A future with robot teachers. Year-round school. And, a cutback of school athletic programs.
That is what the education picture within the next 10 years could very well look like.
Those opinions come from Don Holwerda, the president emeritus of Chattanooga Christian School.
He now serves as the executive director of Edusource Unlimited, an educational consulting business.
Holwerda was introduced to the Rotary Club of Cleveland for its Tuesday meeting by TCPS President Bill Balzano.
He spoke about trends in schools — both positive and negative.
Holwerda said a significant change in education came during the 1900s during the industrial revolution.
“Before that, if you had to get up and milk the cows and do the chores and you came late to school, it was no big deal,” he said. “After the Industrial Revolution hit, we find that if you came late to your job, 10,000 assembly workers would be affected by that. No more coming to school late.”
He said things are no longer assembly-line centered.
“Yet, education continues in that old mode where kids come and sit, and sit in straight rows. That’s got to change,” he said.
Holwerda said there are positive trends in school safety.
“They are much more concerned about kids being safe when they come to school and you can understand why,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot more cameras and SROs (school resource officers). We’re seeing metal detectors in some schools.”
He said the addition of technology is another ongoing positive trends in the schools.
“It’s sort of a two-edged sword,” Holwerda said. “On the positive you have a lot more coming in. Kids are bringing iPads. The downside is there’s not really a lot of preparation in training teachers how to use those things.”
He also noted the rise of accountability in education.
“Assessments are happening regularly, and more and more people are being held accountable,” Holwerda said.
The idea of mentoring has also become more commonplace within schools.
“Older folks need to mentor the younger folks,” he said.
Holwerda said there is also a rethinking of the ways in which students are taught.
“Not everyone is going to go to college, so we are seeing pre-college, vocational, art lines where schools are looking at students’ learning ability and making those adjustments,” he said.
On the downside, Holwerda said schools need to become more utilized.
“We’re adding more tools, but so many kids tell us there are a lot of computers but they can’t get on them,” he said. “Those are issues schools are going to have to face.”
He said global thinking is also needed more in education — having more than just the repeating of known facts.
“That’s a trend we are seeing that needs to change,” he said.
Holwerda also said there is much research done to better education, but it is either not used or there is not adequate training to use the knowledge.
“Our kids are tested to death. We have volumes of data on kids, but only very few are trained to use that data directed toward curriculum or decision making,” he said. “Teaching the test rather than teaching higher-order thinking is always an issue. That’s the struggle with education today.”
Holwerda said schools are going to have to take their facilities and “open them up to the community.”
“If the school becomes the social center for the area, and Cleveland has wonderful schools, there’s a time when the kids are gone that they need to open it up as a resource and utilize your faculties and facilities,” he said.
He said the role of teachers will change.
“Classrooms will become learning environments — less desks, more round tables, more discussion,” he said.
Holwerda said teacher robots are already being used as assistants in some countries.
“They have video on their chests and they are excellent for teaching kids songs and they can sit and listen to kids read,” he said.
He said there will be more “classrooms without walls.”
“They will be mentored by architects, bankers, businessmen and so fourth,” Holwerda said.
He also envisions a day when students do not carry heavy backpacks full of books.
“It can be on a thumb drive and you plug it into a computer when you get to school,” he said. “All educational materials, by 2020, you will be carrying in your pocket.”
The last item he said would be “a tough one to sell in the South.”
“I think schools are going to start eliminating the athletics,” he said. “It’s an expensive, costly business. It takes up time. Time is a premium for schools.”
He said 7 percent of schools have dropped athletic programs while only 1 percent have added programs.
Holwerda said it will likely develop into a European model where the teams are functioning as clubs.
Holwerda said students need to be taught values.
“There is a right and wrong, and kids need to learn that,” he said.