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9+ Things That will disappear in our lifetime

February 7, 2012

These are my thoughts on Doug Johnson’s blog post 9+ Things That will disappear in our lifetime.

You should go and read that first – it’ll take less than 10 minutes and I think you’ll find yourself agreeing.

The first 9 points are not about education and are forwarded to Doug by Ian Jukes. I’ll add my comments to each one quickly:
  1. The Post Office. Yes I agree. Some other company will probably take over sooner or later.
  2. The Cheque. Yes, almost already gone aren’t they?
  3. The Newspaper. Yes. I don’t read them. Any news I need/want I get from the internet.
  4. The Book. I can see this happening. I don’t have a Kindle or the like myself and I do like books but still – the cost and use of trees implications alone probably means books are doomed.
  5. The Land Line Telephone. Yes. Mobile phones seem to do the job just as well.
  6. Music. Not sure about this one. I can’t see that people are not going to make music any more. I may have missed the point slightly and perhaps this is more about the music industry as it stands.
  7. Television. Yep. I expect this will all be through the internet in some way before too long.
  8. and 9. I’ll leave these two for now.

Now, Doug has gone on to list some things he believes will die out from education in our lifetime and some of these struck significant chords with me. Again, these are my comments on his ideas:

  1. Book-only libraries and librarians. I absolutely agree. Librarians will need to become the experts at search for and finding information on the internet. As a test, approximately what proportion of the books in your school’s library do you think have actually been used in the last 5 years? I’d estimate around 25% but significantly less than half.
  2. Textbooks. Ever since I’ve been teaching, no text books has covered all the topics I want (need) to teach in the way I’d like to cover them. We can’t be that far away from me being able to select those chapters that I like from several different textbooks and collating them into one digital textbook for my students to use. Apart from the improvement in the quality of the resources I’d be using, just imagine the additional interactivity a digital textbook allows that printed ones don’t.
  3. Paper tests, worksheets, study guides, and student essays. Paper report cards, school newsletters, and student handbooks. In my school, newsletters are no longer printed and report cards are digital. Tests might take more time but I can’t see why they shouldn’t be digital. In maths tests, we still check if our students can bisect an angle given a ruler and a pair of compasses and while there is a neatness to this I’d be very surprised if anyone does this in reality. Even if we considering this to be a sufficiently interesting aspect of maths to teach anyway for its mathematical interest then why do we need to test it anyway?
  4. Classrooms comprised of age groupings. This would certainly be a brave move and would take some careful management but Sir Ken Robinson talks about this in his TED Talk here  or youtube version here. I like Ken’s point along the lines of “Is the most important factor when deciding how to group students really their date of manufacture?” If you believe students should be taught in ability groups, that’s fine: I know some year 7s who are the same ability as some year 11s. If you believe that students should be taught in mixed ability, then again, why limit that to mixed ability ‘within their age group’? I’m well aware of the social implications that would be involved and I don’t have quick answers to any of them but some schools are already moving to mixed age tutor groups. That significant change is already happening.
  5. Closed wireless networks and prohibition of student-owned devices in the classroom. Yep. It wouldn’t be easy in the first steps but why not allow students more freedom and teach them proper safety and sense? As for BYOD, I know there are social issues involved again but smart phones will continue to get cheaper.
  6. Technology-clueless, content-expert only teachers. It’s no longer enough to be a walking book of knowledge about your subject. That’s what the internet is (without the walking bit – obviously (yet)).
  7. Norm-referenced/summative testing. This one really hit home. What is the point in telling a student that they are an E grade (rather than an F or D grade) when there are no jobs and no access to further education without a C? In a similar vein, what is really the difference between having a C grade or a B grade? or a B grade vs and A grade? Grades just can’t be that important and I think that things like the PLTS (Personalised Learning and Thinking Skills) are much more in line with what is needed and some other way of assessing skills/abilities is the way forward.
  8. Computer labs. Yes. Some primary schools have laptop trolleys already. Many schools are trying out iPads and Kindles. Some schools allow their students to use their mobile devices to read QR codes in lessons and access youtube. Again, this is just a matter of time.
  9. F2F parent teacher conferences. Again, since I started teaching, I’ve never been fully happy with the process of parents’ evenings. I’m enjoy getting the chance to meet and talk to parents and there are many valuable conversations that have been had. Others are less useful and in reality, is one 5 minute block, once a year really enough time to discuss a students’ progress? While I’m not sure how it would work logistically, I can certainly see a time when parents’ evening are online via webcam.

So, there we have it. One of my longer posts but it was sparked off by Doug’s great article in the first place. Have a look at the list again and see which ones you think are definitely going to happen and which you think might hang around for a long time to come.
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One Comment
  1. Doug Johnson permalink

    Thanks, Dave, for this thoughtful response. I added a link to it from the comments section of the original post.Doug

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