Dave Baldwin, a local futurist, is observing trends and changes in America’s 120-year-old educational system.
Because the world and its knowledge are essentially at the fingertips of everyone with a smartphone, tablet or computer with internet access, Baldwin said students eventually may not need classrooms to learn information.
“We’re so grounded in the methods- and facilities-based educational system we used 100 years ago. It doesn’t account for advances in technology and everything we’ve learned about learning and we haven’t changed our system to accommodate that,” Baldwin said. “We’ve been working on a scarcity model. Teachers, k-12 school system, universities have predetermined packaged levels of content (information).
“Somehow you must make sense of what I give you to what you want and (need to know).”
There are schools already changing from using the scarcity model of passing information from teacher to student to an abundance model with students having multiple access points to information and a say in deciding what they want and need to learn.
In past decades the subject matter was taught in the classroom and then additional work and drills were given as homework, he said.
The flip now is with videos on the internet, students are asked to go watch and learn the lesson content using videos on educational websites such as Kahn Academy and discuss the videos with an instructor the next day. This allows the teacher more time for individual attention to students needing help with the lesson they learned at home.
The deeper thinking and learning involved in the flipped classroom model, is proving to have stronger results than traditional models.
Students in Austin, Texas’ Action Academy who have used a student-centered and flipped-classroom model are about four grade levels ahead of where students in their age group stand, Baldwin said.
“When the kids are responsible for their own learning, they’re excited. They don’t want to see school to end because it’s not work; it’s like play. It’s what they want to do.
“It’s changing what happens during the day and lets the kids do the lesson that we used to call the school day on their time at night and now come back and let’s make sense of it. Integrate it to what you want to learn today.”
But Baldwin sees signs beyond a simple flip in education models.
Technology, specifically smartphones and other mobile devices, allows consumers at all educational levels to “make the world the classroom,” he said.
“It makes the use of the school building different. It becomes a convenient place to come talk about things,” Baldwin said. “But the learning happens out in the world.
“Who becomes my resource? These kids (can) begin to work in teams, do research, but they also can work with other schools around the world. Because we can. We can, in real-time communicate; ask questions, we can collaborate. Now kids can do this with each other and say, ‘What are you observing of the earthquakes in Japan?’”
Baldwin said some may think that moving learning outside the schools could be a threat. But he sees it as a potential opportunity to augment a child’s learning experience.
“If we are open to rethinking what it is we want students to know and actively hold them responsible for learning, we would want them to have access to the world’s information and opportunities and would see the four walls of the school as limiting a child’s experience,” Baldwin said.
“Major changes are ahead in education from kindergarten through higher education, and will require a new focus on lifelong and continuous learning from many new sources — not just schools.”