A Renaissance in Education
School tomorrow will look very different from school today. Education is an old and venerable industry — the earliest universities were established in the 11th century, and some say little has changed since. Today, strong forces of change are at work in this industry. Economic drivers coupled with new technologies have already caused sweeping changes in schools and colleges. These disturbances and shifts in the ecosystem presents educational institutions with an unparalleled opportunity to rethink, redesign and recreate. It is a time for a Renaissance.
During the Renaissance, new thinking came outside the traditional institutions of learning. Galileo was one famous example. Many of today’s innovations in education are also taking place outside universities and schools, shaking things up, questioning old ways and philosophies, a true beginning of a Renaissance.
There is a Renaissance going on around us — new ideas, new thoughts, new products, new models, some more experimental than others, all grappling with the issue of scale, sustainability, support. And, we can hope, this time around we will embrace Renaissance without an Inquisition.
No one can predict the future, but as William Gibson famously said, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” All we have to do, then, is to look for these indicators of education’s Renaissance around us, and we will get a sense of what education will look like tomorrow.
There is a lot going on, and without minimizing the importance of anyone’s work, there are six themes that dominate the future horizon. These trends integrate the forecasts and predictions of a range of thought leaders and aggregate activities, initiatives and projects everywhere. I focus on these six in particular because I can see many signals and indicators of these themes around me, in my community, in my neighborhood, nationally, and in trends in venture capital investment in the edtech industry.
The six Renaissance thinking themes that I believe are shaping the future of education are:
- Personalization of Learning: Using data and technology to adapt to the needs of a single learner — from a curriculum for a classroom of learners to a curriculum optimized to engage a single learner in a classroom of learners.
- Coding is the New Cursive: Computational thinking, concepts of computer science, algorithmic thinking — introduced very early in the curriculum so children learn to problem-solve with this conceptual framework.
- Entrepreneurial Thinking: A combination of creativity and innovation, problem solving, collaboration, teamwork, execution and other habits of the mind like passion, drive and resilience.
- Learning Analytics: New technologies that inform teachers on students’ learning, with new and different modes of assessments and evaluations. Big Data shapes the learning experience.
- Global Citizenship: Technology continues to shrink the world. Our young learners learn to interact with their global peers — learning cultural competencies, cross-cultural communications, compassion, tolerance and respect.
- Project Based Learning: An oldie but goodie. Integrated project based curricula, pumped up by new technologies. Student learning that is goal driven, with a learning experience that is addictive.
This is all very exciting. But one question preoccupies me: with this Renaissance in education transforming schools, will there be a Renaissance in teacher preparation?
By Alliant University Executive Dean Preetha Ram, Ph.D.