What a classroom will look like in 10 years

What a classroom will look like in 10 years
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Technology is rapidly evolving. This evolution is occurring because people are sharing ideas, resources and themselves online 24/7. 

So what does this mean for our education? Education has long been seen as a vertical un-adaptive to change. Fifty years ago schools had individual desks, a blackboard in the front of the room and a teacher who administered lessons and testing in accordance to their specific state. Today, schools have individual desks, Smartboards instead of blackboards and a teacher who administers lessons and testing in accordance to their specific state. What has changed?

Although some schools are slower than others to adapt technology changes, that doesn’t mean others are not jumping in feet first and utilizing the open source way to change education as we know it. We’re in for a lot of changes once we break though our bureaucratic system (which we put in place), row seating, the 8-4 schedule and standardized testing. The truth is, learning is ongoing and collaborative and classrooms should cater to this.

Here’s a wish list:

  • Classrooms will be paperless
  • Classrooms will cater to more individualized instruction based on a student’s passions
  • Communication will vastly improve
  • New learning spaces will pop up – that’s right, no more individual desks

And here’s how this will happen because of an open source mentality:

Classrooms will be paperless:

Students will no longer trudge through their local value office store with a huge cart full of notebooks, folders, paper, pens and pencils. Beside the positive effects this will have on our environment, it will also mean students will have electronic folders and notebooks, and instead of pens and pencils they’ll have a keyboard and mouse, or even a tablet and their index finger. Students and teachers will be able use Wikis to share lesson plans, homework help, great pieces of example work and the best part, it will all be free! 

Classrooms will cater to more individualized instruction based on a student’s passions:

No one person learns the same as another, but lucky for us we have technology that will help with differentiated learning. Just last year, the NYC school system invested a ton of money on technology-based learning programs that worked to shift learning from a whole-group mentality to personalized-collaborative mentality. Aside from that, students will have more of a chance to discover their individual passions and collaborate with others about those passions. Bianca Hewes is an English teacher who has created an assignment where her students shape their digital footprint by creating and writing personal blogs that are focused on them, “Passion-Driven Blogging.” This will also let them connect with others in the digital realm who are interested in their interests and will prompt collaboration of ideas – think sharing between social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and also conversation-based commenting on the actual posts. 

Communication will vastly improve:

Parents, students and teachers will all be able to collaborate and loop in ideas and feedback. Imagine if student’s report cards were not printed out grades on a piece of paper, but a Google doc that teachers were able to share with parents and the student and feedback was able to be shared constantly throughout the year. Not to mention, parents would be able to fully understand what their child was working on in school by just the click of a button and their teacher would be a resource a click of a button away.

New learning spaces will pop up – that’s right, no more individual desks

With the growth of mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad, students and teachers will essentially be able to learn together anytime and anywhere. Classrooms in general will be laid out topromote collaborative learning – rather than a static computer lab, students will have the freedom of wireless and flexible workspace that will promote interaction and comfort that will encourage creativity and support peer-to-peer learning. Such an environment will promote social sharing using Wikis, Google docs, blogs, Facebook, Flickr, Youtube and Twitter.

Classrooms of the future will be equipped with technology that supports the open source way – openness, transparency, collaboration and diversity. We may need to wait more than 10 years, but hopefully not! 

Sarah Fudin currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California's Master of Arts in Teaching program, which provides aspiring teachers the opportunity to earn a Masters degree in Education and teaching credential online. Outside of work Sarah enjoys running, reading and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.


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Falshrmjgr's picture

How is this helpful? For every one brilliant entrepreneur this system develops, it will generate a thousand young adults with no marketable skills. Self-centered narcissists who have been taught that the world adapts to them and not vice versa.

Students wasting their days, "social sharing using Wikis, Google docs, blogs, Facebook, Flickr, Youtube and Twitter" is a nightmare of epic proportions.

That paper you deride is a medium that doesn't set boundaries. Instead you evangelize a medium defined by the engineers and programmers who design it. No matter how big you think the box you are designing is, it is still a box around REAL creativity.

