Schools in the 21st century are very different from the one-room schoolhouses that once dotted the American landscape. Today a single school can house thousands of students at various grade levels and many schools integrate the latest technologies into their curriculums. With this being understood, it will be interesting to see how school curriculum will change in the future. The purpose of this discussion is to examine how schools will change in the future as it pertains to technology. The discussion will also focus on the introduction of schools as social anchors, that are both moral and purposeful.
Schools of the future
Indeed technology will continue to play a large role in schools of the future. Educators will continue to incorporate technology into the curriculum. According to Caldwell and Hayward (1998) "schooling at the upper secondary level will become more complex and diverse, with multiple providers; combined with advances made possible by technology, the concept of a 'virtual school' will emerge at this and higher levels of education and training (Caldwell and Hayward 1998)." The authors explain that technology will provide schools with new and innovative ways to teach students valuable skills.
The idea of the virtual school has become a reality in some schools across the country. According to the American Youth Policy Forum 25 states have cyber charter schools. In addition, many states also have proposed e-learning initiatives ( Florida Virtual School: The Future of Learning, 2002). One of the most prominent virtual schools in the country is the Florida Virtual School (FLVS). According to the article this schools was created in 1997 and serves public school students, home schoolers and even students form other states and countries ( Florida Virtual School: The Future of Learning, 2002). The school caters to student from grades eight to twelve. When the school began in 1997 there were 77 students enrolled and by 2002 there were 8200 students enrolled ( Florida Virtual School: The Future of Learning, 2002). The article asserts that the school was created to give students a high quality alternative and works especially well for home schooled students (Florida Virtual School: The Future of Learning, 2002). In addition, the schools have proven effective for students that do not have access to quality classes because they live in rural areas.
The article explains that although this virtual school has been successful there are some challenges that virtual schools will face in the future. The article asserts that in the future the courses will have to be reformulated because it is not enough to put a face-to-face lesson on the internet. The article also contends
"Another challenge, given that students from multiple states may enroll in a particular virtual school, is aligning curriculum with content standards, which vary from state to state. It is also likely that the Florida legislature will eventually modify the current grant-based funding mechanism of the school, posing the challenge of how to fund the school in coming years. In summary, FLVS has come a long way since its founding; however, additional challenges remain and the school must continue to evolve if it is to meet them (Florida Virtual School: The Future of Learning, 2002)."
Indeed, as the number of students being home schooled continues to grow, there will also be an increase in the number of students that will rely on virtual schools (Florida Virtual School: The Future of Learning, 2002). For this reason, the article contends that colleges and universities must begin training teachers on how to conduct virtual classrooms. Currently there is a slight learning curve because teachers are learning how to teach virtual classrooms on the job (Florida Virtual School: The Future of Learning, 2002).
Schools of the future may also serve as social anchors. According to Kennedy (2000)
"The term "social anchor" has been coined to describe the function of schools in the market-oriented societies of the new century (Kennedy, 1999). In a fast moving, global and technology-driven society, schools must play an important role in providing stability for young people. This indeed remains their basic function in society. It does not imply that schools should remain as they are today or were yesterday. They must address the real needs of young people, recognising the main features of the youth landscape and designing learning opportunities and organizational structures around these (Kennedy 2001)."
The idea of combining public school education with community initiatives is not new. According to an article published in 1993, many education reformers sought to get the community involved in public education and vice versa (Huskey and Wiley 1993).
Kennedy (2000) argues that there are five serious social and economic challenges that are unique for this generation. These challenges include stagnated transitions into the workforce and adulthood, the limited skills that students are taught in schools, the unpredictable nature of the labor market, the unpredictable nature of the social environment, and the agency of young people (Kennedy 2001). These challenges may be difficult to overcome, but the author points out that these challenges will also provide young people to express themselves in new and innovative ways (Kennedy 2001). Because these challenges exist, Kennedy believes that schools of the future must prepare students for the challenges that they will face. The author contends that developmental processes that were once linear and smooth have changed because of these unique challenges.
The author asserts that schools of the future must have better relationships with their communities. A school that serves as a social anchor will allow students to undertake community projects, vocational training and community service (Kennedy 2001). Therefore, the curriculum must prepare students for work in their communities and close relationships must develop between the school and its immediate environment (Kennedy 2001). According to Kennedy (2001) schools of the future
"cannot continue to be like monasteries - the self-proclaimed learning centres of the industrial age. They must welcome community members onto their sites and open themselves up to genuine local involvement. There are numerous examples of successful practice that can show what is possible, and the literature on schools as sites for the delivery of integrated community services is growing. The growth and spread of ICT offers the opportunity for schools to become community centres for Internet services, especially for disadvantaged groups. For schools to be focal points for lifelong-learning under community governance is natural given the nature and location of capital investment in school infrastructure (Kennedy 2001)."
Kennedy insists that schools in the future should reflect the importance of schools within the community; the author further states that schools should not be so rigid and education should flow freely. This dispersement of education should include activities that stimulate the minds of students (Kennedy 2001). The author also asserts that schools that are social anchors will be different from many schools that currently exist because they will teach skills that will benefit students for the rest of their lives (Kennedy 2001). Kennedy (2001) also asserts that future schools will enhance the role of schools in the community, while also adapting curriculum to meet the special needs of students based on the environments in which they live (Kennedy 2001).
In fact, Kennedy points out that if schools are to become social anchors in the future there must be changes to the organizational structure of most schools (Kennedy 2001). Changes in the organizational structure must occur so that schools become less hierarchal and passive (Kennedy 2001). The author asserts that schools must be not only accountable to local and state governments but to their communities (Kennedy 2001). In addition, school officials must make the governance of schools more community focused. Teachers will be charged with the responsibility of nurturing students. In addition, other individuals in the community that also facilitate student learning (Kennedy 2001). Some of these facilitators will include artists, business people and other professionals (Kennedy 2001).
According to GRIPP and the Applied Research Center, schools that are social anchors are particularly important in urban neighborhoods. In a briefing paper on Emerging Issues and Best Practices, the Applied Research Center found that urban neighborhoods could benefit a great deal if schools were renovated and became stable institutions for the community ("Briefing paper on Emerging Issues and Best Practices -- Introduction, n.d."). The briefing points out that these schools could serve the entire community and should be open 16 hours a day 7 days a week. The briefing asserts that the schools could serve as day care centers, elderly centers and recreational facilities ("Briefing paper on Emerging Issues and Best Practices -- Introduction, n.d."). The briefing also points out that states such as Philadelphia, New York City, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Michigan, full service schools have emerged ("Briefing paper on Emerging Issues and Best Practices -- Introduction, n.d.").
Curriculum and Obstacles
Kennedy (2001) insists that these schools should be both moral and purposeful. However, given the predominant models of curriculum change, can schools be both of these? If we review the principal types of curriculum that exist in schools we see that…