Predictions for K12 Education in 2010


I’m not sure if I’m gazing into a crystal ball or peering into a wishing well. But here’s what I think will be important in 2010.

School administrators will enter the conversation.

They’ll do it because they have to.

Innovation was the buzzword in 2009. It will be in 2010, too, but it will refer to structural or pedagogical innovation, not technology itself. And here we need K12 school administrators–I’m one of them–to weigh in.

They were noticeably absent in online dialogue in 2009. They probably didn’t need to be online at the start of the year. The technology field was chaotic, characterized by rapid pace of development and liberal experimenting, mostly by teachers. But at the end of the year, we have enough data to classify web tools and, more importantly, to draw a reasonably coherent picture of the potential change these tools might make. The big questions raised by web technologies are strategic questions, not technical ones. We’re witnessing the shift from an industrial model of education to…a post-industrial model? That’s a weak descriptor. To call it a 21st Century model is equally weak because no two people can agree on what “21st Century” means, not in terms of education anyway. We should search for a good term, but in the meantime, we can see that just as the web itself is distributed, the new model will be characterized by more distributed learning, facilitated by people I hope we will still call teachers. The big technology trends of 2009 were Structured Data, Real-Time Web, Personalization, Mobile Web / Augmented Reality, and the Internet of Things, but it’s budgets, personnel, assessment, course content and pedagogy–things that have nothing to do with anything technological–that we need to talk about now.

Independent schools should have an edge here. They are, well, more independent and nimble than public schools which are administered at a district level. One school to watch: Think Global School, which has abandoned brick-and-mortar completely and taken the school on the road, is heading to 12 cities around the world in 12 semesters.

Everyone will wake up to the idea that students are not digital natives.

In September I began rolling out wikis, Nings, blogs, Edmodo and even a little Twitter to our Grade 6 – 9 students. But it wasn’t long before they began putting up resistance to the new technologies. “Why can’t we just write this in Google Docs?” they cried. I thought this might be unique to the cohort of students here on Bowen Island or to middle school students. But colleagues in other schools teaching higher and lower grades were seeing the same thing. I called up Chris Betcher in Australia and he was seeing it there, too: Here is his blog post on the idea that the notion of the digital native is a myth.

None of the potential advantages of social media or cloud computing are self-evident. Students are very quick to learn how to work with a new tool, but they still need to be shown why they ought to use it. As with anything else, online skill and even the inclination to work online seems to follow a normal distribution, so it’s unreasonable to expect that a classroom of students will leap onto the social media/cloud computing bandwagon. This means we have to teach the why as well as the how of tools. (Just as we did this with pencil and paper!)

We’ll put philosophy back on the table.

A couple years ago I presented a paper at conference on the humanities at Columbia University calling for the reanimation of the teaching of metaphysics in grade schools. Metaphysics is something of a dirty word, so let’s substitute philosophy. But the idea is that if, even in principle, the web makes all information available to anyone, anywhere, anytime, we are left to ask what should we do with all that data. Google wants to index all the information in the world. What happens when we have perfect knowledge of the facts? Now, unless we are considering trivial decisions, such as what pizzeria should we go to for dinner, the moment we utter the word “should” we enter into a moral or ethical discussion. Yes, students stepping into the data stream need to know how to filter and evaluate information, but they also need to know what to do with it once they’ve qualified it. They need teaching in both practical reasoning and ethics.

I doubt we’ll see schools add courses in philosophy by year’s end, but I do think we’ll see schools start talking about the need.


  1. Reply
    Bob Cotter January 4, 2010

    I can’t recall if it was you who wrote before or someone else who’s blog I read about the need students have for seeing the practicality of what they are doing, not simply the teacher’s desire for them to do it. I was reminded of that with the notation you made stating, “Why can’t we just write this in Google Docs?”.Alas, there are far too many classrooms I am familiar with where the teacher not only has no idea what Google Docs is, but also no idea of where a computer might be used as a tool to be used for instruction.Will there be significant change in 2010? As a person who is now more of an interested bystander than a direct motivator of change, I will be interested to watch and see.Hope your start to 2010 is exciting… Cheers… Bob

  2. Reply
    Braddo January 5, 2010

    Thanks for the comment, Bob. I’ve said in a couple places that students are not digital natives. I have to admit that I was carried away by the possibilities of social media. But, really, I don’t think there’s ever been an idea or medium that everyone has instantly and intuitively taken up. So why did I think all kids would leap onto the social media bandwagon? #arrogance

  3. Reply
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