The Future of Education: Ivy-Covered iPads?

by Flora

With the integration of technology such as iPads and apps, students are no longer chained to pen and paper, or hardback books.

Technology has created an arsenal of tools for both educators and students alike to use in and out of the classroom. Even more so, the world wide web has created a completely different structure in which students no longer need to attend a brick and mortar university.

Past, Present, and Future of Education

Changing Education

Like the future of online learning, or e-learning, the back-and-forth of interactive academia references a future educational system that will operate with technology at its core. But changes in e-learning and online classes are happening so quickly that our best guesses today might be laughingly scoffed at tomorrow. In the future of education, a campus might not even be a physical place, much less one so static as to allow ivy to scale its towers.

The Future is Tomorrow

The very term "taking a class" will become meaningless in our education of tomorrow. What once involved registering as a student and physically attending a class located in a specific room in a specific building appears to be doomed. In fact, the version of an online class wherein one "logs on" to participate in a webcam class is already dated and is probably lost as well. Just as our assumptions once assumed that learning required a teacher and students in the same location at the same time, our first experience with online learning now underscores our assumptions that included all students' participation at the same time. Atrixware guesses that apps will lead future education. Participants in the September 2011 Ideas Economy: Human Potential Conference presented by “The Economist” questioned other assumptions we continue to hold about learning. Do all students need to follow a class syllabus in the same order? Do all students even require a similar class syllabus? What makes up a unit of learning? What indicates mastery of a given subject?

The Future is Now

Ben Wildavsky, Senior Scholar, Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation questioned our very assumptions of what constitutes higher education at the Human Potential Conference. He purposely suggested a technological term–"unbundling"–to describe how he felt we needed to separate out our expectations and assumptions regarding professors, classes, learning, credits, credentials and degrees. In her March 30, 2012, article for, "Moving Beyond Technology," Mary Grush reported on last year's New Media Consortium's Horizon Project in anticipation of one of the participant's upcoming lecture. In January 2011, the Horizon Project invited  100 thought leaders from 20 countries to identify education's top future "megatrends." Horizon Project participant and CEO Larry Johnson spoke with Grush recently about the identified megatrends. One of the pieces of the puzzle he particularly identified with was what he referred to as abandoning our assumptions of universities as "providers of technology" now that the technical means are now widely available via personal computers, smart phones, tablet computers and MP3 players. The function of a university, instead, will be a distillation of the learning process while the Internet will continue to challenge our understanding of learning and literacy.

The Future was Yesterday

One of the striking aspects of quickly changing technologies is how limited our forward vision is proven to be upon retrospect. We gladly accept the new convenience but fail to discard our old assumptions. Ultimately, technology is advancing at a faster rate than our culture can, meaning that we find it difficult to acclimate to such rapid-fire changes so quickly. This can result in sometimes not using the technological advances available to us in the best way possible. We must realize that such changes must be accompanied by a distinct willingness to modify current practices, education or otherwise.


The future of education is approaching so quickly that every description is dated by the time it’s published -- online, of course. The continued adoption of technological advances will expand our definition of "education," "learning" and "literacy" beyond what we can now imagine. What we do know is that these things will be mobile, flexible, adaptable and worldwide in scope.

Updated: 05/09/2012, Flora
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