Ten years from now, the next decade will be drawing to a close. My daughter will be 22, my son 20. I’ll be…older. It’s setting up to be a pretty important 10 years on a lot of fronts. If you believe the science, which I do, it may be the decade that we figure out how to work together to act on climate change and save ourselves (and our kids) from some hellish scenarios. Or not. If you believe, as I do, that the American political system is broken, it may be the decade that we take money out of the picture once and for all. Or not. And, if like me you believe that the current structure of the education system in this country (and elsewhere) is fundamentally flawed in preparing students for a life of learning, then this may be the decade real change breaks out. Or not.

I can’t help feeling that if I’m lucky enough to be sitting here blogging 10 years from now and there haven’t been some really big changes in the way we look at living and learning, we’ll have wasted another 10 years talking instead of evolving. And I think if you ask most people who are currently in education what they see things looking like 10 years from now, most wouldn’t paint much of a radically different picture.

I mentioned Allan Collins and Richard Halverson’s new book Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology in my previous post, and now that I’ve finished it, I wonder even more how all of this is going to play out. If you want to get to the crux of the argument in the book, Suchi Grover’s review at Teacher’s College Record does a pretty good job. (Note: Keep in mind, the book is published by Teacher’s College Press.)

Allan Collins and Richard Halverson’s compelling argument for rethinking education may be encapsulated thus: We are not going to fix education by fixing the schools. They are a 19th century invention trying to cope in the 21st century…If schools cannot change fast enough to keep pace with the advances in learning technologies, learning will leave schooling behind. Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology urges education stakeholders to envision a new kind of education that decouples learning and schooling.

That’s obviously a huge statement, that we’re not going to fix education by fixing the schools, and I’ve scarcely stopped thinking about it since I read it. I don’t think there is much question that schools cannot keep pace with what technology affords right now. What’s changing in education is happening outside the school walls with a few exceptions. That’s not to say that schools will cease to exist; obviously they won’t. As the authors write

Schools as we know them will not disappear anytime soon…but the seeds of a new system are beginning to emerge, and they are already beginning to erode the identification of learning with schooling. As these new technologically driven seeds germinate, education will occur in many different, more adaptive venues, and schools will have a narrower role in learning.

So what will that narrower role in learning look like? I think the big question for the next decade is this: In 2020, will schools be seen as just one of many important ways that our kids can become educated? And as a follow up, will there be other ways of “credentialing” what it means to be “educated”? Obviously, there are going to be huge disruptions that go along with a reduced importance of the traditional school model, and there are huge issues around equity and access that will have to be addressed among many others.

I think we’ve spent the last 10 years “tinkering on the edges” with these shifts. No doubt, the next 10 years are going to be pretty painful for schools in particular as we begin to really wake up to what all of this means for our kids’ learning lives. Or not. But even more, i the last 10 years are any indication, I think it’s going to be simply an amazing decade for learning in general.

Can’t wait to wade through it with you.