A lot Can Happen in Ten Years

Ten years ago in August 2001 I left Nanaimo School District to join Coquitlam School District as their manager of information services.  I remember the great disconnect between technology and learning that existed.  In our K-5 schools, there was a lot of “baby-sitting” in computer labs.  Students were often playing fun little games but not related to anything curricular.  Technology was used in other schools for specific subjects like business education, computer programming, drafting, etc.  Remember technology was fixed in place so schools had to pre-determine what it might be used for and program schedules and use around that.  Curiously, most of our schools did not curious lamb in springeven have network drops in classrooms or libraries.  I would say that 10 years ago, most technology in schools was programmed in specific subjects secondary schools, similar in some middle schools, and treated as a completely optional component at the elementary level.  Teachers for the most part did not use computers in general, for e-mail, or the Internet.  Students didn’t have their own technology and many didn’t have access at home.  If the network went down (local or Internet), it didn’t matter much.  Software was something expensive that came on a disk of some form and had to be installed by an expert.  Connecting to the network required knowledge of jumpers, ports, and other strange things.  Encyclopedias were still mainly a printed tomb of (out of date) knowledge. 

A lot has changed in 10 years…

  • there are LCD projectors, Smart Boards, laptops, tablets, online learning tools, web cams, video cameras, digital cameras
  • we use services and tools (mostly for free) that didn’t exist 10 years ago… Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Prezi, Sharepoint, Wikispace, Blogger, Wordpress, EduBlogs, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, iPod, Windows Phone
  • software comes from the Internet or an App store somewhere ‘in the cloud’
  • every learning space has pervasive wired or wireless access to the network
  • 1000’s of students bring their own technology to school, mostly in the form of hand-held mobile devices
  • nearly all teachers use technology in some form to support their practice
  • more and more, technology is not fixed in place or purpose – it is mobile and used to accomplish a variety of educational needs such as research, writing, media capture and editing, presenting, collaborating, communicating, etc.
  • if the network (including Internet) goes down, more often than not, learning halts

I wonder what the next 10 years might bring us…  Well, it is the year I will probably retire…  so, that’s something. 


Seriously though, what might learning and teaching look like, in 2021?  Let’s peer into the future a bit… Will students still come to school, a physical building, to learn?  Will ‘class size’ still be some iStock_000010628192XSmallfixed number or will the notion of class as we know it, still exist?  Will learning and teaching be inseparable from technology?  Might students be in blended classes: virtual and physical?  Will their classes cross country and continent boundaries?  Will student learning experiences look like what I described in Tyler’s Loving School in 2016 or Stephanie’s First Day of School in 2020.  Will classrooms be equipped with ‘learning windows’, interactive 2-way touch/touch-less video windows for connecting students virtually?

Here’s how I see things might unfold…

  • schools (buildings) are still important to bring students and their “teachers” together to learn face 2 face – I think it is inherently human for us to have physical contact – the physical layout and utility of the school spaces will evolve to support small and large groups, projects, problem solving, self-directed learning teams, etc.
  • teachers roles will evolve to one of coach, guide, and mentor from one who is the director of learning and imparter of knowledge
  • 3D immersive learning will be embedded for all students and teachers – all learning will be a blend of physical interactions and manipulations with full immersive virtual experiences and interactions – the lines will be blurred between reality and virtual reality
  • students and teachers will have access to all the knowledge available from anywhere all the time – immersive simulations will be standard tools for applying knowledge and honing skills – students can experience and put into practice everything they learn – learning comes to life (virtually) and fully engages the participants
  • paper is a rare tool for learning and teaching – digital forms of sustainable ‘paper’ have replaced the need for ‘real’ paper

The Sky's the LimitI could go on speculating but would rather hear from others.  What might you add to this list?  What aspects would you disagree with me about?  Have fun with this, pondering the future is not an exact science…


  1. This is available now Brian. You've aptly described how my students have been learning and thriving for a number of years. A thought re teachers though...

    "When a student's path to wisdom and enlightenment is defined by their teacher's footsteps,that teacher's humanity and experience becomes the limiting factor of that student's journey." GH

    I am talking about me of course. Frankly, when I take on the role of the mentor for my students, rather than a mentor, I limit them. My students do better when I assist and encourage them to find multiple mentors who will give them a truly "personalized learning" experience. This is the kind of life experience they will need be familiar with if we are ever to hope to produce innovative learners.

  2. @Gord: I think the challenge we have is to help others see the value and the possibilities of new ways of learning and teaching. It is hard for most people to change modes and methods. Teachers need time and support to let go, move into new roles, learn and use new environments for learning,etc. How does a large and and change resistant system like education accelerate this in a holistic way?

    Thanks for adding your thoughts!

  3. Yes, sigh...there is hope though. My move to Distance Learning compelled me to discover a better way to give feedback and develop an online relationship with my students. I wonder if the "paperless" mandate being pushed across the province may not have a similar effect.

    There is also your district, taking small but courageous steps towards change. Megan and Cory (Banting) are taking a lead that others are beginning to follow (Citadel). The training in Quest Atlantis is a sound start, and there is much more I can offer to keep the momentum building.

    We can call it serendipidy, or...but Heritage Christian Online School has seen the light. They've hired me away from the Public School System, and given me the support and freedom to pursue the vision. Could school districts have done the same? Yes of course. But I'm thinking superintendents are most likely hired for their management skills, rather than a willingness to risk career opportunities on following a vision for the future. Growth isn't the issue for them that it is for DL schools. And who is growing? Watch what happens over the next 3 years with HCOS!

    My last thread of hope is that the flexibility that I now have through an independent school system is allowing me to respond to many requests to train preservice teachers. I'm working with Lethbridge University next week, and the University of Calgary this fall. I've also been asked to speak at Vancouver Island University. So, while transforming education is being talked about by the BC government and schools of higher education, Alberta is pursuing it. I've no doubt we will be highing their new teachers in the years to come when their graduation rates begin to soar. It's unfortunate that this cannot seem to get off the ground here in BC, but the Ministry of Education here will eventually begin supporting this change when we are clearly falling behind.

    Change is coming Brian, largely because the kind of dialogue that you encourage will eventually make it all seem less unfamiliar and less threatening. Let me know if/how I can help.

  4. @Gord: I think that as online / virtual learning tools/environments become more straightforward and compelling for teachers, more will choose to engage. For sure early adopters like those in our District, lead the way but it takes a "movement" to shift the masses.

    So you've jumped ship to the private school system. I have mixed feelings about that move but wish you all the best there and expect to see amazing examples of what's possible in 3D virtual learning and expect the public educator in you to continue to freely share with colleagues!

    Looking forward to having you work with our team this fall for sure!

  5. Hey Brian, wish I was at the "Future" conference with you. Sounds great. But, no...haven't jumped ship really, just transferred someplace where I am being given the opportunity to progress as part of my job, not off the side of my desk. This will allow me to develop this area of immersive environments in education more deeply. I'm already getting a number of opportunities to participate in training pre-service teachers. Would not have been able to do that without walking away from my pension. :( Something wrong with that methinks, but that part is not under my control.

    And yes, I'm really looking forward to doing what I can to support a progressive district such as yours.


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