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Learning for the Future: Beyond the Textbook

Summer is good for many things: spending time with family, traveling, and for kids, taking a break from classes. But while students may take time off, their teachers are preparing for the upcoming school year—because learning never stops. And it never should. That brings us to my topic: learning beyond the current school system and the importance of developing skills for the future.

Margaret Spellings, a former Secretary of Education, recently published an article discussing the future of education, suggesting that 20 years from now, schools will have evolved into a “student-driven system with no grade levels.” Calling it “consumer-driven education,” Spellings envisions a time when instead of the current “fixed-price” menu, students and parents will be able to choose an education that best suits them.

The future of learning will be age and grade agnostic

This new paradigm of learning will be so personalized that every child will have an individualized learning pathway that is dynamic, informed by each of her learning interactions, and be competency-based, not age-based or grade-based. As a child achieves a deep understanding of subject matter, and can confidently demonstrate her competency (to both herself and others), she will be advanced to the next level. Assisted by the effective use of technology, she will get what she needs when she needs it.

As we know, blended learning is constantly evolving. Many recent ed-tech innovations, such as Intelligent Adaptive Learning™, have been developed to support student-centered learning. That means integrating technology into learning activities, both in and out of the classroom. Implementing blended learning environments in classrooms will give students access to the content they are ready for, and progression will be based on demonstrated mastery, not grade content. This is the foundation of Intelligent Adaptive Learning—recognizing that every student is at a different level of learning readiness, and that it can change from moment to moment. The important implication of this rapidly developing trend is that our roles as educators and responsible learning guardians are to cultivate the most suitable learning experience for each student. Many things in life can’t be rushed or forced, and learning is one of them. After all, learning should be active and not passive, competency-driven rather than pace-driven, and most importantly, enjoyable—all to help prepare students for the future.

A look into the future of work

Louis Pasteur said, “Fortune favors the prepared mind,” and this wisdom certainly still applies. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that students who are now in high school will have up to 14 different jobs by the time they are in their late 30s, and that 65 percent of children currently in elementary school will be working in occupations that haven’t yet been invented. There is also the strong possibility that work won’t be done in a traditional workplace at all; by 2020, over half of the workforce may be independent workers—consultants, freelancers, and independent contractors—creating their own work and careers.

Who will thrive in this type of environment? Individuals who think creatively, reason through problems, and are able to respond to fast-changing circumstances. In other words, the future is about being adaptive. Right now, enabled by combining advanced technologies such as Intelligent Adaptive Learning with the skills of learning guardians, we can help all learners to think deeply, exhibit curiosity as they tackle problems, develop fluency, and apply their knowledge to different situations. They will become confident learners as they build competence, and they will learn how to continually deepen and expand their skills so that they will be ready for whatever future awaits them.

Let’s work together to help prepare students’ minds and spirits so they can move with assurance into their lives—primed to meet their potential and achieve success.

Jessie Woolley-Wilson

Jessie Woolley-Wilson

Jessie Woolley-Wilson is President and CEO of DreamBox Learning®, Inc. Before joining DreamBox, Woolley-Wilson was President of Blackboard’s K–12 Group and President of LeapFrog SchoolHouse. She also held leadership positions at collegeboard.com, the interactive division of the College Board, and at Kaplan, the leading test preparation company in the U.S. She serves on the boards of several educational organizations including the International Association for K–12 Online Learning (iNACOL), Camelot Education, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Locally, she serves on the boards of Island Wood, an environmental learning center that connects children to the outdoors, and Seattle Venture Partners International. She has also served as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Technology and Education, and has presented at TEDx Rainier, SXSWedu, and DENT. Wooley-Wilson was awarded the 2015 Executive Excellence Award in the CEO of the Year category by Seattle Business magazine; she was on the Forbes “Impact 15″ list for being a disruptor of education; and she was honored as a “Woman of Influence” by Puget Sound Business Journal.
Jessie Woolley-Wilson

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