President's Corner

Fearless Forecasts on Learning, Geography and the Web


Ithink it was Yogi Berra who said, "It's tough to predict about anything, especially the future." Yet here we stand trying to predict what the schools for the new millennium will be.

In many ways, this is an arrogant exercise. Imagine, if you will, living in 999 A.D. and trying to predict the form of schooling that would be in place in 1999. Your predictions would likely be so wrong that today, they would be laughable.

So to avoid engaging in an exercise that is guaranteed to have no value, let me speculate and, yes, predict what American public education will be in 10 years. This is valuable because regardless of whether you agree with my predictions, you must have a set of predictions about the future. Without them, you would keep preparing for the present and tomorrow you would begin a steady slide into obsolescence.

My predictions are based on a judgment that we're so immersed in a time when technology is transforming everything that we do not realize the depth of the changes that are all around us. It is my prediction, therefore, that in approximately 10 years, American public education will be transformed in the following ways.


  • The enterprise will be Web-site based instead of building based.



  • The major delivery system will be a series of learning networks that students will enter in accordance with a plan established in collaboration with teachers. Those networks will allow students to interact over the Internet with others around the world in writing and also via experiences of virtual reality in which students in many different locations will see, talk and touch each other.



  • Students will still come to school buildings on intermittent schedules to consult with teachers, interact with peers and plan how to use the Internet at times from their own homes. School buildings, therefore, will be very different in design.



  • School systems no longer will be defined by geography. Instead, they will be based on new concepts of place that will spring from the digital age. The governance of these systems will differ radically from the present systems in that they will reflect reality as defined from a digital perspective.



  • All of our place-bound concepts will be redefined. Diversity, for example, will be considered as happening when different people share real learning experiences in the virtual world of the future and not only when they are all located in the same place.


    Persistence at Bat
    This technological transformation of schooling will give us the opportunity to make sure that:



  • All children reach higher standards of achievement than has ever happened before;



  • All children have a strong commitment to meeting their responsibilities as citizens in a democracy;



  • All children have a strong commitment to taking care of themselves and of others; and



  • No child's learning will be connected to how much money his or her parents make.


    All of this is wonderful, but we need to remember that technology will not automatically make schooling better. Technology will give us the opportunity to improve schooling. Whether that opportunity is realized will depend on the skill and courage we bring to the effort.

    Our success also will depend on how persistent we are, especially when it appears that we are getting nowhere. In those times when, in baseball parlance, it is the bottom of the ninth inning, we're behind, there are two outs and we have two strikes on us, we need to remember something else that Yogi said: "It ain't over until it's over."