About fifteen years ago, I was asked by parents of a fourth grade girl what computer they should purchase that would last her through college.
Few parents ask questions like that today; instead, they want to know why their children aren't using etexts, if their children can use smart phones in school, and what digital devices, apps, online programs, and software their children are using now and will use in the next few years.
Although it's impossible to answer questions about which apps and programs your children's schools will use, it is important for parents to understand what seems to be coming down the pike because it may well affect your personal family technology purchases. My crystal ball tells me that you should expect that:
1. Schools will move to mobile devices, which means that schools will need robust wireless systems. Classrooms using mobile devices will put a variety of educational apps to use.
2. Even when a 1-1 ratio of students to mobile devices is achieved, computer labs will continue to provide centers for in-depth work on publications, programming, design, and media. The demise of the computer lab won't happen soon in most schools.
3. Much to the dismay of those who believe that all school textbooks are available for loading onto mobile devices, students will, at least in the near future, carry texts in backpacks. Today, there are few etexts ready for Grades K-12, although publishers and teachers are working hard to produce them. Some teachers have compiled their own etexts, but these teachers are usually in the minority in their schools. Eventually, etexts, packed with multimedia and a variety of options such as highlighting, linking, notetaking, etc. will be ready for mobile devices. Even so, some predict that schools will continue with a mixture of etexts and traditional texts for some time.
4. Schools will adopt curricular programs that are available online (in the Cloud, which simply means not on the school's network or computers). These may be programs that cover a unit, certain skills, or much more. Schools can put together a number of these programs for a course in order to complete the required content. Materials will be available both at home and at school, and within the programs, students will work at their own pace.
5. Schools will use social networking, smart phones, and a variety of other communications methods and technologies, along with 3D projectors and 3D printers.
6. Educators will rethink the role of teachers, especially considering the fact that students are able to access information anytime, anywhere.
7. Educators will make decisions about skills that are obsolete and new skills that need to be taught. As a result, some parts of traditional school courses will need revision.
8. Testing will gradually change to better assess how and what students are learning in the digital age.
9. Students will gradually become lifelong learners as they put technologies and Internet resources to work as their assistants in mastering new content and finding the information they need.
10. The speed at which technology is advancing in the midst of today's economic problems will make it difficult for schools to keep up in the tech realm. Providing digital devices and resources for all students and training teachers in new technologies and new methods of teaching will take both time and money-both of which may be elusive to many schools.
11. Families may more frequently be called on to provide digital devices from home and faster Internet access for their children at home as the burden of providing these shifts from school to home and the time spent on certain activities, like watching video or creating projects, is done more at home rather than at school.
12. It is going to continue to be important for parents to monitor how technology is being used at school, making sure that students are using technology for active and constructive learning, as well as for more passive information retrieval and presentation.