The Classroom Of The Future

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs, one of the inventors of personal computing, is cofounder and CEO of Apple Computer. He divides his time between computing and making movies as cofounder and CEO of Pixar Animation Studios, which has produced such hits as "Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life."

"One of our issues as a society going forward is to teach kids to express themselves in the medium of their generation. For the better part of the past century, the medium was the printed page, whether it was a newspaper or a novel. People not only consumed; they authored. When people read novels, they wrote letters. The medium of our times is video and photography, but most of us are still consumers as opposed to being authors.

"We see things changing. We are doing more and more with movies and DVDs. The drive over the next 20 years is to integrate these multimedia tools to the point where people become authors in the medium of their day. We think there is tremendous power in this. You should see the movies that kids and teachers are making now. They make movies to sell an idea and to lead a team. I can show you a movie made by a sixth-grade teacher with her kids about learning the principles of geometry in a way that you will never forget. Or one by a high-school junior who felt passionately about women workers in sweatshops. When students are creating themselves, learning is taking place. And teachers will be at the epicenter of this. Anyone who believes differently has never had a good teacher. I would trade all of my technology for an afternoon with Socrates."

Linda Darling-Hammond
Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University, specializes in teacher training and school reform.

"All of our students will have personal laptops connected to the world with wireless networks. They will be keenly aware of events, places and the experiences of people not only in their own community, but in communities from Europe and Africa to the Middle East and Asia. Technology will support them in becoming citizens of the world as well as competent writers, researchers, mathematicians and scientists. Teachers will be in more of a coaching role, directing students to the resources they need to solve problems--a 'guide on the side,' helping students find answers online, rather than a 'sage on the stage.' The teacher will be very diagnostic. Teachers will understand how kids are learning and access lots of different ways to help a particular student learn.

"We'll have bigger, more open spaces with more fluidity instead of the little classrooms filled with desks in rows. The kids will be mostly working around round tables, but there will also be learning centers, library materials and other tools lining the walls of the room. Knowledge will be applied through projects, like building a mathematical model and testing it. I would hope it would be a more comfortable, natural environment, built around the idea that learning is a natural activity. Reading will still matter. It's still very satisfying to smell a book, to crack it open and flip the pages. It's hard to put a little kid in your lap and read to them from a computer. I may just be a clay-tablet person. I hope it's not all steel girders and machines, but pastel colors and sofas as well as computer pods, so that human beings can continue to have the variety of esthetic experiences that make us human, that bring coziness into our lives, no matter how connected or wired we are."

Bill Gates
Bill Gates is chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has contributed more than $500 million toward wiring schools and libraries around the country.

"Assume that the wireless network is there and you've got a very high-speed connection that lets you do not just text but video and audio as well. And assume that each of the students has, for his own personal use, a tablet PC, which is a device where the readability is as good as paper and the ability to take little notes and make annotations is very straightforward. You just take a pen and do it on the surface of the device. If you scribble notes on something, you can shoot it over to your friend and have her look at it. Your handwriting is both stored as handwriting and recognized inside the device. It's also for real-time communications. If you call someone up, there's a little camera. You can see the person, and he can see you. As you are talking about the homework, you can pull up different Web sites. It's for collaboration, communication, creativity; it's along the lines of what the PC is today. And assume in the front of the classroom that there's a big screen so you can browse the Internet or the teacher can take the work that students are doing on their tablets and project it up there for people to watch.

"There will still be some corpus of material, but it will no longer be printed on paper. All students need to carry around is their tablet. And you can add your own thing. A teacher could go to a Library of Congress site and get photos and text and go to other school sites and take and edit and add. The parents can see what the class has studied and what it will be studying in the future. They can even make suggestions to the teacher about things that they can contribute, or let one of the kids speak about how the classwork relates to the work their parents do. So you get this sense of involvement where there's no boundary. There's connected learning, where it's parents, students and teachers, not isolated from each other the way we are today."

John Doerr
Venture capitalist John Doerr helped companies like Amazon and Netscape raise billions during the Internet gold rush. These days, says Doerr, his focus is on "the missionary, not the mercenary." He is a political activist and a leader in the technology community's efforts to improve public education.

