Changes in the world are occurring at a rapid fire pace. The implications for the 21st century student go far beyond simple comprehension. The Shift Happens Video describes the vast and far-reaching nature of change in this century.

The K-12 public school system needs to enter and embrace the 21st century. From a Time article, How to Bring Our Schools Into the 21st Century by Claudia Wallis & Sonja Steptoe (December 10, 2006): "There's a dark little joke exchanged by educators with a dissident streak: Rip Van Winkle awakens in the 21st century after a hundred-year snooze and is, of course, utterly bewildered by what he sees. Men and women dash about, talking to small metal devices pinned to their ears. Young people sit at home on sofas, moving miniature athletes around on electronic screens. Older folk defy death and disability with metronomes in their chests and with hips made of metal and plastic. Airports, hospitals, shopping malls--every place Rip goes just baffles him. But when he finally walks into a schoolroom, the old man knows exactly where he is. "This is a school," he declares. "We used to have these back in 1906. Only now the blackboards are green." American schools aren't exactly frozen in time, but considering the pace of change in other areas of life, our public schools tend to feel like throwbacks. Kids spend much of the day as their great-grandparents once did: sitting in rows, listening to teachers lecture, scribbling notes by hand, reading from textbooks that are out of date by the time they are printed. A yawning chasm (with an emphasis on yawning) separates the world inside the schoolhouse from the world outside."

Predictions and Insight About the Trends

Interestingly, Timothy Leary, the radical iconist intellectual of the 1960’s, predicted these developments in an interview with Todd Brendan Fahey in 1992! “The use of multimedia electronic software will put into the hands of every Third World kid, every inner-city kid in America the ability to boot up, activate, turn on their right brain, to reprogram their left brain. We're now using electrons to create what's called virtual reality, electronic realities, which mean brain realities of course, because for the brain to use the body to communicate in terms of words--nine muscles of your vocal chords to create the words that I am now, or printing presses to print out book--is extremely crude, when you consider the human brain can deal with a hundred and fifty million signals a second. We use oral and hand tools, mechanical forms of communication, basically for material purposes; but we're now into the concept of direct brain exchange or brain communication, on screens.” Leary also addressed social networking even before it was labeled. He described Ken Kesey’s group book project, “The computer was basically like a videotelephone, the mind-link; and he had a group of student using computers to link their minds to write a group book, which was one of the most brilliant uses of computers ever performed.”

John Dewey-ing Education
Predictions for the future of education. They, in essence, will permit us to get back to John Dewey-ing Education.

  • Much of learning will occur online and in virtual worlds with learner determined time and clock hours.
  • Learning communities based on individual interests, passions, and strengths will become the norm. The age, grade, and geographic boundaries will be blurred. Groupin gs will be based on mutual teaching and learning needs and desires.
  • Teachers will be the facilitators of learning assisting students in developing personal learning plans – personal mash-ups that reflect their learning styles, research process and results, and products that demonstrate their learning.
  • Creativity, innovation, and collaboration will be the norm. Conformity, consumerism, and self-preserving individualism will be the shunned.

21st Century Soundbites

  • Learning and teaching are purposeful acts.
  • Students need to host their own learning.
  • Making the transparent opaque, making the opaque transparent.
  • Based on intentionally disruptive and relational ideology.

Trends Occurring Now

Technological Advances

83% of young people between the ages of 8 and 18 play videogames regularly; nearly 75% use instant messaging. On a typical day, more than half of U.S. teenagers use a computer and more than 40 percent play a videogame. Young people are using websites like MySpace and Facebook, and sharing photos, videos, music, ideas, and opinions online, connecting with a large group of peers in new and sometimes unexpected ways (MacAuthor Foundation). Their experiences with shared presence through instant messaging and video chat, gaming as a structure for thinking and interacting, and multiple digital and physical worlds will create new modes of work, socializing, and community learning that stress cooperative strategies, experimentation, and parallel development (Media Savvy Youth).

A Vision of K-12 Students

Open Source Applications in Education

The generation who grew up with Atari, the first generation of computers, and the Internet are now adults. They are not quite digital natives, but they embrace new technological advancements with comfort and fervor. Social Networking, Gaming, Texting are daily activities of Generation X. As they became more tech savvy, they developed the ability to hack into and alter computer programs. Some did it for the excitement of being able to so so and others as opposition of the corporate invasion of the internet. One such person, Richard Stallman created the GNN General Public Licences (GPL). The GPL is infectious: any software created with free software must also be free software. Stallman calls this "copyleft" because it preserves the rights of the user not the creator. The GPL is a political manifesto as well as a software license. Open source software usually costs nothing to download and educators can share copies with whomever they like, technically and legally. Like a silent storm, open source runs much of the Internet and the Web (especially Web servers and gateways). It's making inroads on servers, desktops, mobile devices, everywhere. Open source has become a global phenomenon with an unclear future (Open Options) . Open source software and applications are giving educators to use sophisticated Web 2.0 tools to enhance their students' learning experiences. Opportunities, once only used by technology specialists and/or higher income school districts, are available to any classroom teacher who has access to computers and the internet. The short and long term effect of this trend is the potential to lesson the technology gap between the socio-economic groups.
See How the Open Source Movement Has Changed Education: 10 Success Stories

Technology Reshapes America's Classrooms

From online courses to kid-friendly laptops and virtual teachers, technology is spreading in America's classrooms, reducing the need for textbooks, notepads, paper and in some cases even the schools themselves." The Internet is also a catalyst for change. U.S. enrollment in online virtual classes reached the 1 million mark last year, 22 times the level seen in 2000.

