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How Technology And Coronavirus Will Change Teaching by 2025

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Back in 2015, Elliot Soloway and Cathie Norris made some predictions about what education technology would appear as if in 2020. Soloway and Norris have long worked as a team to research ed tech and help districts put it into practice. In early March, Education Week trapped with them by phone once they were in Paris to talk at an ed-tech conference. We asked them how their 2015 predictions had fared. Then, we talked again in late April, when the coronavirus had suddenly transformed K-12 education into a huge remote learning system.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

In 2015, you two predicted that by 2020, hardware, software, and network technologies would mature such a lot that ed tech’s “Holy Grail”–a mobile computer for each child 24/7 would be realized. You were so confident that you simply said: “We guarantee you'll take this to the bank.” Can we attend the bank now?

SOLOWAY: [laughing] We were wrong. We were too optimistic about a number of our predictions, and in others, we were spot-on. The hardware has been reduced in price, so almost 70 per cent of youngsters from the age of 12 have a smartphone in their hands. But schools aren’t typically permitting students to use their smartphones during school, and only about 50 per cent of U.S. classrooms are 1-to-1 desktops, laptops, etc. On the software, though, we were spot-on.

You predicted that developers would create apps that are truly device-agnostic. Did that happen?

SOLOWAY: That prediction is just about spot-on. We are moving from native apps to web-based apps, which means those apps are device-agnostic, so an iPad or Android or Chromebook can use all an equivalent software. The [bring-your-own device] strategy is now far more viable than it had been in 2015. In 2015, HTML 5 was adopted by the planet Wide Web Consortium. That enabled the event of device-agnostic software. Now, it’s a real web- and browser-based apps that are driving ed-tech.

NORRIS: An example of that's Kahoot!. Teachers use that no matter whether or not they have desktops or laptops, Chromebooks; they will use Kahoot! on any, because it’s web-based.

Five years ago, you said that albeit kids have 24/7 access to mobile tech, they wouldn’t fully realize its benefits unless instruction changed pretty dramatically, from the dominant mode of direct instruction to a project- or inquiry-based approach. Have we made any progress?

NORRIS: we've made some progress there. But the predominant mode of teaching, even now, remains direct instruction. The opportunities are incredible immediately due to technology. But if we’ve learned nothing else within the last 20 years, it’s that the curriculum is missing. Teachers aren’t given curriculum materials that support these different pedagogical methodologies. to place that burden on teachers, to require this curriculum and make it into projects or think of projects, is unrealistic.

You also predicted that ed-tech would be fully “collabrified” allowing students to figure at an equivalent time, within the same app, on different devices and in several places. Are we living therein fully collabrified world yet?

NORRIS: We aren't. For an equivalent reason! Curriculum! Collaboration isn't a simple thing to try to, but if you give teachers lessons that are designed to be collaborative, then they're going to have the scholars roll in the hay.

What about the technical capacity to collaborate, though? is that the technology there to permit a totally “collabrified” world if teachers had the support of an excellent curriculum?

SOLOWAY: the reality is, we were wrong that prediction. The demand was missing. If the teachers had a curriculum that required kids to collaborate, then teachers would demand that the software does it and would put pressure on software developers to develop that functionality. But the curriculum doesn’t demand it, and thus, software developers aren't including real collabrification in their software.

NORRIS: You’ve needed to give teachers more help than simply saying, “The technology can do that .” Teachers say, “The computer can roll in the hay, but how do I do it?”

SOLOWAY: As a techie, I think if you build it, they're going to come. I'm very wrong. [laughing] But we are looking forward to the subsequent five years.


SOLOWAY: We believe the Wiki model and therefore the open-education-resource model: you create the materials open and available, with free curriculum, and teachers will use it. But it needs to be a year’s worth of curriculum. It needs to be well-defined, vetted, and aligned. We believe that teachers will use these digital resources once they see it as real curricula.

NORRIS: that's the goal we’re performing on. Last year, we started the middle for Digital Curricula, with funding from the school of engineering at the University of Michigan. We’re building a totally digital open curriculum. Teachers are liberal to make any changes they need.

SOLOWAY: For the last six months, we’ve had a pilot program thereon, with 12 teachers and about 600 students in grades 3-5. They’re using science, math, social studies, and ELA materials, all-digital, all collabrified, free and open.

Are those materials available, whilst you pilot them?

SOLOWAY: maths and social studies are freely available. The science, almost yet.

How will coronavirus school building shutdowns transform ed-tech between now and 2025?

SOLOWAY: Digital transformation is being accelerated. Technology and 1-to-1 [computing] are going to be available faster because schools are seeing the necessity for it. They’re going out and buying equipment for the have-nots, which may be a wonderful thing. But there’s still a tension between paper and technology, and paper remains winning.

NORRIS: Teachers are inundated because most are making their stuff available for free of charge, and they’re trying it. But they’re quickly getting discouraged.

SOLOWAY: The ed-tech tools feel overwhelming because it’s “ed-tech first.” The obstacle has been the wedding of curriculum and tech, delivered during a way that's accessible.

So how will this overload sort itself out?

SOLOWAY: immediately, every [online tool] has its own ecology, its own sign-in. of these companies do their own thing, not twiddling with one another. I feel most of those tools will getaway, and a few will find out the way to integrate and aggregate the varied pieces to form access easy, and people are the few tools which will remain, and that’s what schools will buy.
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