According to Sharon Cromwell in an article on Education World’s website from 1998, the school of the future… whatever that may be, will certainly “go electric with a capital E.” She features the conceptual ideas of Seashore Primary School, an imaginary school of the future created by the Education Department of Australia. At the imaginary Seashore school:
- all teachers and students have laptop computers.
- teachers check voicemail and return students’ calls on a special telephone system.
- students use telephones to find information or speak to experts in subject areas they are studying.
- all lessons are multidisciplinary.
- all students have individual learning plans created by teachers.
When looking back at their now ten-year old imagination, several of these visions seem solid to me. However, a few others seem quite odd, perhaps a relic of their time. The first one, concerning teachers and students all with laptop computers is pretty real. Many schools have taken this tack in the United States with great results. However, when planned and maintained poorly, many others have failed. Nonetheless, this vision was a solid one. The vision of a school where student learning becomes multidisciplinary and all student learning is facilitated by an individualized learning plan is also a lofty, but phenomenal goal for education. Fewer schools have succeeded in the quest of these ideals. A big detractor here would be the development of the overwhelming standards-based initiative known as No Child Left Behind, or NCLB. This initiative, instituted by the administration of George W. Bush, has wholesale raised accountability, all the while, doing little to support or sustain any creative or innovative multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning.
The other two visions of students and teachers relying on telephones and voicemail for interaction really show their age. As a teacher since 1991, I cannot remember a time when I could conceive of an educational future dominated by telephone usage by students and teachers.
The article finishes by highlighting an initiative presented by two people, including a Robert Clarke and education official, who runs a company offering the then Sony WebTV to schools. This company has changed hands several times since then and largely is a non-player in the world of educational technology.