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Weigh In: What will be the biggest innovation in the next seven years?

Themed high schools, the rise of technology, and more.

Gamification
Mark Stock. “I’m waiting for the industry to develop Core-specific software that would allow students to have interactive experiences with regard to specific course outcomes,” says Stock, superintendent at Laramie County School District 1 in Wyoming.

“I’ve been part of some think tanks that looked at this. Because schools are so segmented in time blocks and certain kinds of units and outcomes, they haven’t figured out how to take this creative gaming software environment and make it applicable to students.

“Companies developing social studies software ran experiments where one group of kids received traditional lecture instruction and the others played Civil War software games. At the end, they found that the kids who did the gaming scored higher. They spent more time playing and a lot more time interacting with materials because it was engaging.

“Students will be in an asynchronous environment doing these simulations. It changes not only the timing of when education happens but also the role of the educator. Teachers will need to facilitate learning more and lecture less.”

Fortune 500 High
Cedrick Gray. “The biggest innovation in the next seven years will be theme-specific high schools,” says Gray, superintendent at Jackson Public School District in Mississippi.

“Industries are saying over and over, ‘We don’t have the skilled workforce. Let us inside the doors of high schools to help tool the curriculum. Let some of our professionals come and be on staff and teach some of the ­classes so that when students leave high school, they can walk right into the doors of our industry and work.’

“It will obliterate the dropout rate. Students who have some goals in mind, even as early as eighth grade, will be more interested in coming to school, and they will also have an opportunity for hands-on learning.

“In a lot of ways, it’s going to loosen the belt financially for public schools because the industries will make an investment in the schools. Some of the Fortune 500 companies may say, ‘Let me build the school, pay for the curriculum, train the teachers.’ It’s a win-win. Our society overall can benefit.”

Digital Data
Tim Taylor. “It’s really a combination of things—digital data and the impact of improved instructional strategies,” says Taylor, superintendent at Ames Community School District in Iowa.

“States are going to start to leverage cell towers so that data will be available to all kids. It comes back to the Common Core and the idea of teachers not doing all the work for kids.

“The information is there. We need to teach students how to find it for themselves and answer some really key questions, such as ‘What did you find out?’ and ‘What is the impact of what you found out after you reflected upon it?’

“This approach will allow or force kids into higher levels of metacognition and creativity. They will take information, reflect on it, and not only apply it but use it to create. If we can change the way we teach so that we can push kids to those levels, it’s going to be fabulous.”

Deeper Understanding
Jack Dale. “We’ll see a shift from seat-time accountability to competency-based accountability,” says Dale, superintendent at Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools . “Students won’t be judged on how long they sit in the classroom or how many school days there are, but on how much they know and what they can do with what they know.

“The shift in the classroom is going to be tremendous. It will try to monitor what kids know when they first walk in the classroom, then what kind of value-add you can give them.

“It will also drive much more individualized instruction. As kids get older, they want to begin to specialize in different kinds of learning—what their passion is—not unlike what we do at the college level.

“I think the first breakthrough will probably come at the high school level. It’s not going to be regurgitation of content. It’s going to be applying content to new situations. That will be the next level of deeper understanding.”

Higher Learning
Chris Richardson. “The most significant change we’re going to see is the transformation of education through the use of technology,” says Richardson, superintendent at Northfield Public Schools in Minnesota. “Technology has the ability to empower students to think in a more powerful and higher-order way.

“It will be a very different situation than what we’ve had for the last 200 years. We have the opportunity to move to a much higher degree of individualized instruction, where the applications will enable a good teacher to customize lessons. Knowledge can be drawn from a number of sources, and the teacher becomes the person who makes sure that students understand concepts and can demonstrate them in a way that says meaningful learning has occurred.

“The reality is, this is on a five- to 10-year track. If we’re looking at 21st-century skills in terms of critical and creative thinking, the technology that’s going to be available will allow those skills to blossom in kids.”   

—Summer 2013—

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