During an interview a few weeks ago, I was asked if I were to look at one segment of the publishing industry 10 years from now what would be my most radical forecast? It is a hard question because the rate of change in publishing is so rapid and all segments of the industry will see significant change in different ways over the next decade. Technology is fundamental and what often makes predictions like this difficult is to anticipate how technology can open new applications which are not immediately apparent on first exposure. For example, cameras on cell phones - have become widely used because they addressed a need in an unanticipated way.
Many people, myself included, thought that a camera on a cell phone was a worthless extravagance but because we never had access to this technology we couldn't understand where or under what circumstances it would be used. Now taken for granted, I take pictures with my phone all the time and soon I will be reading barcodes with it enabling me to access to product information as I browse through a store.
In publishing, social networking, wikis and blogs etc. will become the primary publishing platform for educational publishing. Currently, the environment is anarchic and it is hard to see how the formula heavy education market could leverage this technology to produce a better product. I think it is inevitable.
My answer to the question posed to me was that I envisioned an environment where there were no set textbooks, content or a curriculum for particular courses. Courses would have learning objectives both general and specific and the students would be required to obtain and/or demonstrate their understanding of the core material against these objectives. The student could obtain this knowledge and understanding via any means they wanted. In addition to demonstrating a mastery of the course objectives they would also have to justify the reference material and methodology they used to obtain their knowledge.
My comments are not unique and in a recent CNET interview, John Seely Brown (former chief scientist at PARC) suggested that,
"rather than treat pedagogy as the transfer of knowledge from teachers who are experts to students who are receptacles, educators should consider more hands-on and informal types of learning. These models are closer to an apprenticeship, a further-reaching, more multilayered approach than traditional formal education."He also discussed a number of current examples of collaborative/social learning including a site at Brown University that brings together experts on Boccaccio.
Educational content will still be vitally important in any futurist vision of learning and education but it will not be delivered or published in forms we are currently familiar with. In my view, it is the current publishing paradigm that is slowing the development of online/ elearning methods. Publishers publish traditional book products and most of what they do is dictated by the format of a print product which does not travel well in the online world. The tasks publishers support for scoping, editing, veracity, testing, etc. will gain in importance as some other (non-value add) functions are eliminated.
Teaching methods will also change as educators spend more time and effort on critical thinking, research techniques and collaboration/mediation. Flexible teaching methodologies will allow students to learn more effectively. For example, for a student that learns by doing perhaps simulations will feature more with this student versus the student that learns by reading.
Who knows if my idea is relevant but without a doubt change comes rapidly to the manner in which children are being taught. As this gathers steam the children themselves could have more influence on the methodology and the supporting material than the traditional school, academic, publisher triumvirate.