What this sounds like is a post-Orwellian world where happy proles are incapable of thought crimes because they are blinded by their own pseudo-creativity: creativity redefined as mastery of a set of controls.

The model you propose leads to a generation bereft of challenges. Individualized instruction equals individualized standards. Cultures that worry less about self-actualization reap competitive advantage over those who navel-gaze. Welcome to McDonald's...would you like fries with that?

In the end, there is an implicit bias here that education as it has evolved is terribly flawed: that old somehow equates to bad; that creating a new model from ether based on presumptions of an idealized human will produce a superior, fairer system; that social "injustice" can be corrected by centralized planning.

These have all been tried and failed in economics. No you want us to cheer as you test these flawed ideas on our children?

No thank you.

Sarah's picture

Thanks for your feedback -- This post is definitely not supposed to promote squashing creativity or promoting narcissism. The idea behind it was a wish lists of some ideas I had about making the classroom more collaborative, creative and engaging. Who's to know how the classroom will evolve in 10 years, but I'm hopeful it will change to help the vast majority of learners rather than squash communication and make it a place where learning is dictated by only one style with little options for change.

Falshrmjgr's picture

My apologies. My intent was not to attack you. Let me share my wish list:

1. Computers OUT of the classroom. Kids need more technology like they need additional holes in their heads. Technology is quickly becoming a crutch, a distraction, and a barrier to learning.
Conversely, TEACH computing: Logic, programming, electronics. (Imagine auto-shop being nothing more than driving around for an hour.)

2. Emphasize the Socratic teaching method over Lecture.

3. Stop buying textbooks every other year; reject textbooks with 'expiration dates'. Real knowledge doesn't expire, and students don't actually need glossy pictures and worthless marginal factoids. All we have done is cripple their ability to read critically. What they need is the discipline to read primary source material, analyze it, and incorporate it into their understanding of the world.

4. Stop coddling & underestimating our students:
Algebra instruction in grade school.
Calculus standard in High School.
Literature, writing, debate & rhetoric, philosophy, comparative religion, history, civics: All subjects which are either absent or so gutted that they are worthless.

5. Real Science. Sorry, but if if science teachers aren't blowing something up once a year, they are not teaching science. (At least Physical Science, Chemistry and Physics.)

Jacques's picture


giulivo's picture
Open Enthusiast

hi Falshrmjgr,

my wish list would match your, but the existing technologies can also come in our help

Recently there has been a number of highly engaging online classes(1) runned by prestigious univeristies (MIT, Stanford) where teachers are the "real scientists" you mentioned and students (like me) appreciate their methods and even more their lessons.

Unfortunately we're limited by some technology boundaries but are also enjoying the benefits it provides.

(1) some links to the online classes I was referring to
CS 101 by Nick Parlante @ cs101-class.org

Natural Language Processing by Dan Jurafsky and Chris Manning @ nlp-class.org

Software Engineering for SAAS by Armando Fox and David Patterson @ saas-class.org

Human-Computer Interfaces by Scott Klemmer @ hci-class.org

Game Theory by Matthew Jackson and Yoav Shoham @ game-theory-class.org

Probabilistic Graphical Models by Daphne Koller @ pgm-class.org

Machine Learning by Andrew Ng @ jan2012.ml-class.org

Giulio Fidente, gpg key id 08D733BA

dellak's picture

This is a very informative article.

Idella Long

implementor's picture

Thank you for your article, but I think Falshrmjgr is right in most of the points.
School is worthless if you only learn your passions. There are so many students who just would do any crap, and nothing sensible.

Computer-based learning? One step more into a society, where everyone uses Facebook and feels cool to have a 400 GHz CPU and 4 TiB RAM, but doesn't know how it works. Yes, sometimes interactive lessons are sensible, but not all of the time.

Great for the environment? The most of the waste is paper, and paper is recycled. Better teach them to use recycled paper.
And the production of computers and tablets causes a lot of waste, too. Venomous waste.
That's not an argument at all.

