A Very Bad Definition

It’s the start of a new year and that means thousands of articles, posts, and essays forecasting the future. Some are thoughtful and intelligent. Many are trivial. The vast majority will be flat out wrong.

One titled Technologies That Will Define the Classroom of the Future certainly falls into that last group.

First of all, technology will never “define” a classroom, at least not a good one. Students and teachers, supported by parents, librarians, administrators, and others define a class community. Technology should only be there to assist the learning.

Anyway, so what are these innovative technologies that will “soon reside in the future classrooms”?

Augmented Reality – Certainly we want students to interact with the world. But this, and it’s cousin virtual reality, are just tools to help them do that. Unless you’re planning to recreate the classroom inside a virtual world, this concept should not “define” learning.

3D Printer – No. Just no. All of the creative work required to have the machine render the object has been done prior to starting the job. A 3D printer is no more defining of learning than was a 2D printer.

Cloud Computing, New interactive and flexible displays, Multi-Touch LCD screen – Again, no. These are not learning tools. They are devices (and in the case of cloud computing, a concept) that can enhance the teaching and learning process. They will not “define” the classroom of the future.

Biometrics – Huh? I understand the security part but saying this technology leads to “adaptive learning systems” that will “transform the education process into a more individual and productive one” is just silly. This is about management and control, not learning.

Learning based on games – If you expand this into the general idea of “learning based on play”, then I’m with you. But learning from play (aka experimentation) is how children gain understanding of their world from the beginning. Applying the concept of gaming to learning school-type subjects is fine as long as “games” are not just one more way to spoon-feed the same old curriculum.

And finally… MOOCs and other online learning options – Kids are certainly learning online, just not in the highly structured format of MOOCs (which haven’t been a roaring success despite the hype). I certainly hope the version of online learning envisioned by adults, which is largely a digital translation of the traditional teacher-directed instruction, doesn’t define the classroom of the future.

I have no doubt many, if not most, of these technologies will make their way into devices used by students and teachers. None of them, however, will define the learning process. And, if properly implemented, no one will even notice (or care) the technology is in the classroom.

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