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Get Ready for the Classroom of the Future

Respected School District CTO Traci Bonde contends that tomorrow's classroom will feature less hardware and more personal interaction between teachers and students.

This is part 1 of a 2-part series

In her nearly 18 years as an educational technology administrator and teacher, Traci Bonde has dedicated her career to moving organizations to the forefront of technology integration to prepare students for the new workplace in the most effective manner possible. Currently the chief technology officer for the Dublin Unified School District in the San Francisco Bay area, Bonde believes that differentiating instruction with coding design, problem solving via game play and online collaboration using cloud tools, are all invaluable for bringing kids into the process of learning.  An enthusiastic advocate of the “Bring Your Own Devices” approach to technology in schools, her ultimate goal is to help bridge poverty gaps by exposing students to technology. Toward that end, she believes information access to knowledge is the way. 

Bonde participated last week in the Center for Digital Education’s K-12 Technology Roundtable and articulated some compelling ideas regarding the classroom of the future. A more in-depth look at those ideas reveals an innovative vision that is not only well thought out, but also supported with anecdotal evidence that lends even more credence to her theories.

“I think that the future of classrooms and the future of instruction is shifting away from mastery of, potentially, English and math and science, as core subjects, along with the ability to interact in classes like PE and woodshop,” she explains. "The classroom of the future is definitely going to be a lot thinner with respect to how much technology might be in the room for the teacher and students to be interacting with and presenting from.”

Fleshed out, Bonde's vision of the classroom of the future represents a dramatic departure from the status quo that has become a societal norm in the modern era of education. “Historically, the teacher has stood in the front of the room and the kids have been in desks and rows, putting all their attention on the expert in the room and that expert would impart their wisdom, and the students would regurgitate some of it back to them on the other side," she says. "But the invention of the Internet and technology becoming less and less expensive, and our students (independently versed in) consuming and then turning around and creating, these things will greatly impact what the classroom experience will look like.”

Instead of a teacher standing at one consistent spot in the room lecturing, while the students sit and take copious notes, Bonde believes that future classrooms will allow students to create content at the same level that they’re consuming content, with video, imagery, and a variety of design tools that only used to be available to those who worked at a high-end graphic design company.

Rather than use standard-issue equipment with which current-day classrooms are traditionally equipped, the future classroom will have a desktop computer connected to something that they might be projecting from a document camera that replaces the overhead projector, audio and sound.

“The idea behind this setup is that the students were primarily stationary," she says. "They’d sit and listen, consume… fast forward to the classroom of tomorrow, where a teacher might be teaching strictly from their phone, because that's their most comfortable device, and over Bluetooth or Wide-Eye projecting some image, which could be a video showing someone’s work from within the room who’s designed something really killer that everybody needs to see, or it could be showing something with audio—all of that could be running through very thin technology in the room, again with an emphasis on mobility.”

Bonde's vision of the classroom of tomorrow is based on the changes that technology has introduced to education and everyday life, as well. “We used to go to the classroom to learn,” she explains, “and I think now our classrooms are never ending, so we have to learn to be more creative about when and where we teach. It might be that rather than sitting and watching a video on how to interact with plants in the neighborhood around you, you might actually be at a neighborhood garden on mobile devices shooting video with green screen and/or just shooting good old fashioned video on a YouTube editor, allowing you to demonstrate what you’re discovering as you smell a leaf or pull up the roots of a plant to see how photosynthesis works. That used to be something we would do occasionally with paper and pencil, but now, with the computers that are walking around in the pockets of kids, I think it’s an untapped resource that has great potential.”

Will there be a sharp rise in the costs associated with this vision of the future of education? Perhaps quite the opposite, says Bonde. “Personalization is going to be a nice trend for school districts, because if they go into that environment, they’re not having to allocate enormous amounts of budget to install or maintain or refresh high-end technology. We could get to a place where we go back to the very early days of technology, and required hardware might just be something that the teacher has for entering in attendance, something really thin, like a tablet, not even a computer anymore, since everything is web-based, and I don’t see that trend changing. This represents great opportunities for organizations, school districts, educational services departments, superintendents and technology departments, to re-think the technology that they’re loading into classrooms and into libraries and into common learning areas, because I believe that, as thin as we’re going personally our classrooms have the ability to go just as thin, and it will create less overhead, both financially and for maintenance and technology departments that have to maintain, repair and replace all of this hardware and these software solutions on a regular basis.”