Designed Obsolescence in Education

future city

I saw a post by Sandy Speicher (IDEO’s Design for Learning) who works to help educators use design tools and methods to work in new ways, on the "designed" school day of the future.

On the same site,, another post by Shelly Blake-Plock back in 2009 shared his predictions
of things that will be obsolete in schools by 2020.


sees students "...reading in comfortable chairs... digging into a scientific research question by conducting readings on a nearby pond... working on computers refining their skills in math while others are sequencing DNA... collaborating around a design challenge with new friends across the globe... building, making, imagining, interacting, investigating, reflecting, connecting, shaping, participating. There will be challenge. There will be high expectations. And there will be tons of variation. With all of its possibility, the school day of the future will be one thing: it will be designed."

Both posts are looking at the same thing from different ends. For example, Shelly predicts that desks will be obsolete because "the 21st century does not fit neatly into rows. Neither should your students." Speicher sees them out of those desks and into the world.

While "language labs" will vanish (if they haven't already), world language acquisition will stay because it is "only a smartphone away."

You can either say that computers will be "obsoloete" or that our concept of what a computer is today will be gone, replaced by computing via handheld devices (phones, pads, tablets or the next thing). There may be more technology but less of an IT/tech staff because much of what those computers do and store has moved to the cloud and the need to support it will lessen. Maybe those positions can be used for real professional development in using the technology rather than maintaining it.

What happens to "homework" when the the temporal boundaries between home and school disappear? Will all students need to go to another building called a school to learn?

Will we see an end to college admission tests like SAT/ACT by digital portfolio reviews?

There are so many things - from lockers, to paper, to copiers, to teaching algebra in high school - that may disappear that the topic makes for an interesting one as we start a new school year.  Check out the School Day of the Future series. And have good school year.

Playing For Real

  • school districts, states and federal authorities cut back on education funding

  • rise in the dropout rate.

  • nearly one in three students will not complete their high school education, and if you are a student of color, that ratio is closer to one out of two.

  • according to America’s Promise Alliance, 1.3 million students are dropping out of school each year, which amounts to nearly 7,300 kids dropping out each and every school day.

  • cost to society = millions/billions dollars in additional social welfare, health and criminal justice costs

You cannot teach children if they are not in school.
Keep kids engaged with learning in a sustainable way.

Is one way to do that play? But not costly virtual worlds with computer-generated animation.

Nuvana games - relatively inexpensive, with missions, scoring, social networking and communication over the Web and mobile platforms - but with a goal to ultimately get kids away from screens, out into the real world, doing authentic behaviors that have a lasting effect. Hence, “Playing for real.”

Sample: interrobang - mission-based, socially networked learning game engaging students with the Web and mobile devices. The Smithsonian Institution, Microsoft Partners in Learning, and Nuvana have created these active learning challenges suitable for any student – whether in elementary school or at a university – to exercise their problem-solving skills in science, history, and arts and culture.

Interrobang Intro from Nuvana on Vimeo.  JAM, the Jamboree for Arts & Music - beta launched March 21, 2011 with hundreds of high school students in San Francisco and New York - arts and music game for kids - can be played by any child in grades K-12 - missions that spark a passion for the arts, mentors to guide students, opportunities to connect schools, teachers, parents, arts institutions and sponsors – and best of all, a stream of revenue that will eventually make SFJAM self-sustaining.  - history and civics learning game for teenagers - created by Nuvana, and made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Will Edmodo be the social learning network for K12 education?

If you still think social networks have nothing to do with learning, Edmodo hopes to change your mind.

Edmodo has more than 2 million users and will try to use social network tools for K-12 classrooms. Part of their pitch is that students already know how to use this interface, so it's a natural for students to communicate with teachers and each other around assignments and class topics. 

The teachers can post about assignments, add related materials or further discussion beyond class. The updates are shown in Facebook-looking stream. Add in the ability to turn in digital assignments and a gradebook and it starts to sound like many other course management systems already out there.

Yes, Edmodo has document libraries on Social Studies, Biology and other topics. It has social aspects like sharing with teachers from other schools and even those game-like badges that sites like Foursquare offer.

So what would make you venture into their platform? The business model is free. Edmodo is not charging for teachers or students to use the service, but will add revenue from publisher promotions of classroom textbooks or materials.

Edmodo is going after individual teachers rather than schools or districts which might backfire if the school/district uses another service or doesn't allow teachers to use these types of tools.

Updates via

College Open Textbooks: Winner for 'Most Open' has announced the winners of their first annual OCW People’s Choice Awards, which honor the best of the Open Education Movement. Over 4000 people voted for their best educational resources in this inaugural contest, and College Open Textbooks was recognized as the OCW People’s Choice Winner for Most Open. 

According to, “Openness is a key part of any OCW - after all, it's in the name. But what providers excel at giving their users a wealth of material to access and lots of different ways to do it? The nominees in this category all understand that to make courseware truly open, variety and depth are key.”

Other winners included Open Course Library, FGV Online, African Virtual University OER, Open Study, MIT Physics and more.

No Privacy By Default 2: Facebook and Phone Numbers

Last week, I wrote a post called No Privacy By Default about how websites and services, in that case it was LinkedIn, make the mistake of sharing your private information by default.

Well, now Facebook has once again shot themselves in the foot in this way as many posts online the past week have pointed out that if you want to see the phone numbers of all your friends (and some strangers, oddly enough) take a look inside your Facebook contacts page.

Go into Facebook, click Account, then Edit Friends, then select Contacts from the menu on the left. You should see a list of profile pictures with phone numbers attached.

Of course, these people gave Facebook their phone number, It's not like FB can just pull them out of some Internet phonebook. But, I am betting that almost all those who did give their phone number did not expect it to be available so widely.

What piqued my interest is that there are people there who ARE NOT on my "friends" list and I have their numbers too.

I have yet to find the definitive explanation of this, but some posts have suggested that without your knowledge or consent, if you use your phone to access Facebook, FB imported all the names and phone numbers from your phone’s address book and uploaded them.


According to Facebook:

Facebook Phonebook displays contacts you have imported from your phone, as well as your Facebook friends.If you would like to remove your mobile contacts from Facebook, you need to disable the feature on your mobile phone and visit this page.

To stop sharing your phone number on Facebook, go first to Facebook’s Remove Imported Contacts page (see image above). You should also check your Account/Privacy settings and click Customize settings to change access to your Contact Information so only people you select can see your number - or maybe you should just delete your number from Facebook altogether.

Once again, instead of informing you of this "feature" and giving you the option to turn it on, they have turned it on and allowed you (if you knew about it) to turn it off (if you could figure out how). No privacy by default.