My personal wishlist:
- "public" lessons: Teachers should record their explainments and e.g. upload it for their students -> like the Harvard University already does!
- Literature and religion aren't useful subjects. Drop them, or at least, make them optional.

Sarah's picture

Thanks for your feedback!

I'd have to disagree with some of your comments, but appreciate them none the less. Teaching to a students passion is a great way to get them excited about learning. This doesn't mean we only teach to one passion, but we open up the learners eyes to other subject areas and tie in relevant real-world examples that may spark a students interests.

We can't ignore the fact that technology is growing and improving at an exponential rate. Computer-based learning and social learning can create a community around education -- it will be interesting to see where this goes.

Paperless classrooms will allow more mobility. Regardless of the environmental effects, I'd still love to see where we are in a few years!

LOVE your idea about "public lessons" -- already happening on some wikis and school youtube channels.

Thanks again for your feedback!


CajunTechie's picture
Community Member

Great article!

Personally, I think the 'classroom of the future' will be a classroom that doesn't really exist. We might not get there in 10 years but there are already efforts underway to decentralize the learning experience and uncouple it from the physical classroom.

I'd love to see a school that runs completely virtually. Students will attend from home by either video conference or maybe even in a virtual world like Second Life and teachers could teach from anywhere. The costs savings alone would be astronomical and it would almost certainly guarantee a better education experience.

Almost everything is in place for such a system now. The main thing stopping it is that we're stuck in an old-mind model of what education looks like. We believe it has to be classroom based, in one location, etc. Once we bust out of that model and are open to exploring the alternatives, amazing transformations to our educational system are going to happen.

Linux Solutions Consultant and Software Developer
Advanced Data Concepts, Inc
Ph: (918) 533-9699

robbie de lise's picture

We use moodle to accomplish the online portion. We do adult education though, so these students are already motivated to learn.
I would not use random services like u proposed but keep everything centralized like on moodle.

Sarah's picture

Moodle is great! Thanks for adding this to the list!

Vormamim's picture

Moodle is not great, it's a legacy of tired instructional design that seeks to make learning efficient, not imaginative, ironic, philosophic or anything else. From HE experience, the vast majority of courses are repositories, useful that the IT-Dept enrol your class and work goes in a box that you can grade by clicking another box. Perhaps read a little more, Moodle is Tylerist and Taylorist as when it comes. Useful only if you use lecture/tutorial as a method, which is also convenient, not effective.

Dan's picture

Sarah. My wife has a masters in special ed and general ed and has been teaching for over 35 years, grades k-5. Through out her career, when given the opportunity and freedom to teach to the passions of the child, the student response and advancement far and away exceeded expectations. When forced to teach according to the bureaucratic mandates of the school districts "measurement" requirements, I.e. "the blackboard in front of the row of desks", the students eyes glaze over and the kids minds die on the vine. There are really only a very, very few lost cause students and the few so called "bad" teachers are those whose enthusiasm was stifled by administrative micromanagement. Poor results in education is caused not so much by a lack of technology or innovation on the part of the educator, but by political mismanagement.

Sarah's picture

Dan - Great to hear your wife was given an opportunity to teach to the passions of the children in her class -- how lucky! I'm also glad to hear that the response was so positive. Most educators I've spoken with have had similar responses.

John M.'s picture

I'm really enjoying these discussions. It seems that whatever set of wish list is proposed (and their reasoning) has some merit. It reminds me, as I've discovered over my many years of existence, that nothing done at the extremes is ever truly the answer. I see Sarah's wish list as an extreme. It will surely work in some instances and fail in others (as noted by some responses). Some of the replies also have wish lists in the other extreme, which has worked in some cases and failed in others (as Sarah points out).

Why place someone in one method of teaching? What if it's wrong for any one student? They will be stuck in the system with no way out. Some students learn better when led behind a desk, but may be further motivated if allowed collaborative passion-driven learning. Some students mature early, some late? A balance needs to be struck so as not to leave anyone behind, yet nurture the more able ones to reach further. And what works for adult education may not be suitable for children of all ages and vice-versa.

