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In 2025, will we still be sending our kids to school?

By now, most of you have probably heard of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – courses by universities like MIT and Stanford that are available for free online. But what about Massive Open Online Kindergartens…

Will open educational resources affect all stages of education? Child computer image from www.shutterstock.com

By now, most of you have probably heard of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – courses by universities like MIT and Stanford that are available for free online.

But what about Massive Open Online Kindergartens (MOOKs)? Or Massive Open Online Primary Schools (MOOPS)?

MOOCs have seen a lot of hypothesising about the future of higher education and what it means for universities. But if these ideas about online and blended learning are taken to their logical conclusion, the impact of technology in education could extend beyond universities to every stage of education.

Development in a digital world

Today, customised educational technologies are available across developmental stages, from pre-natal to higher education. Children grow up with using technology nearly everyday.

A case in point is this viral Youtube video which shows a 12-month old baby successfully navigating an iPad while finding the same movements on a hard copy magazine don’t work – one is clearly more familiar than the other.

To give you a sense, let us briefly take you through the technology filled world of our respective progeny (a 5 year-old, and 9, 10 and 12 year-old children).

For these children, familiarity with the cause and effect of keyboard, mouse and screen was introduced at a very early age. Augmenting other developmentally appropriate activities like play group, books and parental engagement, were access to websites like ABC 4 Kids, Nick Jr and cBeebies.

In schools, educational websites such as Studyladder, BrainPOP, Mathletics and even Minecraft are part of their learning experience. Socialisation and group work is also encouraged by teachers as part of learning through online environments, school-based learning management systems and web-based social learning software. And ABC’s subscription only Reading Eggs and related work books has many kids on the cusp of commencing school already reading.

Desktop or laptop computing is but one element – these children are also proficient in smart phones and tablets, complete with a vast array of apps specifically targeted at childhood development. There’s apps for languages, maths, science, history, geography, art, and music. There’s even an app to help your child appreciate the night sky.

Bloomin’ apps even matches educational apps to Bloom’s taxonomy.

Digital natives

Our respective children in this example are not alone. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Australian Social Trends report in 2011 shows the extent of integration of technology into the lives of children.

The study states that in the 12 months prior to April 2009, the most popular use for the internet was educational activities. The vast majority (85%) of children who used the internet at home used it for educational purposes, up from 82% in 2006.

A tertiary student in 2020 is today’s super-connected 10 year-old primary school student.

Technology plays a large role in the neurocognitive development of today’s children, and will provide them with an array of life and education options that may include participation in higher education – fate, hard work and happenstance permitting.

A technological education

So where do massive open online tools and educational materials come in?

Perhaps funding and facilitation for a Massive Open Online Literacy Programs might reverse some of the disparities evident in language and literacy development.

At the other end of the schooling spectrum, a Massive Open Online Course for final year of school biology students could be developed to complement school-based curriculum.

From cradle to university, technology is present in childhood education and development. It can help children to develop literacy and numeracy. It can foster specific problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Much of this technology is already embedded in the classroom. Aside from the cost of maintaining functional computing and reasonable bandwidth internet connections, the massive online education experience can be achieved through open access approaches, for comparatively low cost.

At this point, policy priority for structured use of educational technology resides at the level of the school and the teacher. Technology is referred to in terms of a skill to be acquired, or as a cost driver for school funding.

The potential for educational technology as a disruptive force to the traditional models of schooling is absent.

Schools do, of course, function as more than a device for the sequential development of skills and knowledge, and social and emotional development is a critical component of their role. The state sanctioned compulsory nature of school means that even in the context of innovation and the digital economy, we still need to send our children to school.

However, as with MOOCs, the impact of digital technology and innovation legitimises questions about how the nature of schooling could, and should, adapt.

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9 Comments sorted by

  1. Sean Lamb

    Science Denier

    "In 2025, will we still be sending our kids to school? "
    No, not even if they are in Year 1 this year - unless, of course, they fail a year.

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  2. Sue Ieraci

    Public hospital clinician

    I am an advocate of MOLLUSCS - Mass Off-Line Laughing Units of School Kids Socialising.

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  3. Iain Wicking

    Director

    We should try and remind ourselves that although there is a digital world we will always live in a real physical world. Our subservience to the current digital model of interaction is causing many issues. This is because it is not aligned to the way we operate in our real and physical world. The reality is that the technological characteristics of the Internet in terms of easier communication and connection have created, at this point in time, an Internet experience which is highly fragmented and…

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  4. John Kerr

    IT Education

    As a teacher and principal for 35 years who also spent seven years introducing and promoting computer technology into schools I think I can see both sides of the coin. Technology can make a tremendous difference to education. It can provide a boost to education where opportunity before was scarce. Especially at the upper levels of high school there is tremendous scope to improve educational opportunity. Provided it is not used as a replacement for classroom education in primary school here is…

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    1. Iain Wicking

      Director

      In reply to John Kerr

      Your real experience in education mirrors what we are experiencing in other spheres. Many people seem to be trapped in a digital world that increasingly isolates and individualises them. It also assumes the only thing we want to do is consume 'stuff'. The Internet has enabled many of us to become good at wasting our own time

      As you comment the Internet has the potential if it is harnessed to underpin and enhance what we experience in the physical world - our communities for instance. Schools are integral to the well being of our communities and so is access to knowledge.

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  5. Lorna Jarrett

    PhD, science educator and science advocate

    I haven't enough experience of MOOCs (have any of us?) to comment on how well undergraduates cope in reality with a learning experience that is overwhelmingly online (and of course, for some of us, practical, real-life interactions e.g. with laboratory equipment are considered a vital part of learning) but I see a number of issues with the idea that the model could be applied to secondary, primary and even pre-school children.

    John and Iain make valid points about the importance of face to face…

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  6. Peter Farrell

    teaching-principal at at a small rural school

    I teach a multi-age classroom in a small rural school. We use Mathletics in my school. The children tackle course content at their own pace at home and during class time. Some students work on grade-appropriate material while others may be extended by working above their grade contrasting with other students being supported by lower grade content. Mathletics is not the only thing we use to learn maths but it is an important component because it delivers appropriate content. My task is to support…

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  7. Ron Chinchen
    Ron Chinchen is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

    I often say to young adults I meet and discuss education, that just as reading and writing have been essentials in education for millennia, so computer skills and access to the web are becoming similar essentials to children today. A child without a computer and access to information on the web is becoming increasingly deprived and restricted in their education. No longer is researching at libraries the fundamental it was in the past when one can now access that information instantly on the net…

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    1. Peter Farrell

      teaching-principal at at a small rural school

      In reply to Ron Chinchen

      I think there are Six Rs:
      Reading,
      Writing,
      'rithmatic,
      Researching,
      Retelling, and
      Reasoning.

      The last two definitely work better when done with others!

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