Five to ten years from now, what will university classrooms look like? Will there be textbooks? A professor? Will there even be a classroom? The Rogers Innovation Report released last week showed that 55% of Canadian youth believe that technology will transform education, and have an impact on all three. As for me? I would say that professors, books and classrooms will always have a role in education, however they need to evolve and adapt to our increasingly digital and connected world.
Books and Bytes
Textbooks and class notes are being digitized. They are becoming accessible through computers, tablets and smartphones, making content easier for students to purchase, access, and carry around. But it’s not just the convenience and lighter load that’s exciting…. it’s where all of this can take us
Digital textbooks will be used by students as the primary entry point for learning in an online universe. Much like today’s smartphone apps, digital textbooks will be highly interactive and touch-based. They will feature a web of hyperlinks and online resources that students will use to connect to the widest array of ‘curated’ content and subject matter expertise from sources around the world. The content will include fact, fiction, opinions and in some case misinformation. Students will ‘learn’ by figuring out how to navigate the world of data, critically evaluate and apply the information to the subject at hand. This will opens them up to a world of continuous learning. When the semester is finished, the textbook doesn’t just collect dust; it becomes a living reference.
The Connected Professor
What will the professor of the future look like? He or she will no longer just present and discuss the course content, but rather become the guide to deciphering and transforming the available content ‘live’ in the physical or virtual classroom. Professors will use a range of connected teaching tools such as interactive web applications, real-time data analytics, virtual reality and telepresence to bring course material to life. They will show students how to efficiently manage and critically evaluate data, and apply it to their subject matter. In some cases the professor will continue to be in the classroom providing human interaction in an online world. In other cases, professors will hold virtual classes, with students from across the country and around the world attending live webcasts and online discussions.
The Savvy Student
What about the students themselves? What does all of this mean for them? Students will take a more active part of the classroom, and be connected to the lesson in real time through their smartphone or tablet. Voting, commenting, sharing links real time in the classroom will be encouraged. The digitization of textbooks and course materials will mean that students will be able to collaborate more easily with their classmates using social networks. Students will be encouraged to share content online, through virtual study groups or discussion groups. These groups will be made up either of people in their class, or of people around the world who, they’ve discovered, share the same interest. Classmates will become resources, helping students ‘decipher’ the never-ending sources of data. They’ll remain ‘friends’ for on-going dialogue. Ultimately, students will need to find the right mix of ‘physical’ and ‘virtual’ education to meet their learning needs. While a medical student can learn the basics of anatomy in a virtual classroom, for example, he or she will still need a teaching hospital in order to engage with a real patient, using real human contact.
I believe that education’s role is to prepare us for the world in which we live. This is my vision for the classroom my 6-year old son, who is growing up in a connected, interactive and digital world, will come to know. If I’m right, it’ll keep the best of what we have now, while incorporating the best of what technology has to offer.
What do you think the classroom of the future will look like?
Robert Switzman is Rogers Futurist and Senior Director, Convergence. He is a regular contributor to RedBoard.