Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In Response to Jenny Black - A Report From My Crystal Ball

Man with crystal ball
Jenny Black, in her EDM310 Midterm Reflection, wrote:
I have a personal one for you Dr. Strange. I don't mean this in a derogatory way, but I was just wondering why you are so sure that our schools are going to become web-based? Does that mean we won't be going to school anymore, and school will be considered our own computers? I'm still not exactly sure of what you mean by web-based schools. I honestly would like to know what you believe is going to happen, in detail.

My response: Your questions are not derogatory at all. They have stimulated me to clarify and write down what I think will happen in the profession of which I have been a part for 46 years. And I don't think "web-based schools" is my term so I will not respond to what that means.

You really want to know what I see in my Crystal Ball? It changes from time to time, especially when I wipe it to clear the dust or fog. But here is what I would say today:

These predictions are pretty clear:
1. Most information will be collected and processed electronically.
2. Those who do not have the electronic tools to use with this information, or who do not know how to use them, or who refuse to use them for a variety of reasons, will be seriously disadvantaged, especially economically.
3. Text will have run its course as a separate medium of communication. It will be used only with other media, especially video, audio and images.
4. The communities and individuals with whom individuals interact will be worldwide and even though many of these relationships will be virtual they will be important and intense.
5. Many businesses will be radically changed or non existent: newspapers, book publishers (print), television stations, radio stations, hard disk manufacturers, some computer companies (old school), schools, churches, universities and may others.

Now specifically about schools and universities in the next 15-20 years. I will admit however, that the crystal ball is a bit foggier.
1. If schools (K-12) still exist in 15-20 years (2025-2030) they will provide very different functions for society:
a) They will be baby sitting institutes in many instances
b) They will be fewer in number as a result of a great shift away from them by parents who want to maximize the learning of their children
c) They may be, as one of my cynical friends says, prisons. I think that may be too harsh a term. Daytime Detention Centers might be more appropriate.
d) They may be centers of evaluation - where assessment and certifications take place
e) They may be physical activity centers - operators of sports teams, exercise activities
2. If universities still exist in 15-20 years (2025-2030)
a) They will be centers of evaluation and certification
b) They will be centers for advising as to the most important strategies for learning
c) They will be centers for research financed by government agencies and, in some cases, industry
d) They may be operators of sports businesses which may be farm teams of professional teams and/or operators of sports institutes in what remains of "schools"
e) They may offer apprenticeships through their research centers to apprentices of high standing
f) A few may be collective organizations of independent producers of multimedia "learning" products, much like a firm that provides an "umbrella" to independent agents

Do I think K-12 institutes will still exist in some form? Yes, but public support for public schools paid for by everyone will be severely undermined and efforts will be made for the parents of students to pay for all school costs.
Do I think universities will still exist? I am certain that a few will, but the number of colleges and universities will be radically reduced.
Do I think there will be teachers. Yes, some people will be called that. But they will not resemble teachers as we know them today. This applies to both K-12 and universities.

Am I eager for this to happen? In some ways yes. In some ways no. Whether I like it or not is irrelevant. It cannot be stopped. So I need to decide what I am going to do. I have an answer: My goal is to prepare my students as best I can to be leaders of the transitions that will occur as opposed to being victims of the changes that are ahead.

Where will most learning take place? Independently, in family groups, in small community organizations that take advantage of all the new technologies that will have been invented by 2025. Remember the Internet is just 15 years old. Cloud computing as we know it today is less than 5 years old. The ability to communicate instantly, freely, and with video throughout the world is about 3 years old. That is only 20% of the time shortest frame I am reporting from my crystal ball. In my Class Blog post for October 21, 2010Think About This! I discussed Apple. Apple is the second largest company in the world based on the value of its stock multiplied by the number of shares outstanding. Only Exxon-Mobile is larger. And 60% - yes 60% - of Apple's revenues come from products that did not exist 3 years ago. Newspapers are failing as we speak. Huge booksellers, having put most of the small books sellers out of business, are going into bankruptcy themselves. Almost all video rental stores are already closed because of bankruptcy. The way doctors are organized as well as their interaction with hospitals are radically different than they were 10 years ago. Music producers and distributors are very different than they were 10 years ago. Twenty percent of people in front of television sets between the hours of 8 and midnight are watching Netflix films. The first audio CDs were released 18 years ago in 1982. How many are you buying these days? I could go on and on. The point is that change is becomming more rapid in all aspects of our society.

How confident am I in my predictions? I think I am probably wrong. If I am it will be because the changes I predict will happen more quickly than I expect.

