The age of technology has reshaped and reinvented many aspects of our life primarily by changing the way we do things. However, society is still struggling with how to incorporate the massive changes into some of the social structures that have evolved through the Industrial Age. In some areas particularly related to businesses, the transition has been seamless as these have been dictated by the needs of the marketplace. The factories and offices of today have continuously evolved with every step of the development in the e-age. Not so with some of the social structures, particularly schools. In the field of education, practically every country in the world is grappling with the task of integrating the virtual into the brick and mortar. Many solutions like introducing technology in the classrooms, using electronic resources extensively by teachers, evolution of concepts like blended learning where knowledge acquisition happens through a mix of the real and virtual mediums are all being dabbled with. But in all this the school remains the conduit through which delivery of basic education happens throughout the world. The important question is that is the school still relevant as the single conduit for education. These large dinosaur like structures are still in changed today thanks to its size and protection by societies scared of making changes.
The single biggest potential for change that technology offers is to shift the control of learning completely to the hands of the learner. Recently, I had visited a School in the Cloud started by Prof Sugata Mitra in Gocharan, West Bengal pursuant to his famous research led theory which proved that children can teach themselves anything given technology and the right environment. It was amazing to see how children organized themselves and learnt many things in an unfettered fashion with zero adult intervention. Of course, here the learnings were not structured to suit any curriculum but it was easy to see how learning happened seamlessly.
In fact, among the traditional systems, the Montessori system is founded pretty much on this principle of child driven education. So are the inquiry based systems followed by institutions like the KFI. However, the practitioners of these systems have diligently excluded technology from its ambit for the reason that it is seen as diluting the core of these systems. However, in a world that is increasingly dominated by technology, it is highly unlikely that this exclusion will continue. In the future, can the core of philosophies espoused by these systems be integrated with technology and provide a wholesome personalized path to education for every learner? I think the answer is yes!
The role of technology has been largely restricted to creation of content and its delivery through the the same conduit i.e. the schools. Some of the schools have been, through blended learning models, extending the scope of delivery beyond the four walls of the schools, i.e. to home for instance. But what has largely been ignored is the power of technology to record and track every individual’s learning journey, thereby intelligently offering him a path of learning in the topics, learning styles and to the depth that the learner desires. This I think will be the key to creating blended, interconnected structures that will eventually replace the schools as conduits for education.
Learning can never be confined to four walls of any institution, however big or respected it may be and this statement is irrefutable in todays’ context. Also, the economic of creating physical resources particularly the cost of land makes it unviable to create institutions that can give affordable education for the growing population. These two factors will further accentuate the role of multiple physical structures interconnected structures catering to the overall education of the learner. The role of the physical world however remains undiminished if the learner has to have a wholesome education capable of shaping his knowledge as well as attitudes. Merely relying on the electronic medium will make the process narrow and one dimensional.
Emergence of technology aided education structures will also mean that the role of the teacher will change qualitatively to being one of a facilitator rather than a teacher. This would mean more personalized attention to each learner depending on what he or she needs. To sum up, I predict that the possible school scenario of the future may be something like this:
While it is certain that there will be changes in Education systems in the next decade itself , what I will be excited to follow will be the forms these changes take shape in and how personalized education becomes !