"We're not all going to jack into our gigabyte Ethernet connections at home. We'll still come to physical spaces to learn. There's a powerful motivation that comes from the community, a place where we educate through example and peer pressure. There won't be classrooms; the spaces will be smaller and varied and wired, places to do projects, to mentor and to study. There won't be desks bolted to the floor facing the dispenser of knowledge at the front of the room. Assignments and lessons will be printed on demand in some rich, interactive media. All media will be on the Net. You'll want a 16-by-9 formatted screen that will give you the experience of an IMAX. Instead of testing kids on reading and math, we'll come up with genuine measures of their ability to manipulate symbols and their ability to express themselves in art or in electronic media. By fourth grade you are reading, by eighth grade you are doing algebra and by 12th grade you are able to design a Web site; you've developed an understanding of media and messages and are able to deal with information overload. The final component is to be set to learn for life on your own, to be ready to vote, to be a functioning citizen in the information economy."

Maria Cantwell
Before she was elected to the U.S. Senate from Washington last year, Democrat Maria Cantwell, 43, was a top executive at Real Networks, the Seattle-based streaming-media company. From 1993 until 1995 she was a member of the House of Representatives from suburban Seattle, the so-called Microsoft District. Earlier this year she introduced an amendment calling on the Department of Education to identify the best uses of technology and education nationwide in order to guide future federal spending.

"The real issue is not the technology--the hardware is going to change--but the interactive nature of education. People who interact with information retain more of that information. The learning experience will include more multimedia. And that means better retention and better performance. In my 42-person Catholic high school, those Sisters of Providence made sure that everyone was bought in. With interactive technology, we can re-engage students who are not at the top of the class and need assistance. And you'll have portability. Instead of a teacher offering math and science class two or three hours a week, it becomes something you can access at various times throughout the day or at night. But most important, perhaps, education will become part of a larger, more robust community. Instead of the four walls, your classroom will become this larger, global community. You will find that people are knowledgeable about areas you are interested in. Technology and education will allow us to build bridges of understanding between people of different cultures around the world, to help us all realize how much we have in common and to appreciate our differences. Ultimately, that kind of global connection and community will be the world's best defense against hate and terrorism."

Brandon Lloyd
Brandon Lloyd, 25, teaches seventh-grade civics and is dean of students at the SEED Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. His classroom is part of a pilot program sponsored by Microsoft that connects classrooms across the country.

"Computers have been a source of information, but they haven't really been a source of shared experience. That's going to change. You will have teachers working across the seas in a way that is easy and effective. In 25 years we won't have that same naivete we have now about subjects like Islam and Afghanistan. Students will be able to work with other kids, maybe in Syria and Israel, and exchange information. Twelve-year-olds can approach a situation without prejudices that hold adults back. The key to success is educated people who are able to work beyond their differences. Computers will be a major means of achieving that.

"Kids will walk around with an electronic backpack that will have all the things they need. They'll use a stylus pen, like a Palm [handheld]. Instead of markers, there will be a graphic-arts program. The teacher can send an assignment or give a grade, classmates can send collaboration, all without being physically present. More important than being able to see each other are those notebooks. We can zap homework, we can color, we can edit, we can add film and sound. We'll take it one step further and be able to manipulate information simultaneously."

Danny Hillis
Danny Hillis, a pioneer of supercomputing in the 1970s, is chairman of Applied Minds, Inc., an inventor's workshop in Glendale, Calif.

"There is a medieval notion that education is about preloading people with the knowledge they will need later in life. The world is too complicated for that now. You may wake up tomorrow and discover that you need to be an expert on broadband Internet connections or the local politics of Afghanistan. These are not subjects teachers could have prepared you for. Instead, we're going to need new technologies and software that will teach you what you need to know when you need to know it. Imagine you had a tutor who knew you well, knew that you liked concrete examples and seeing pictures, or being told a story. This tutor would know how to explain things in your terms, what would excite you and what would mean something to you. A great librarian did that for me. Her name was Mrs.Wilner, at the Lida Lee Tall Elementary School in Baltimore. I loved books about rocks, and she kept bringing them to me. One day Mrs. Wilner brought me a book about electricity and said, 'I think you'll like this.' It changed my life. She could do this because she knew enough about me to know what I needed. Well, that's what this program will do. The search engine, no matter how many times you use it, doesn't know what you like or what you already know. The search engine is the card catalog; I'm talking about inventing the librarian. Imagine this program as the automated tutor that will guide the student, just like the librarian or the great teacher giving a student a book and saying 'You'll love this.' That's how education will be different in the future. It will be customized for you. I can almost see how to build it now. I can almost taste it."