What do you have to do?
1. Master the new tools.
2. Make sure your children master them.
3. Participate in the invention of what learning will look like next.
4. Be prepared to reinvent your job, and probably your profession, many times during your lifetime.
5. Do not be fooled into thinking that you will be a "teacher" like your teachers were.
6. Master the art of problem solving, asking questions, adapting to change, directing change. These skills will be the key to economic survival.
7. Learn Chinese (unless they adopt English first).

Thanks for getting me to write this down. It will be interesting to see what kind of responses I get.


  1. Dr. Strange, here is the second comment to our C4T relationship.

    First, I am glad that Jenny asked this question. I am even happier that I was fortunate enough to read your response. Now, to the commenting!

    You make a lot of interesting predictions, and for the most part, I can agree. Perhaps I should only mention what I can not come to terms with you about, as for that will be much shorter. As for certain businesses to become extinct, that is hard for me to imagine. For example, churches and radio stations. I don’t know many people who jam out to the radio anymore these days in their cars, but the radio is probably my source for what is going on with the world. I don’t sit down to watch the news, and I rarely visit WALA or WPMI, or any other news station, for that matter. Maybe it will be a personal problem, rather than a social one.
    Another concern, what will lasting educational institutes become? You made the rash assumption that they will be more like baby sitting institutions, but that throws up a flag, for me. We are watching educational institutions incorporate technology into the classrooms, now, but if they are on their way to becoming babysitting institutions, what is the point? Sure, they are introducing us to a technological world, but I hope that schools aren’t destined to become babysitting institutions or day time detention facilities.
    What I really wanted to comment about was what you said your goal was. I just want to let you know that I am sure that you will reach your goal. Already, you have introduced me to many things far greater, beyond Facebook, and I look forward to applying what I have learned in your class to my own classroom one day, (provided I graduate before the learning centers become other than learning centers.) I have no doubt that a good portion of your predictions will surely become reality, and I can only speak for myself, but I know I am more prepared, now that I have had the privilege to take this class.

  2. Dr. Strange,

    Your comments are very interesting. You stepped out to potentially be under a lot of scrutiny. But any time someone makes predictions, there will be critism on both sides. I admire your "bravery" to publish your thoughts. So many people just spit back out everything they are taught and agree when they are told to agree. I would argue that a truly intellectual person has their own believes and can critically think and talk about why they hold those believes. How boring would our world be if there was only one point of view, one perspective about everything? This is an example of the beauty of the human mind.
    To Lisa- I understand what Dr. Strange means by "babysitting institutions". Maybe you must first have children to truly understand this comment. School serves the purpose of educating our children, correct? Most parents (father and mother) work full-time jobs. If these kids weren't at school while their parents were at work, where would they be?? At home alone? At work with their parents? Schools purpose are to educate children, yes. BUT it also is a place that "watches" children and takes care of them while parents are working. He is saying that yes schools will still be in existence, but the primary reason they are there will not be education, but watching children so that parents can work and earn a living.

    I would love to share more thoughts Dr. Strange, but for now I'm out of time. I appreciate your transparency about this. It puts more meaning behind our assignments to be able to see a viewpoint from an educated professional where things could be headed. Thanks again for sharing with us. I appreciate it.

  3. Hi Dr. Strange,
    I am commenting the second time for C4T. It is amazing to think of how much technology has changed in the past fifteen years. It is changing the world and it will definitely change our schools. I can remember when I first started to doing the projects for this class and my mindset for using technology in the classroom. My opinion on how the classroom will be and needs to be has completely changed. I completely agree that if you do not know how to use certain technology tools, you will suffer economically. I can envision all textbooks being done away with and first, second and third graders bring their laptops to school rather than carrying bookbags. At the moment I could never imagine even allowing my ten year old carry around a laptop and risk ruining it let alone that young. I believe that will change. I can remember ten years ago saying that about getting my daughter a cell phone when she was a baby. I have since bought her one because they are made more durable now and not that expensive as they were ten years ago. I think that will be the same with laptops. I also think that a lot more children will be home-schooled. Since I have recently entered the world of home-schooling because of my daughter's illness, it has been a shock. I never realized how many home-schoolers there are now. I think with the Internet and being able to do it at home, there will be a rise in home-schoolers. In EDM310, we are able to work at home so the school system will change as long as money can be saved. Think about video conferencing and how companies use it everyday all over the world. Big companies are going all virtual now and most all the employees work at home saving millions of dollars because of it. Why couldn't we use it in schools? I could go on and on about how everything is changing in the world. This class has made me excited to see how the classroom will be. I am looking forward to reinventing my future job as a teacher.