The classroom entirely as Sarah wishes it, for everyone and everywhere? I hope not! The classroom as exists today forever more? I hope not! Some of each? I certainly hope so.

Sarah's picture

John - love this comment! I think you're absolutely right that extremes in every case will not work and every learner does not learn in the same way. As our education system grows I think we'll see some things work and some things fail (as we've already seen). Eventually, it would be great if students did get to experience different learning techniques and during each stage of their learning development. There are definitely no "right" answers as we're all guessing about the future! Thanks again John!

Unidentified's picture

Cathy Malmrose at ZaReason, Linux computers's picture

Combine khanacademy with k12.com and the future is already here, agreed.

We're trying something a bit "out there" that has been a great way to educate kids. We have a computer company and we travel extensively for R&D. We are essentially location independent and since we like our kids and want to be near them, they travel too, with their laptops. They do the k12 curriculum. (After spending a decade in curriculum development it's hard to please me, but I'm thrilled w/ k12). It's *public education*. It's free. It's deep. Our 10 yo son is digging Latin & Chemistry and our 9 yo daughter devoured Algebra, doing the extra stuff because it feels good to do math when you really love it. And it adapts to their pace.

The best parts -- when they are learning about the Civil War we are able to go back East and actually *see* where events happened. When they fell in love with Tux, the Linux mascot, we went to NZ to see penguins in their natural habitat. When they have Science questions we go to UC Berkeley or Stanford and ask the researchers themselves. It has been wildly fun.

So far, from what I can tell, it's turning them into highly creative team players. You can't be self-centered and survive travel well. (You are treated so much better when you are nice to people.)

I hope to see other people like us, but so far it seems to be outside the norm.

Rebecca's picture
Open Source Champion

You know, I'm actually seeing a lot of this already in my son's kindergarten classroom. He loves school so far, and talks all the time about the smartboard and the math games they play on it. His teachers also do a fantastic job of captivating the kids' interest while reinforcing learning concepts and meeting learning objectives, and they use assessment software (but not computerized or paper tests) to keep tabs on all 20 students' progress.

Paper isn't gone--they still read plenty of books and spend a lot of time drawing and coloring--but technology is incorporated in ways that facilitate learning and exploration.

The school also uses Twitter, SMS messaging, automated voicemail messages, and class websites to keep parents in the loop, both for emergencies and ongoing information about what our kids are learning.

One of the most valuable (IMHO) technologies that is still making its way into the classroom is touchscreen computing. This type of interface is so intuitive for children, and they naturally "tinker" with it to figure out how it works. The smartboards are great, but the new smart-tables that are coming into preschool and kindergarten classrooms have real potential for interactive learning games.

Sarah's picture

Thanks for your comments Rebecca. I think you're right about schools integrating technology in their classrooms and using blended learning - excited to see what the future holds!

editorasha's picture


I think you made some interesting points here. I love the idea of collaborative learning. I think too that improving communication between parent-educator-student should not be undervalued because it could have a very positive impact on effective learning occuring in the classroom.

I also like your idea of scaffolding students’ passion based on their interests. I think a commenter above missed the idea that passion for one subject does not mean that a student won’t like anything but that. When I was a kid I had a huge passion for writing and reading and because I was so enthusiastic about learning, I was able to transfer that into math and science, both of which I struggled with for a long time. I was eventually able to find a skill in each.

Now, as an adult, I’m an unsatiable learner, thanks to some of the great teachers I had who let me explore literature. I felt respected by my educators and wanted to succeed and be self-sufficient. I think many students need to discover a passion for one subject before they can be expected to love and value the rest. A love for learning carries into almost anything a student will do.

Sarah's picture

Ashley - Thanks for your comment! Totally agree that discovering your passion in one area first will help students to love and value other subjects or find their passions within them. A love of learning is a great thing!