Thursday, September 16, 2010

Stephanie’s First Day of School in 2020

imageIt’s Tuesday, Sep. 8, 2020, the first day in the new school year and Stephanie is excited.  Being 11 years old and having demonstrated leadership skills in her learning portfolio last year, she knows that she gets to take on more leadership roles with her peers and the younger kids.

Stephanie is already waiting in her mom’s car eager to get to school.  She’s already tapped into her Communicator to update her status and check with her friends to see where they’ll meet-up.  Her mom finally gets in.  They have one of those new 2020 solar powered Hyundai Genesis coupes with the onboard self-drive navigation system.  Her mom asks her car to take them to Stephanie’s school and they’re off, the car driving itself in constant communication with the intelligent road system while Stephanie and her mom talk about the day.

Arriving at the school 10 minutes later, Stephanie seeing her friends Jordon, Blake, Sophie, and Raj, jumps out and runs up to the entrance to join them.  They talk excitedly for a few minutes, each hearing the other in their native language thanks to their Communicators (these kids come from different home language groups). As they file into the building, a friendly artificial voice says good morning to them by first name and in their own language.  The kids file off to the learning commons for orientation.

In the learning commons, the 500 or so kids of all ages don their virtual learning (VL) visors to join in with their principal and their learning guides (aka teachers) for orientation.  The students are taken on a journey through the school to familiarize them with the learning spaces, safety features, etc.  Stephanie’s school has many learning spaces in a variety of shapes, sizes, and purposes.  She will spend time in large group settings, small teams, and on her own as she is guided through the curriculum.  During orientation she and her friends get to walk into (virtually) each space and hear about and see what the spaces are for, the safety features, the tools and resources available to them.  Each learning space has fully interactive multi-touch and no-touch walls and tables for students to interact with 3D experiential learning.  They are also able to link up with students around the world to experience their culture, history, and to learn math, science, history, languages, art, music, and sports together.

As part of orientation, the students are introduced to student conduct and privacy requirements both for physical and virtual interactions.  Using the VL system, they experience the student conduct and privacy issues to support their understanding and agreement.  Some of the older students then lead the others through scenarios for how the VL system is used to support their learning.  Students will be able to choose to engage in their learning through physical interactions with each other and their guides (teachers) while the VL system is always available to experience learning in ways not possible, not affordable, or that are unsafe in the physical world.  All learning resources are available digitally all the time.  Every student has a VL visor, a Communicator, and access to digital interactive displays in all learning spaces and from outside the school at home or wherever they choose to learn.

To quickly reenergize the students’ brains for learning after their summer break, the students join various age groupings with an older student who will be their guide for this session.  They then engage in some reflective experiential learning together.  Stephanie’s group, about 20 kids aged 9 to 13, review their understanding of mathematics by exploring the harmonics of guitar strings.  Students are able to join other groups as they progress through various subjects or disciplines.  All learning is designed to be interdisciplinary, inter-age-grouped, and grounded in both theory and application, and experiential.  Students have significant choice over how they learn and demonstrate their learning.  Students with disabilities are completely freed by the VL system from their constraints.  In the virtual learning spaces, these students are not disadvantaged in any way as the VL system supports their full immersive learning experiences without the boundaries of their physical world.
Over the past decade (since 2010) there has been much debate about online learning and whether physical schools will exist in the future.  Most thought leaders have concluded that physical school remains vital to a successful education but their design and layout has changed significantly to support a grade-less organization with experts - teachers as guides, coaches, and mentors - along with their students.  As well, the best of home- and un-schooling are fully incorporated.  The school campus is a support system and home base for learners and their guides (teachers, parents, community members).  But, students are not required to physically be in school on a rigid schedule.  They learn at home, on family vacation, and at their physical school.  Virtual Learning is seamlessly available to connect students to each other, to their learning guides, to experiential learning, to content, and to other mentors and learners around the world.
Stephanie ends her 1st day back at school with her friends in the Starbucks attached to the learning commons.  Over a cold nutritional fruity drink, the kids talk excitably about the coming days and months where they will learn and experience new things.  They plan to do this in person, virtually, together, and apart, during the days, nights, and weekends as they begin to co-design their learning journey together with their teacher guides.