and/or places. It would still probably be possible to actually log in and ‘attend’ a lecture – mainly for the ‘old fashion people’ – but the other option would be having sessions taught in your own abode. Holograms would be projected into the room, with the teacher communicating and interacting maybe with yourself and any one else who has activated the session at the same time. These images might actually have a real person behind them or might be recorded – depending on the time when they are accessed. Sessions would probably be accessible 24/7 with learners accessing the information at times which were appropriate for them. Sessions could be paused, fast forwarded or even stopped with voice commands, allowing for further knowledge and questions instantly – imagine to be able to say – “Sorry what do you mean by social constructivism?” and the hologram explaining straight away. The emphasis on personal centred learning would be key with the possibility for further learning being just as accessible – “I understand this, but what happens if…”. Of course you could invite your friends round and learn together – the modern interpretation of a Tuperware party 🙂

  • Assessment and Assignments – There will probably be a time that when the written assignment/examination has to bow its head and disappear into a museum somewhere. Formative assessment will always be the way forward for me and probably the future. With personal interaction being possible at all points, assessment of understanding and application would also be possible. Interaction within virtual sessions would form the basis of the assessment. Questions could be asked, ideas expanded and further knowledge and/or reading be shared. Learning and assessment would be integral to each other instead of being at the end of modules. With future technologies, the collection of ‘assessment data’ would be easier and almost automatic. Marking would be a think of a past, with tutors assessing continuously and probably with more depth. Almost like continuous presentations within sessions. I would also like to see how this is reflected in the engagement of learners within sessions.

  • I have probably only touched on the possibilities here and many more exist. Even within the current campus set up, technology will certainly continue to be able to track and register the location and attendance of learners and probably tutors – with phrases from Star Trek – “Computer -Location of Dr Crusher?” being common or maps showing real life location and movement of everyone similar to the ones for Minecraft. Interaction within sessions will be easier, with mobile or wearable technology being used to provide feedback and questions – with answers probably being communicated straight to the devices.

    Although I titled this waffle as ‘scary possibilities’ writing this has made me quite excited. I know that many might be laughing or smiling as I indulge in my world of future technology, with some ready to criticise the lack or personal approaches and interaction. But it might be that we will need to reconsider the benefits of these approaches in relation to other options. We continuously assess whether the technology we use will benefit pedagogy and many people would argue against the technology which we actually use today. As technology advances and we all get older, I just hope that I will not be one of those people who has not embraced the new advances and sit there saying that it was better in the ‘olden days’ when we had to actually physically type into the voting applications and when mobile devices were actually carried.

    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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