Technology will permit Media-Rich Pervasive Learning which is about anytime, anyplace learning. It builds off of a major shift in technological paradigm from a focus on “the box” (the computer or TV and the screen) to a focus on context—our physical location, the information we can access, and the people to whom we can connect, physically and virtually (Pervasive Technology Labs of Indiana).

Social Networking for Social Change

Personal, digital media media are collaborative, social, and interactive media such as blogs, wikis, and social book-marking. These media enable individuals to express themselves individually, but also to connect and form social groups of affinity and support (Media Rich Pervasive Learning). Groups are forming and catalyzing communities of action using personal interactive media. One such example is TakingITGlobal. is an online community that connects youth to find inspiration, access information, get involved, and take action in their local and global communities. It's the world's most popular online community for young people interested in making a difference,

21st Century Learning Sills

A quiet revolution in public education is in full swing. Public schools and their communities are rolling out innovative strategies to give all students every chance to thrive in a challenging new century. These efforts add up to an emerging vision for the future of public schools. They deserve our nation's continued commitment and resources (Learning First Alliance).


The Partnership for 21st Century Skills offer Route 21, an interactive tool for exploring for 21st century skills-related information, resources and community tools. To get started, explore the P21 framework or click on the image below.


Long Term Trends

Integrated Technology

Technology will be seamlessly integrated into all aspects of our lives. By 2030, technology will be so integral to daily living that we will take it for granted, believes Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. "We have entered the main event of technology...We are talking about an era where technology is woven into the fabric of life and almost disappears. It means that technology is in everything and everywhere," Fiorina said.

brain_technology_3.jpgOnline vs. Hands-On Activities Tied to Cognitive Decline

A balance of integrated technology and the use of hands-on, physical use of the body must be achieved for overall health of the mind and body. Children's brain development is being threatened by their failure to work with their hands in school and at home, said a report commissioned by the Ruskin Mill Educational Trust. "Working with one's own hands in a real-world 3-D environment is imperative for full cognitive and intellectual development," said the report's author Dr. Aric Sigman. The report cited examples of 11-year-olds with deficits in certain areas of their cognitive development and a decline in the ability of young engineers and apprentices to conceptualize straightforward mechanical problems. "The findings of this report clearly point to strengthening the role of '3-D' learning and crafts in educational policy-making today," said Sigman.

Visual Literacies

Since technological advances continue to develop at an unprecedented rate, many educators in the 21st century promote the learning of visual literacies as indispensable to life in the information age. Similar to linguistic literacy (meaning making derived from written or oral human language) which is commonly taught in schools, educators are recognizing the importance of helping students develop visual literacies in order to survive and communicate in a highly complex world (Visual Literacy).

Academics have a long history of claiming and defending the superiority of verbal over visual for representing knowledge. By dismissing imagery as mere decoration, they have upheld the sanctity of print for academic discourse. However, in the last decade, digital technologies have broken down the barriers between words and pictures, and many of these same academics are now willing to acknowledge that melding text with image constructs new meaning, and some may even go so far as to admit that images, as communication devices, can stand on their own. George Lucas has argued: If students arent taught the language of sound and images, shouldnt they be considered as illiterate as if they left college without being able to read or write?1 Much like written language, visual literacy has its own grammatical syntax and vocabulary. Visually literate individuals must be able to decode imagery—look at it, perceive meaning, and make decisions based on what they see. They must also be able to encode visual imagery—that is, make simple images and visualize basic data (Visual Literacy: An Institutional Imperative).

Collective Intelligence

Sapiential Circles

Jim Caroll identifies the 10 Big Issues for Education, the first one being rapid knowledge growth. He attributes this to ever-growing sapiential circles. Warren Bennis, a distinguished professor of Southern California's Marshall School of Business, was referring to how the knowledge of a group tended to increase exponentially as new members were added to the group. What we are witnessing in the world today is a dramatic increase in our own human sapiential circles as a result of global connectivity. When the minds of people around the world connect around share an interest in a topic or issue, they become a sapiential circle and their collective knowledge or wisdom of the group is ignited.

Grassroots Economy

The collective intelligence will also influence anf promote a grassroots economy. "What our economy could look like over the next decade, a change from economies of scale to economies of groups. It values collaboration more than negotiation, and bottom-up rather than top-down processes."