21 things that will be obsolete by 2020…or will they?

Johns Hopkins professor Shelly Blake-Plock recently wrote an essay listing 21 things (in school) that will be obsolete by 2020. Will they really? Of course there were many doubters, including me. But before we get to the doubts, let’s look at the list in a brief summary:

  1. desks
  2. language labs
  3. computers
  4. homework
  5. standardized tests (for college admissions)
  6. differentiated instruction (as a sign of a distinguished teacher)
  7. fear of Wikipedia
  8. paperbacks
  9. attendance officers
  10. lockers
  11. IT departments
  12. centralized institutions
  13. organization by grade
  14. education schools that fail to integrate technology
  15. paid outsourced professional development
  16. current curricular norms
  17. parent-teacher conference night
  18. typical cafeteria food
  19. outsourced graphic design and web design
  20. high school Algebra I
  21. paper

A provocative list, no?

Blake-Plock doesn’t just list these; he also provides a brief explanation of each, so go follow the link.

Now that you’re back, I have several comments. First of all, from my point of view at Weston High School, we already don’t have #9, 17, and 20, so that takes us down to 18 items. Some of those will probably still be around in eight years; others will indeed disappear. But the real question is what happens with the wide cultural and economic disparities among schools. Therein lies the majority of doubts expressed by other readers. Blake-Plock responds to these doubts in a thoughtful essay, from which I will quote two small passages:

Don’t let the reality of whatever condition your school might be in right now dictate what reality will look like in the future. Shape the future you want to see.

And your future doesn’t have to look like mine. My list isn’t some steadfast rule, it’s just a silly list of ideas. But I’m trying to do my part to make my silly list of idealistic ideas come true for the teachers I serve in Baltimore City. I’m trying to make it come true for the kids I serve at the little Catholic high school where you can find me most weekdays. I’m trying to make it come true for my own three kids who go to a public elementary school where classes meet in trailers, but nonetheless kids get to present work online. You’ve got to make your own list. You’ve got to make your own future. Do something impossible.

Yes, indeed. Or, as JFK is famous for saying in 1960, “We are not here to curse the darkness; we are here to light a candle.” Go do something impossible.

Categories: Teaching & Learning, Weston