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The education evolution

Education has remained the same for 300 years—and it’s about to change

Created date

August 21st, 2012

If you stepped into Ben Franklin s classroom, you might think that not much has changed over 300 years. Desks line up in rows facing a teacher at the front of the room. Textbooks lie open in front of each student. Pencils scratch notes on paper. But it is changing. The education experience is finally evolving to reach more people more efficiently and more effectively than ever before. Some say the education bubble is about to burst. With the help of technology, education costs and barriers are being lowered. And your grandchildren are right in the middle of this revolution.

Instant information

The number one change in education is an increase in the technology tools being used in the classroom, says Constance Weber, teacher, grandmother, and senior manager of Blackboard Consulting. Blackboard, Inc., an international education technology company, based in Washington, D.C., makes new technology available and usable to students, teachers, and administrators from K-12 and higher education to corporations, the military, and professional associations. We re seeing smart boards, iPads, and laptops compared to books, filmstrips, and movies that today s grandparents saw in school, Weber says. Although technology has always been present in the classroom, Weber says the main difference between yesterday s technology and today s is a demand for immediacy of information. Even a text book is outdated almost immediately, she says. We need digital materials that can be updated as things happen .More and more, we re seeing initiatives for every student to have a mobile device such as an iPad. Mobile devices and e-learning make education flexible and more available to more people. College enrollment and retention rates increase when students are presented with the opportunity for online and mobile learning. I taught at a community college in North Carolina, and we saw online learning help our students be successful in college, Weber says. Without e-learning, they were less likely to finish college due to work schedules, children, or other obligations.

Personalized learning

New technology not only makes information immediate, relevant, and accessible, it can help break down learning barriers. There seems to be more focus on individualized learning. Students have individualized needs and learning styles, and we need to be able to assess if students have actually learned the material, Weber says. Tools like pretests and self-directing, performance-based content help teachers assess learning in their students. Additionally, with new technology teachers are more able to present topics in a variety of ways, such as role-playing, video, and discussion through social media each addressing different learning styles. There s a great understanding that it s not one size fits all, Weber says. Social media is also playing a big part in education, but not in the form of Facebook and Twitter. Students like the separation between their social world and their education world, Weber says. The social tools being used in education are within products like Blackboard. Students use online spaces like blogs and wikis to share information. As an added bonus, it mimics what they ll see in the work world, Weber says.

Get involved in education

One major bonus to all this technology: grandparents can get involved anywhere, anytime. Products like Skype, an online video communication tool, allows grandparents to help with homework more easily than over the phone. I m seeing a lot of my friends use Skype in ways to interact with their grandchildren, Weber says. They like it because they can see their grandchildren and assist them with homework or even just watch TV together. In2Books (, an e-mentoring program, pairs volunteers with students. They read books which are discussed in class and then communicate via email about it with their volunteer mentor. It s very controlled and structured, says Weber, who participates in the program. Lots of grandparents are involved not with their own grandchild but as a volunteer mentor.

Want to learn more about the future of education?

ReadThe Innovative University Clayton Christensen, business professor at Harvard University, and Henry Eyring, advancement vice president at Brigham Young University - Idaho, explore the disruption of higher education in their bookThe Innovative University(Jossey-Bass, 2011). Were it not for state support and federal grants and loans, the typical university or college would be empty .Students are increasingly turning to online learning as a cost-effective, high-quality alternative, they say in a January 2012 interview with InnovativeManagement magazine. The Innovative Universityexplores causes for the industry s reshaping, what changes we should expect to see, how universities haven t lost their appeal, and how students will come out on top.