21 Things that will be obsolete in education? Maybe..maybe not (Part I)

Shelly Blake-Plock (a musician/educator who is particularly interested in the expansion of paperless classrooms) came up with a list of twenty-one things that will be obsolete in education in 2020. Since his blog came out in 2009, his ideas have been bouncing around educational cyberspace and raised some interesting conversations.

Some I agree with, some will be interesting to see if it transpires, and a few I hold suspect, even as get deeper and deeper into education technology.

I am going to address a few of these per blog, but for a quick review, here is Blake-Plock’s discourse via Mindshift.

The first three I am focusing on today are desks, language labs, and computers.

Desks would naturally be easy as more and more teachers shift to tables or specialized rows. Yet one thing Blake-Plock does not appear to address is the need, at least at times, for structure within a classroom environment, especially in the beginning or in particularly tough moments.

I vary on group instruction in a classroom:  It has worked wonders for my students who are already reasonably disciplined and also have some focus towards college. However, I have had particular groups of students who have had a particularly hard time with learning in general, and providing an open environment, at least in the early going, can prove more challenges than this teacher is willing to handle after all these years.

Thus, I have a mostly traditional row approach (that is adaptable for my seniors) to keep the theme of organization and order in place. Collaboration is nice, but when even today’s grad students still express frustration at working in group dynamics because there are too many “slackers” in them, it becomes important to not just jump on the collaboration bandwagon without a plan and an alternative.

Language Labs? Easy. They did not work well, at least in my experiences, when they were popular. For my generation, a big headset was only cool if I had my favorite music playing through them. Today, the concept is just as stifling in an era of You Tube and the improved vocal quality of educational audio.

Computers. Blake-Plock means PC’s, and she is half correct, especially with the proliferation of tablets. Quite frankly, computers, at least within the classroom setting, have been a hit or miss proposition ever since the Apple IIe. Teachers either had them or they didn’t, never had enough of them, or had problems knowing how to use them or did not have enough software or quality hardware to make them effective.  However, Blake-Plock is highly exuberant about the next wave of handheld hardware…yet the biggest question is who is going to pay for it and how much will be available. The haves will continue to get all the new stuff, grants will piecemeal them in some settings, while others will be on the outside looking in as long as the current method of providing money for education exists.

It also leaves out one other issue that teachers bring up time and time again: Lack of resource, time, and training…one of the issues things that, based on current situations, will not be obsolete by 2020.