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home : columns : columns August 21, 2017

8/21/2013 8:29:00 AM
Back to school - in 20 years
Windom Area students returned to school Monday and were greeted by some changes.
Winfair students and visitors will notice a little different look to the main entrance to Winfair Elementary, where a new secure enclosure has been added. Once you step inside the door, you'll find yourself in a glass-enclosed area. If you want further access to the elementary school, you'll have to be "buzzed in" by school secretary, Sherri Lyons.
But maybe the biggest change comes at Windom Area Middle High School where you'll start seeing students move from classroom to classroom not with books, but iPads. Yes, the iPad invasion is underway. Every student in grades 4-12 is eligible to receive an iPad this year at Windom Area Schools.
As I discussed Windom's first step toward becoming a digitally technological school with Superintendent Wayne Wormstadt and High School Principal Jake Tietje, Wormstadt said something that really made me think.
He said, "Think about where we were 20 years ago and where we are now. Think about what's going to happen for this year's kindergartners when they graduate in 13 years and how much more access they're going to have and what are going to be the new things at that time."
Wow! Think about that.
OK, let's go back almost 35 years when I was a senior in high school. I can remember thinking that getting to type - yes, type, not keyboard - on an IBM Selectric typewriter was just about the coolest thing since putting Mt. Dew in a can. It was so smooth and effortless. There was a ball with the letters, numbers and figures on it rather than the "old" hammer-type keys. The keys of the keyboard almost molded around your fingers. It was the ooooonly way to type.
Then, a few years later, you could buy ribbons with built-in correction tape. No more back spacing, inserting a slide of correction tape and then correcting, or worse yet, rolling the paper up, dabbing a spot of white liquid correction on the error, blowing it dry, then moving on.
I can remember my sophomore or junior year of college and using a computer for the first time. No, not my own personal computer, one of the school's two computers with a dot-matrix screen a little smaller than your iPad screen and a little larger than the screen on your smart phone.
Welcome to technology in the early 1980s.
How about cameras? Who would have ever thought film would become a thing of the past? Who would have ever thought you could view your photos a split second after you took them?
Who would have ever thought you could shoot video on the same camera as you took your picture?
Who would have ever thought you could take a picture, send it, check the weather, watch a movie and make a phone call - virtually at the same time - on a flat piece of glass that's no bigger than the palm of your hand?
And, now, students are about to begin learning without textbooks. Instead, the textbook is going to come alive on a glass video screen, no thicker than a 100-sheet spiral notebook.
How will this year's kindergartners have been instructed and what devices will they be using for their education in the final years before they graduate in 2026?
It's mind-boggling to even conceive what school might look like in another 13 years, as Wormstadt suggested.
Here's a guess - and you can cut this out, save it and tell me to eat crow when it doesn't happen:
Students will be seated in circle classrooms, watching 3D holograms in the middle of the room explaining/demonstrating/exhibiting the solution to a math problem, a key moment in history, or how to conduct a science experiment.
They'll download that program into their cyberphone bring it home, open it up and, using the touch of their finger in mid air, solve the problem or answer the question. Or, maybe, the program will simply ask them questions and students will verbally answer them.
Yes, when the class of 2026 graduates, they may be using applications that were all too futuristic in the 1977 Sci-Fi hit Star Wars, but are very much possible - if not likely - in the next decade.
And as for that glass enclosure at Winfair from which people can gain access to the school only by being buzzed in?
Maybe in the next century, our cyberphones will allow us to program the coordinates of the school entrance into our cyberphone, push a button and then transport us to the school, ala Star Trek.
Can you say, "Beam me up, Sherri?"
Is this a stretch? Definitely for the latter and probably for the former, but who knows. Whoever thought that 20 years ago students would be learning using a flat peace of glass in their classroom.
Welcome to 21st century education, or maybe more appropriately, welcome to the Buck Rogers classroom. You students won't know what that means, but some of your parents, and most of your grandparents, will.
Happy learning!

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