How will schools look in 10 years?

Futurist expert Neil Selwyn from the Faculty of Education, Monash University, gives his predictions. 

Virtual assimilation classrooms

Learning will incorporate augmented reality and become more immersive as schools copy military-style assimilations. Teachers will be able to recreate a 3D 16th century French palace in a history lesson, or make a cave-like classroom into a real-life theatre for aspiring surgeons.

Overlaying the physical environment with digital information will also become big. Teachers could take kids into ‘digital’ forests where they can interact and get information about nature and animals by pointing their tablet at a tree to learn like scanning apps work now.

Smart drugs 

In the future, kids could take cognition drugs like a vitamin in the morning to enhance their brain and help with memory and cramming before exams. 

“Pharmaceutical technology is advancing which will bring about moral and ethical debates about the use of these so-called smart drugs,” says Professor Selwyn.

A human hard-drive for memory

“People are also talking about a hard drive you would attach externally on your head to download information into for enhancing memory capacity.”

                                                       The merging of man and machine

“This area of biotechnology and neuroscience is pretty eerie and sees the physical joining of man and the machine, but it is not totally pie in the sky,” adds Professor Selwyn.

Haptic technology 

Increasingly, trainee doctors will learn on a tactile digital body instead of the real thing and dentists are starting to learn through dummies.

The tactile feedback technology allows people to learn by trial and error and to train quicker.

In schools, children could dissect a digital frog to learn about biology.

Death of the schoolbook 

“In 10 years there will be no more textbooks in classes,” says Professor Selwyn.  3D digibooks will take over, but libraries will still exist though to keep old books although few new ones will be purchased.

There will be quite radical changes in the way assessments are done too with the NAPLAN tests due to go online by 2016 and other ways of testing children being considered by the Government.

Kids will learn coding with the Raspberry Pi device 

Children will practice a new kind of artificial intelligence like people used to learn Latin or Greek with the small, single-board computer.

                                                                    Retraining the brain

“It makes you think about your own thinking through metacognition and trains the brain in a new way,” says Professor Selwyn.

Kids will get the opportunity to write their own programmes and engage with the technology with plenty of jobs for games coders about.

“It is about understanding what goes on in the inside of the technology itself,  and will be a new way of learning maths and physics.”

Robots as teachers 

Teachers will remain the primary experts and schools will still exist, predicts Selywn. 

The realistic-looking Saya robot is used extensively in schools in Japan and South Korea and is an accepted part of their culture. 

Professor Selwyn questions why robots aren’t used more in rural schools, but says an Australian School of the Air 2.0 might be more realistic with increasing use of social media.

Virtual lessons 

These will be especially useful for rural Australian pupils as broadband speeds and digital infrastructure improve. Schools won’t be 9 – 4pm anymore – kids will take lessons with an online tutor one day a week in subjects like Vietnamese where the world really can be your oyster with specialists on-hand to tutor you in global subjects. 

This already happened at Willunga High School in South Australia as pupils took part in a digital drama workshop led by the Bell Shakespeare Company at Sydney Opera House.

Moveable and modifiable schools 

The futuristic, adventurous and flexible MODUPOD school features different modular pods or hubs that can be added on or taken off like blocks of Lego depending on the school’s needs.

The entire school can fit on road transport, is configurable and can be set up or moved in a matter of weeks and less expensively than building and designing an entire new school.

The first Australian MODUPOD school is due to open at Duffy Primary School in Canberra in 2014.

The concept will be especially useful for north-west Australia where mining exploration means communities are growing fast and in cities where the suburbs are expanding rapidly and land becomes more and more precious.

“There are different hubs for interaction, social areas and project pods for pupils to work in smaller groups and to be more focussed on the task at hand, says the man behind it, architect Andrew Duffin of NBRS+PARTNERS.

“The idea is to make school more inspiring and a better environment for students to think more critically and be more resourceful and respectful.  By going off to collaborate in smaller areas in groups, the school will create a more mature and progressive student.”

The use of gestural interfaces 

  More and more, children will use their hands and eyes instead of fingers on the tablet to gesture like you do on the Wii. Handwriting will be replaced by digi pens and keyboards could become redundant too.

The increasing presence of big multi-nationals in education 

Companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Pearson are having more of an influence on curriculums, school resources and learning around the world which is very bland, globalised and not very appropriate, says Professor Selwyn.

Personalised technology 

As kids bring in their own tablets and smartphones to the classroom, they will be able to get information quicker and it will be more personalised for them as they will be familiar with apps they use at home too.

The danger is if you just allow students to learn what they want to learn, they will miss out on a lot, adds Professor Selwyn.

Institutional technology 

Expect to see widespread use of CCTV, iris recognition technology and even chipping of kids as schools up their surveillance to keep an eye on children.

So how should we feel about these dramatic changes to come?

“Most of what the scientists say will happen in 10 years will happen in 50,” adds Professor Selwyn.

“There needs to be a debate about technology in schools like Jamie Oliver did with his school dinners campaign. We need to all consider the place of technology in the schools of the future and look at the moral debate too.

“There is lots of hype about how much technology will change the learning environment, but schools are resilient – we still recognise them from when we are at school. They still have rows of desks, a whiteboard and a teacher – so maybe it won’t change as much as we think,” adds Professor Selwyn.


By Marina Thomas

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