From Backpacks to JetpacksImage composite: Amos Morgan/Photodisc/Wavebreak Media LTD/Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock

Students and teachers predict technology’s impact on the future of education. See if you agree with their visions.

“So what do you think our classrooms will look like in 20 years?” he asked. As I turned around, a middle-aged, middle school educator stood before me, waiting for an answer to his simple, yet complex, question.

We had just finished a day of meetings focused on technology and 21st-century learning competencies in the classroom, but I found myself giving a very nontechnical, non-21st-century answer. I smiled and responded with the usual buzzwords: project-based learning, technology-rich, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and interactive.

As we continued discussing all the new and exciting changes going on in the education world, I found my mind wandering. I became fixated on the importance of his question and, more important, the lameness of my answer. When we finished speaking, I shook his hand and we parted ways. Later on, I found myself wondering, “How did a day of inspiring dialogue about 21st-century learning skills leave me unable to articulate a unique and thoughtful response about the future of my classroom?”

We are shaped by what we learn, touch, and see … and when given the proper tools, our dreams manifest themselves in the real world through skill building and creativity. — Kayla Briet

While I’m sure I have thought about this question many times before, I was shocked at the ambiguity in my answer. What will our classrooms look like? How will instruction change? In which virtual environments will my students engage?

I started asking anyone and everyone their opinion of the classrooms of the future. I found that while all of their ideas were clever, many of them weren’t that farfetched. My middle school and high school students’ responses ranged from “There probably won’t even be classrooms!” to “Hopefully we can just use our smartphones for everything,” to “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we learned in a big sort of open lounge, where learning was personalized to each student’s level and we used our netbooks to complete straightforward curriculum that is outlined down to the day?” My five-year-old niece had a slightly different perspective, exclaiming, “We should have jetpacks, not backpacks!” As I said, it’s not that farfetched.

Because I share a love for all things technological in the classroom, I was disappointed at first that I didn’t have a concrete answer to this question. But as I continue to ponder it, I realize that maybe asking the question is more important than having one definitive answer.

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