Most of the students that we work with are between seven and twelve years from walking across the stage to receive their diploma from high school.
A generation ago, change often took a decade, and trends in music, fashion, and politics all phased in and out in these generous chunks of time, but the tempo of life has changed as technological advances have accelerated life to a point when decades worth of changes are now being compressed into a year or less.
This creates unique challenges for today’s school leaders as we try to wrestle our curricula into a shape that can meet the needs of individual children while being vibrant enough so the curricula don’t become an outdated document over the course of a year.
Here are some ideas about the next decade that may help leaders as they make future decisions about curriculum, instruction and assessment. Below are some of the terms, phrases, concepts, and skills that many of us teach today with no future except their links to the past.
10. How to use a mouse.
The domination of touch screen technologies are continuing to grow. My three year old touches every computer screen as though it has the same functions as the iPad. There is no use for a mouse in a touch screen world. The idea of plugging in a devise that has a cord connecting it to the computer to control the cursor on the screen will fade into history just like the corded remote control that worked the VCRs just a few years ago. There will be no high school seniors in 2020 using the term mouse except for when they need to feed their snakes or when reminiscing about their trips to Disney as a child.
9. The difference between bullying and cyberbullying.
Google the term cyberbullying, and there are over ten million results. Many of the results take you to valuable resources that can help schools nationwide reduce and eliminate the horrible effects of bullying. The key shift though is that bullying is bullying. It doesn’t matter if it is called road rage (car bullying), cyberbullying (computer bullying) or hazing (fraternity bullying), it is all bullying, and our job over the next decade is to take a stand that treating people in unkind ways is not acceptable in a collaborative, supportive society. Let’s not teach our elementary kids that there are different sets of rules of all of the different ways to be mean. Bullying is wrong, and it has horrible effects on people. Let’s call it what it is.
8. Memorizing MLA and APA styles requirements
Every teacher in the classroom today has probably written a paper that required them to wrestle with the finer points of the MLA or APA style guides. The specificity of the guides allow uniformity to the writing of people around the globe, but style guides clearly created a barrier to students actually writing excellent works in both quantity and quality. The need to memorize these styles is going the way of the typewriter and correction fluid. Today, there are open source programs and sites on the internet that provide an easier way to create bibliographies and cite sourced materials. As more and more knowledge level information (dictionary, encyclopedia, citation resources, etc) are available on-line, we can focus on key skills such as information literacy and how to choose excellent information from a sea of data and documents.
7. How to find basic reference materials in the library
The road to who and what has been shortened tremendously in an era of Google and Wikipedia. We no longer wander into the reference section of the library to open the World Book Encyclopedia or thumb through a dictionary. The growing volume of basic data that is available instantaneously is causing a rethinking of what the modern school library should be. There is a real excitement in many corners of learning about the possibilities of the new library where student learn how to be curators of information (to avoid information overload) and develop high levels of information literacy that allow them to filter information and understand its true value in relationship to other information. If these are the skills of the new library, we should avoid teaching these basic information search strategies that no longer apply.
6. Developing film, taking the perfect picture
Ask our students today about negatives, and the only frame of reference that they will have is about positive and negative numbers. The concept of negatives, as it refers to everyday photography and pictures, is a concept of the past. It is amazing to watch the smallest of children ask to see the picture that was just taken. The concept of waiting for the roll to be completed exposed, then taking the film to a drop-off location, so that it can be returned in a few days, so then the first look at the picture was possible is a photographic dance in history. Instead, children are handed digital cameras and asked to expose the world to life through their eyes, taking hundreds of picture, with the ideas that a few great ones will emerge from the many. We can now share images through places like Flickr, Picasa, or Facebook, and our new role as educators isn’t about teaching the process of taking the perfect picture or developing film, but it is about responsible uses of the images that we take and judging which photos reach the quality needed for posting or storing long-term.
5. The vocabulary terms land line and dial
No one has dialed a phone in a long time. We actually poke the phone. It is amazing how words have staying power well beyond their actually descriptive purpose. The phones with dials on them are almost impossible to find, and when recently trying to explain a phone with a dial, it was necessary to go to YouTube for a video of someone actually dialing the phone. The term “dialing” as it refers to making a phone call is just one of many example of how we continue to use or try to use old terms to describe new behaviors. As educators, it is important that we look for these past tense vocabulary concepts, and begin to empower our students with the new words that describe their collaborative global reality. On the horizon, there is another dying concept, and it is the idea of a landline. This is especially true in developing countries, but it would be a safe bet that our kindergartens of today will graduate with very few landlines in use.
4. The propaganda techniques used in thirty second television commercials
The use of propaganda, marketing, and persuasion are strong or stronger than they have ever been in our world, but the lens of the complex web of pulling and tugging on our pocketbooks is happening less and less through traditional television commercials. Have you ever tried to fast forward a show that you are watching live or been asked by a youngster to go past the commercial because they want to watch the next segment of their show much more than the next commercial? The thirty-second commercial is being replaced with incredible new ways to developing brand recognition and customer loyalty. It is essential to talk with young students about these things, but it is so important that we do so through a lens of the current reality of this field. Direct mail and thirty second television spots are growing into pieces of our history without much future. Currently the world of marketing is being flipped on its head, and by the time that our students’ graduate, the advertising world will be a brand new landscape.
3. How to read a paper map.
This one really hurts to write as one of the first things that I remember my father teaching me was how to use and read a map. These skills have helped me travel to the tops of mountains and on many a road trip, but the reality is that paper maps are slowly fading into history. As the density of GPS units increase in automobiles (can’t be long until it is a standard feature), there won’t be a need to pull out a map, lose track of how to roll it up, or lose the city of destination in a worn spot on the map. Both Smartphones (which are on the road to being just called phones) and GPS units will dominate, which means that the paper map is another of the great tools of learning that is in its geriatric years, and we as educators need to begin to teach the skills and knowledge of the new way to navigate.
2. How to place data onto a CD or DVD
For less than $5.99, I can store 4,000 1Mb pictures. The advent of flash memory has forever changed the volume of information that can be stored in the tiniest spaces. Even flash memory, in a race to the price point of free, is competing and losing to cloud computing. Computer users are given incredible amounts of free space to store documents, video, images, and more in a way that it can be accessed from any computer in the world in a matter of seconds. Teaching our students how to burn information to a CD or make a DVD is another set of dated efforts. We should be focused on explaining and using cloud computing for collaboration across communities, states, and the globe.
1. How to read the movie listings in the newspaper.
Newspapers have slowly been stripped of the practical purpose that they provided to individuals, and one great example of this is the movie listings. These wonderful tables of times and locations have provided many young students with the challenge of dissecting the numbers and comparing locations, but the newspaper has slowly lost the battle to the app store. There are hundreds of phones apps that give users a clean, easy to use method to find the closest and cheapest seats to their favorite new movie. Even without their phones, students are heading to sites like Fandango.com or Hollywood.com. No longer do we need to dig through a stack to find the section of the paper with those magical tables. Students graduating in ten years should be thinking about what areas of life aren’t covered in a saturated market of apps, and begin their quest to create the app that replaces the next thing in our life to go the way of the telegraph.
Throughout the writing of this article, I have been soliciting ideas from my ever-growing network of learning friends on Twitter. It has been an incredible experience to learn, grow, and stretch through the writing of this piece. One area of change that didn’t make the top ten, but really deserves some mention came from the blog of Michael Smith where he opines about cursive.
Read more about our honorable mention item that today’s students won’t need when they graduate from high school: cursive.