November 3, 2012

Education: A 2020 Outlook

Filed under: Uncategorized — by kschreckengost @ 7:30 am

This week, I am about to complete an online graduate course that I enrolled in to enhance my skills as a private tutor and speech-language pathologist. The title of the course, “Building Online Collaborative Environments Online” by PLS, was created to help “classroom teachers harness the power of online technologies like blogs, podcasts, and wikis for student engagement and learning” (Performance Learning Systems, 2012).

As many of you are aware, I currently practice as a private SLP and a private tutor in Pennsylvania. I graduated with my M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology in 2002. I went on to work as a speech-language pathologist in a large public school district in Western Pennsylvania until 2004, when I celebrated the birth of my second child. It was at that time that I decided that staying at home with my children was where I wanted to be. I resigned from my position that year.

In 2007, it was time to decide whether or not I wanted to enroll my eldest son in Kindergarten in the public school system. I was torn. I was educated in the public school system and although I excelled in terms of academics, I couldn’t help but remember how much I felt that I lacked and how much I had to teach myself in order to compensate when I began college. I didn’t want that for my son.

I was also unhappy with the face of education when I left my teaching position in 2004. I knew first hand that many teachers were being overwhelmed with mandates and testing requirements that were not aimed at the best interests of the child. The amount of paperwork that I was required to complete in the area of Special Education left very little time for me to focus on the specialized needs of each child. I felt more like a worker on the production line, going through the same motions every day just to make quota, or in educational terms, meet standards. What happened to the ability to meet each student’s individual needs?

After many long hours of thought, my husband and I decided that homeschooling should be considered. But how was this to be handled? I researched and researched. Would I be making the right decision if I homeschooled? Homeschooling came with a stigma. It was labeled as odd and unordinary. I had little support from fellow educators.

So in the fall of 2007, I decided to try a blended approach. I enrolled my son in an online private academy. I liked the fact that each day had dedicated coursework to be completed, but at my own discretion and time. I would also have my son at home to teach in case I felt any of the areas were lacking. Unfortunately, they did end up lacking. I felt that for the price that I was paying, the curriculum was not sufficient. I was spending too much time compensating for the online curriculum’s weaknesses.

That same spring, as I completed my son’s Kindergarten year, I attended my first homeschooling conference held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show & Expo Center in Harrisburg, PA. It was there that my eyes were opened. I was not alone. There were HUNDREDS of families just like me taking the same plunge. I knew that even though I was not seasoned yet, I could homeschool. It would take a lot of preparation and work, but I could do it. And I did. And I still am-five years later, now with the addition of four of my other five children enrolled under the Private Tutor Law of Pennsylvania.

I’m sure that many of you are wondering, where am I going with this? How am I going to tie this into my title, “Education: A 2020 Outlook?” Well, I believe that I am experiencing one of the great shifts in modern education. My eldest son will graduate in the year 2020. He will be one of the many students who has been taught outside of the “traditional” physical classroom walls and he will have extensive knowledge of Web 2.0 technologies and beyond. Without the web and online coursework, I would be unable to help my children make the connections that they so easily have. The current web is now extremely interactive. It is not just read/write anymore. It is “collaborative” as the title to my course states. It brings people together with few limitations or boundaries. It helps us learn from others’ experiences and lets us share information for the greater knowledge of a group.

Web 2.0 technologies, such as Wikipedia, have shown us that knowledge can now be easily created by anyone and shared throughout the online world. Programs like Skype have allowed people to interact face to face regardless of where they are at. I know a few homeschoolers who have used Skype technology to communicate with other homeschoolers and teachers from across the globe. Other web technologies, such as blogs and RSS feeds, play a huge role in helping educators and homeschoolers find a myriad of online information quickly and easily. By the year 2020, I can only foresee web technologies playing a greater role in education. Aside from the current resurgence in the homeschooling movement, there are many current public school students who are involved in online public schools from home. They sign in each day and are monitored via web cams. There are also blended programs for accelerated students in which they participate in lectures in public school and then take online courses as extra electives. Web 2.0 technologies are critical in the interaction for these courses.

In my opinion, I believe that the classrooms of the future will continue to decrease physical and most likely, time barriers. In fact in 2020, I believe that the web will have advanced much further than the Web 2.0 technologies we have talked about today. It’s hard to image what these technologies may be, but one thing is for sure: change will occur. Like I said initially, change is inevitable and change is often uncomfortable, but change can not occur without learning. May we strive to see the benefits in change that will  make us stronger educators.



  1. I really like your example of home schooling and the shift in education that is taking place. Web 2.0 really makes the idea of home schooling viable. I am sure it has changed drastically over the last decade. Parents have become empowered in their attempt to bring curriculum into their home. You mention things like Skype help parents connect with curriculum coordinators or teachers who can help in certain areas. Online Acadamies can support home school curriculum and add to it. As you point out, you are able to work with your children at your schedule. There is no bell and the doors to the school do not close. Barriers are disappearing rapidly and opportunities for individuals to control their education are becoming more available.

    I am excited to see things on the college level that our kids may have the opportunity to take advantage of. The cost of a college education is rising out of control, so it is nice to see things like Open University and courses from some of the top universities in the country online and open for people to sit in on. This shift in education is taking place and I think over the next decade we will see a more explosive shift then we are in right now.

    Comment by robertreedut11 — November 3, 2012 @ 7:34 pm |Reply

  2. Kelly,
    It’s interesting to hear your story and the story of your children as you home school them. Home school is almost a misnomer. Yes, they are home rather than being in a public school, but their connectedness is far broader than many students in more traditional settings.

    I have to admit that I’ve long been wary of the home schooling concept. One of the drawbacks that I’ve always imagined would be the difficulty of reaching out to other students and access to resources. The read/write web as we’ve experienced it in our class, and as you describe it above, does much to provide access to both. I can see why more families are choosing to home school.

    While I applaud your effort and success, not all parents are capable of providing a quality home schooling experience. We still need the public school and we still need the community support. Many public schools are incorporating significant change, at the same time, many are not. I imagine the barriers to be resistance to change on the part of administration, school boards and teachers and the costs those changes would incur. Additionally, I would suspect there is a lack of understanding of the value of a more connected, technologically enriched environment for the students.

    In an ironic twist, your example of home schooling is a model for the public school to follow.

    Well done.

    Comment by cjudas — November 4, 2012 @ 3:11 am |Reply

  3. I have long thought that home schooling might be the way I would go if I had children. My main reason for agreeing with you about home schooling is not because of teachers resisting change, but administrators who are either afraid to change or unwilling to change. Most of the teachers I know want to have the time to individualize instruction as you have done, but the state mandates make it impossible. Hopefully, administrators will get wise to this and will make the necessary changes so that home schooling will be unnecessary in the future for those parents who want a more personalized experience.

    Comment by dawnlfrye — November 4, 2012 @ 11:48 pm |Reply

  4. Kelly,
    You make an interesting point about the physical space in which students learn is changing. Even taking an online course such as this one was unheard of 20 years ago. I definitely think that in the future there will be more students who did not attend the brick and mortar school building. Some of the ‘traditional’ students will also learn through nontraditional, online learning. It will be more common for public schools to offer online courses to students. I also think that there will be more blended courses. The hours of the school day may shift. I commend you for home schooling your children. It has to be a difficult, yet rewarding, job.

    Comment by mcvogle — November 6, 2012 @ 1:39 am |Reply

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