Did you know that tech historians are already referring to current times as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution?” In fact, Bernard Marr, writing for Forbes in August 2018 said “We’re on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0. It’s quite different than the three Industrial Revolutions that preceded it—steam and water power, electricity and assembly lines, and computerization—because it will even challenge our ideas about what it means to be human.” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2018/08/13/the-4th-industrial-revolution-is-here-are-you-ready/#1e398742628b .) Professor Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, claims that the fourth revolution is basically different from the first three, which were identified mainly by advances in technology. According to Schwab, the fourth revolution is driven by a range of new technologies that combine the physical, digital and biological worlds and that will impact “all disciplines, economies and industries.”
HOW K-12 EDUCATION WILL CHANGE
But what does this mean to the world of K-12 education? Historically speaking, we have passed beyond the “innovative” world of computerization and have moved into the realm of digital learning solutions designed to completely modify and transform the current K-12 classroom model. In fact, the goal is that of “transforming education today to build the workforce of tomorrow.” (https://www.business.att.com/content/dam/attbusiness/guides/att-leading-the-future-education-guide.pdf .)
The World Economic Forum (https://www.weforum.org/ ) estimates that as many as 65% of children entering primary school this year will, in the future, be applying for jobs that don’t even exist today. If this is true, it is crucial that schools – public, private, online, and homeschools included – begin now to prepare students to function in the expanding digital economy. K-12 education has to rapidly change to a model that is more tailored, flexible and meaningful to that economy.
THE CONTINUING NEED FOR HUMAN TEACHERS
Human teachers will not disappear in the new economy. In fact, the human teacher will always play an integral role as they work to gain unique insights into each individual student, track and mentor that student’s progress, be a role model and “expert witness” for each student and continue to provide inspiration to students in ways that computers and technology are not capable of accomplishing.
New technology innovations will require that teachers adjust and change the teaching models they have been taught and used for many years. Technologies used in K-12 education are often designed to allow students to work together with teachers in creating their own learning methods and styles. In this model, teachers must be prepared to become more-or-less “instructional facilitators” whose primary goal will be that of assisting students in directing their own learning.
WILL TEXTBOOKS BE A THING OF THE PAST?
As early as 2012, Arne Duncan, a former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and Julius Genachowski of the Federal Communications Commission, said that schools should “switch to digital textbooks to foster interactive education, save money on books, and ensure classrooms in the US use up-to-date content.” (If you’re a teacher, the following EdTech article “Why Digital Publishing is the Future of Education” is a great resource: https://tablets-textbooks.procon.org/ .)
The greatest thing about digital learning materials is that digital material/eBooks are easily kept up-to-date so publishers can effectively offer teachers and schools the most state-of-the-art information of the moment while saving money focused on ever-decreasing education budgets. eBooks can’t effectively save money on a school’s administrative costs, but can greatly reduce a school’s “incidentals” budget by providing “books” and classroom materials using digital solutions.
WILL BRICK-AND-MORTAR SCHOOLS DISAPPEAR?
In 2017, the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report (https://cdn.nmc.org/media/2017-nmc-cosn-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf) noted that “People expect to be able to learn and work anywhere, with constant access to learning materials, as well as to each other. Schools have made great strides in generating more methods and platforms for teachers, students, and staff to collaborate and be productive wherever they are.”
There are definitely advantages as well as disadvantages to brick-and-mortar schools and virtual schools. Cost advantages and the efficiency of updating teaching materials are included in the lure of switching to online schools. But one real problem can be that an unmotivated student may likely not be more motivated when left to his/her own designs and schedule in a virtual classroom atmosphere. Additionally, a kid who was bullied in a traditional classroom setting may get more individual attention when teacher/mentoring is immediately available in an online setting, but the same student may not thrive in an atmosphere where he/she is expected to participate in creating their own educational experience. (https://classroom.synonym.com/brick-mortar-vs-virtual-school-17806.html .)
SUMMARY: THE FUTURE OF K-12 EDUCATION
According to Barry Chudakov, founder of Sertain Research and StreamFuzion Corp., the future of K-12 education looks like this:
“For students at all levels, mixed-method instruction and blended learning will soon become the norm. ….The walls of the school (physical and conceptual) need to shatter and never go up again. Instead, education should take place in digital learning environments.” (http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2017/05/pew_future_of_jobs_2017.html .)
Global Student Network – A Leader in Digital Education
Since 2004, Global Student Network (GSN) has brought the best in digital education to students in both schools and homeschool settings. Unlike other curriculum providers, GSN offers a variety of options from one location. Students thrive with GSN’s self-paced, mastery-based programs offered on multi-media, interactive online learning platforms.