Education in the next two decades
University of Illinois
Appeared in 2002 in the Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 3(1), 105-114.
It is difficult to predict the future. In our everyday lives, we implicitly depend on a "future will be like the present" prediction. More sophisticated forecasters often predict that potential changes will occur quickly in the short term, ignoring the institutional barriers to change. Similarly, they often are too limited in predicting long-term changes, since it is very difficult to think through the full range of unexpected side-effects that changes in one part of society cause in other parts. With electronic technologies today, change is the only constant. Following Moore’s law (Moore, 1965), microelectronics has produced doubling of performance every year and half since the mid-1960’s, leading to an order-of-magnitude improvement in performance every 5 years. Projecting ahead over the next twenty years, this rate of change would lead to the development of electronic technologies 10,000 times the power of today’s devices. Just to see what this looks like projecting backwards to the 1960’s, everyone wearing an digital watch has the computing power on their wrist comparable to the mainframe computers of the mid 1960’s; anyone with a laptop computer today has the computing power equivalent to the supercomputers of the mid 1980’s. So what will education be like in the year 2020? What should education be like in the year 2020? Technologies enable possibilities but they don’t determine future development. This paper will explore some possibilities enabled by technologies that may have positive implications for education and society more generally. Current contexts for learning and teaching
Schools: Past, present and future?
The dominant form of formal education today is schooling. It is so much a part of our concept of education that we sometime forget that it is not the only framework for learning, and that the current form of schools and schooling has evolved fairly recently. Formal education existed before there were schools. Schooling is education that takes place in building that are mostly isolated from the rest of society, in which most of the learning activities consist of exercises. There is a separation between learning and doing, a separation between the location of learning and the location in which that learning is eventually to be put into practice. Before schools were the dominant form of education, a few privileged learners worked with tutors. The majority of advanced learning, however, took place in apprenticeship settings, formal learning frameworks in which novices acquired knowledge and skills in the context of practice. Most people today associate the term "apprenticeship" with craft apprenticeships, but in fact apprenticeships are the most common form of learning in most professions. Medical internships and residencies, law internships, and other advanced graduate study are all apprenticeships. If apprenticeships are used to teach our doctors, lawyers, and scientists, why are they not used more widely? One of the most important reasons is that apprenticeships are expensive. They take the time of the experts; they take the time of the novices and others involved. It would be impossible to support mass education with conventional apprenticeships. Teleapprenticeships
However, new electronic media enable new forms of education. As more and more of the work in a society occurs online, it becomes possible to engage more and more learners in "teleapprenticeships." These are formal educational frameworks that engage people in learning through their remote participation in ongoing work settings. In face to face apprenticeships, novices start on the periphery of the activity, observing and being given simple tasks that contribute to the going work (Lave & Wenger, 1991). As they acquire expertise, the novices move...