Schools of the Future…Now

future-schoolThis week marks the first week of Season 2 of the #IMMOOC, studying “The Innovator’s Mindset” by George Couros.  After reading just the introduction and Chapter 1, I am inspired to spark change at my campuses.  Questions like “How can we make this lesson new AND better?” and “What do I hope students will learn in school that will positively impact their future?” are rolling around in my head.

As I attend planning meetings of K-5 teams, it is my job to help them integrate technology into their classroom.  Five years ago, it truly was a matter of planning out how to use the devices and in what context.  Now, technology integration shouldn’t have to be planned.  It should just be.  The image below perfectly illustrates my point.

Media preview

So, with that in mind, what would schools of the future look like?  Are they  really schools of the future, or should the concepts be a part of schools now?

John Spencer shared that every time you learn something, you become more curious.  Schools should be filled with opportunities to act on student curiosity through student-chosen projects.  Design thinking, Genius Hour, Passion Projects…no matter what you call it, the focus is still on students choosing how and what they will learn.

What about curriculum?  Many teachers will say these types of projects aren’t in the curriculum.  George Couros’ response to that is “Neither are worksheets.”  At the beginning of the year, teachers are given a scope and sequence for each subject.  This maps out the “what” of teaching – standards, units of study, etc.  This map does not tell you how to teach the concepts.

Changing the mindset of teachers to see the curriculum lessons as a guide instead of something set in stone is no easy task.  Administration should model the idea of planning activities as if there were no rules.  What would staff meetings look like if you didn’t follow the set agenda each and every time?  What could PD look like if you taught the same concepts in a new and better way?  If principals and assistant principals were on board with modeling innovation, teachers would be more likely to try it too.

In future schools, teachers would seek out opportunities to foster curiosity instead of over-scaffolding activities.  Knowing what you have to teach is half the battle.  Figuring out how to teach it while still honoring student ideas is crucial.

Critical Thinking and Creativity

Through design thinking or Genius Hour projects, students are able to use technology in a meaningful way to create and think critically.

Using technology to research, collaborate, and connect with experts in fields of study is essential for projects like these to be successful.  When you plan with these projects in mind, you realize you don’t really have to plan for how to use the technology – it is seamless.  When students are able to curate their resources and share them with an authentic audience, they are not only learning content, but also 21st century skills life skills.

After curating resources and collaborating with peers, students are then able to create a finished product of their choosing.  Sure, some will choose a non-tech way to present their learning, but most of the time students will choose some sort of technology application in order to create their product.  Again, allowing students to have a say in what and how they learn ignites their curiosity to learn more.

Standardized Testing

What would go away in schools of the future?  The easy and obvious answer is standardized testing.  Recently, George Couros wrote a blog post about differentiated instruction and standardized testing.


He makes very interesting points on the difference between the students taking the same test, or students having the same understanding of a concept.  He writes, “If I ask students to show that they understand the same objective, does the way we assess truly have to be the same?”  It is truly a question to ponder.  

Students should be held to a standard of mastery, but how you assess that standard could be different for different students.  What do you think?  Do standardized assessments have a place in the classroom, or could the concepts be assessed in a differentiated way?


2 thoughts on “Schools of the Future…Now”

  1. Sarah,
    I think you’ve mentioned some of the most poignant ideas from IMMOOC Season 2 episode 1. As an educator of 13 years I’ve often asked myself these very questions, unfortunately for me, I’ve met with some serious opposition. I haven’t had the pleasure of working for any administration that was bold enough or courageous enough, to even discuss the idea of changing the way we educate our students. I believe that at the district level we need to have more innovative individuals so that it becomes a trickle down effect and, then Principals could feel more empowered to be risk takers at the building level.


  2. “Allowing students to have a say in what and how they learn ignites their curiosity to learn more.” This has certainly been my experience as a student and as a teacher. It is sometimes interesting to see the overall energy in the room shift and change as more doors to varied possibilities open. Curiosity is fun and it is not afraid of hard work. 🙂


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