Herb Allen
Investor Herb Allen is famous for his annual Sun Valley, Idaho, retreat, bringing together the titans of media, technology and entertainment. But his greatest passion these days is the Global Education Network, a private, for-profit company he established last year to distribute online versions of college courses over the Internet.

"Ideas will be transmitted over the air and displayed on a screen, wherever it happens to be. Maybe it will be in your eyeglasses. Maybe it will be a fountain pen that turns into a fan. It's Dick Tracy stuff. The point is, you'll have immediate access to information of your choosing on a screen you determine. The only constriction will be general access to bandwidth. The computer-literate generation won't look at this kind of education as 'distance learning'; they'll look at it as immediate access.

"The new social experience will be people gathering around intellectual topics to form social units, much as they did in Germany in the 1800s. Let's say there are three people in Cody, Wyo., taking Art 301. It's natural that they will get together. I don't think, though, that this will replace the university. Immediate-access learning will be driven by democratic, economic impetus. The costs will be lower. The subject material will be better. You can stop and go back. Try doing that in a lecture hall at Princeton. The opportunity to learn in depth should be much better. I think the whole world wants to learn. The whole world can't get into Harvard Yard."

Seymour Papert
Seymour Papert, a mathematician and cofounder of MIT's artificial-intelligence lab, began studying how children learn with computers in the 1960s.

"The terrorist attack is dramatic proof of why people need more knowledge than in the past and the ability to acquire it faster, more effectively and with greater independence. The key is giving every kid some sort of personal, portable and connected computing device. It should be an extension of your hand, eye or brain. We are seeing a shift from static, paper-based media to dynamic, electronic media. But the real transformation will occur when we have new ways of organizing people and knowledge. Instead of fragmenting knowledge into 'subjects' and segregating children by age, we will see groups formed around common interests. I see children using computers for making music, movies, robots--whatever evokes their passion. The assumptions we made as to why writing was superior to speaking no longer hold up in many ways. Voice recognition makes possible the recording and indexing of spoken language in new ways. In the very, very long run, maybe we'll just give up reading. Mathematics will break out of this box we've put it in--this very abstract, pure manipulation of symbols. If we look imaginatively at technology, new directions are open."

Deborah Meier
Education reformer Deborah Meier is best known for her work creating successful, small public schools for at-risk students in New York and Boston. She is also the author of "The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America From a Small School in Harlem." She is currently completing a new book entitled "In Schools We Trust."

"Over the next 25 years, I want us to realize that relationships between people are key to our democracy and our capacity to understand each other and the world around us. This is as much an intellectual as a social and moral challenge. Too often, we only think of education in terms of narrow employment issues instead of quality-of-life issues. But in the 19th century, American schools were created to produce good citizens. I would like to see us go back to that. I think schools should be about learning about the world and realizing how much more there is to learn and that the enterprise of learning is wonderful and worthy. It requires strong relationships between people to do this well. Technology can be useful in achieving that--but, as they say, it's just a tool. We should be developing habits of mind and the kind of thoughtful interpersonal relationships needed to direct technology rather than seeing technological competence as an end in itself. It's the habits of mind that are critical."

Newt Gingrich
As speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich proposed issuing a laptop to every child in America. After leaving politics in 1999, Gingrich became a business consultant and a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He has spent much of his time in Silicon Valley studying the intersection of business, technology and education.

"Imagine that you could go to an immersion center that could submerge you in a dozen different experiences. Learning will be high tech and high touch. By the time you can explain it on a chalkboard, you could build a virtual immersion in which first, second and third graders could experience representations of atoms actually vibrating, instead of hearing about the quantum world as an abstraction. If you want to talk about endangered species, maybe you go to Chengdu, where the Chinese have the big panda-research facility, and you're talking in real time. Or maybe your history class in the not-so-distant future will link up with a classroom in Afghanistan and talk about what life is like growing up in a new democracy.

"I would hope we can develop virtual connectivity that would bring real scientists into classrooms from seventh to 12th grades via streaming or real-time video. Think of schools as the largest collection of movie theaters in the country. The question is, how do you make the investment equivalent of the Titanic in education?"