June 1, 2014
The Department of Education announced plans to build and launch schools that can operate without teachers. These teacher-less schools will use information technology, sensors, advanced artificial intelligence, and other forms of computing power, with no human guidance needed.
By the fall of 2015, 100 such cost-effective schools are expected to be up and running, following extensive testing. These schools will be established in select districts for further tweaking and will have intentional limitations such as a maximum number of students.
Announcing such a progressive challenge to the education industry, which has been far more cautious about introducing fully automated campuses, is forcing school boards and superintendents to figure out how to regulate and control such programs.
Instead of the standard class schedule and grade levels, these prototype schools will have systems that enable students to determine their own learning path and the pace of the curriculum. Students, in collaboration with their parents and academic advisors, will determine their own goals and destination. The learning management systems will then make adjustments and suggestions based on data from various sources, including extensive databases, artificial intelligence, monitors and cameras, that read in real time what each student is doing and creates points of instruction and collaboration.
Technology companies have steadily introduced technology that helps students stay engaged and focused on mastery of learning objectives. Google, Apple, Microsoft, and others are working on the technology required to accomplish the aggressive timelines that were included in this announcement. Several companies have said they expect by 2016 to market school designs that are totally student-directed and can offer a wide variety of curriculum options (e.g., traditional, vocational, classical, religious, secular, etc.).
"Nothing is going to change overnight, but this is another sign of the drastic shifts in education design and practice. We're witnessing a major paradigm shift," said Mary Brewer, a senior analyst at the School Growth Fund.
One company began developing such a prototype school more than five years ago after it recruited a large team of instructional designers. Early results demonstrated that students and parents were not quite ready to trust the technology, but that is quickly changing as they discover the intrinsic motivation that is achieved through greater purpose and autonomy. Such self-directed designs are more practical and keep students from zoning out like they often do in a traditional classroom with whole group instruction.
One of the first prototypes will be built in New York City with the help of firms that specialize in such school design. Project-based and expeditious learning will be core components of the curriculum. So far the Department of Education has not identified the companies and grants that are involved in these early stages of the project.
This fictional article was adapted from, "Google to Build Prototype of Truly Driverless Car," to illustrate that such innovations in other industries will inevitably have influence in the education marketplace. The future is coming fast! Teachers and schools will have to adapt to the mind-boggling fact that, for the first time in the history of the world, people can now learn anything they want without a teacher or a school. Great teachers can still change the world, but never before has innovation in education been so important. How will you rapidly improve your school design to grow in this new paradigm of learning?