The Future of Education


I've spent a lot of time looking at how technology might empower teachers and learners by enabling innovation using the new smart technologies around us, as chair of the Whitehall based Education Technology Action Group - set up to steer English education policy, at the request of ministers in London. We had the opportunity to begin by being clear about just what the future of education, by 2025, looked like. We wanted to offer some certainty about where the world might be going with Learning.

We thought that our certainty could guide ministers, principals, parents, governing bodies, students, families, companies and everyone. We left out the crazier predictions, but immersed ourselves in white papers, other policy documents worldwide, tech futures briefs and of course our own collective long years of experience. We reached some gentle, but very confident, conclusions, we then used to suggest policy directions ourselves

We produced this helpful graphic as our starting point for where education would be by 2025, or could be by 2020!. Globally, the graphic has gone a bit viral!

graphic by Bryan Mather, ETAG member

It is a very helpful graphic, but its three sections deserve a little unpacking for colleagues.

Firstly, it suggests that learning is going more global, more on-line. Some of that is signalled by changes we see in global educational comparisons. For example, from 2018 Pisa will be revisiting "literacy", to include such capabilities as "recognising credible websites and online documents", or requiring "students’ awareness of the interconnected global world we live and work in” to show who have the best performing education systems. Some of that global connectedness also comes from changes in the skill sets needed for employment in this connected, and complex, world. In schools this means establishing a habit of shared learning with others elsewhere - a great opportunity to use learning platforms between schools, or perhaps further afield to enjoy regular "Mystery Skype" chats ( around the world.

The second key direction is simply to be aware of the progress as we discover so much more about learning, from the ideal physical / environmental conditions, to new ways of measuring performance, wellbeing, collegiality and more. As an example we are only now starting to quantify the damaging impact of rooms that have too much CO2, or are too warm, or not light enough, on things like high stakes test scores. Having visited over 50 examination spaces in the last 6 months it is amazing that every single one was damaging, in some of many ways, to the performance of the children in them. Look out for more details of this in our LP+ ADOPT professional development areas.

The third zone in the graphic highlights the sense of the individual, the learner, having more autonomy - we have seen this as schools have moved from providing everything (the school laptop / netbook, tablet), to embracing the students' own equipment (Bring Your Own Device BYOD) including smart phones, watches and more. We have seen how a move from "lock and block" has given way to "embrace and assure" as schools share the effective protocols for use. I don't think I've seen anywhere a class set of mobile phones, but I have seen in many countries, from Estonia to Denmark, a wipespread expectation that students will bring them, and use them in curriculum activities. But this section of the graphic also anticipated the same personal autonomy extending to data as our learners capture and compare more and more of the data about their own learning. In health a decade ago we would visit the doctor who held our health records and would tell us what they revealed ("I'm afraid I have some bad news...") but today many people go along for an opinion having detailed understandings of their own health data - from BMI to PSA. And they have personal devices to monitor hearts and more. A result has been better health for many. Education will follow this pathway too.

For schools simply knowing, with certainty, that this is where we are going is hugely helpful. Looking for collaboration on-line, looking harder at professional development to make learning better as new understandings emerge, and seeing our children's personal data and devices as important, helps us to make decisions today, that set us on the right path to tomorrow.

We recently held an event at Teddington School in Richmond, where we discussed the future of education in more detail with Professor Stephen Heppell. Follow us on Twitter for more updates on topics surrounding education, as well as news on up and coming events.