Schools of the future – Q&A with Schoolbox creator and product manager James Leckie

Picture of By Sean Richards
By Sean Richards
Schools of the future – Q&A with Schoolbox creator and product manager James Leckie

Feature Image: France in 2000 year (XXI century). Future school. By Jean Marc Cote (if 1901) or Villemard (if 1910)

We recently were approached by the media to provide a response to a number of questions regarding the education sector and the ‘School of the Future’. James Leckie, co-founder and the original creator of Schoolbox provided the following responses.

Q: Based on what you are seeing out there at the moment, and if you could look in a crystal ball, what does the ‘School of the Future’ look like to you?

The ‘School of the Future’ would be more personalised and allow self-progression of learning. Students would work in teams or solo to complete objectives, projects and tasks that assist them to learn various parts of the curriculum. This fully integrated and personalised learning could span years allowing students to move ahead or mentor younger students. Students would be responsible for their own pace and would be guided to consume appropriate resources including video, interactive games and websites as required. They could also seamless interact with other students not just in their school but all over the world. Teachers would coordinate project teams, assist with developing objectives and mentor students to help them achieve their goals. Teachers would spend less time lecturing and assessing and more time to mentor and guide students.

Q: When you think about the evolution of Learning Management Systems, Big Data and Collaborative Learning Environments – what’s changed / (or what’s changing)

Initially learning management systems (LMS) were focused purely on content delivery. Today we see a much greater focus on activities and interaction. The idea that education is social and that we learn from others is key to the future of LMS.

We have also seen a trend to more real-time formative assessment, away from the traditional summative reporting. In the future we will see that student’s results are available in real-time for parents, teachers and students to access as they progress through a course—changing the emphasis for summative reporting to non-quantitative results, such as team work, attitude and behaviour.

Once this formative data is more accessible we will see the development of more big data analysis tools to start asking questions about this formative data. Questions like, is my curriculum delivery working? Which students require additional assistance and in which areas? Have other subjects already covered this topic and how? What is the ideal amount of homework?

Another area that is changing is access to curriculum content. Previously most content was controlled by large publishing companies that wished to keep their content protected in walled gardens to maintain their digital rights. We are starting to see the development of a more diverse content ecosystem and a relaxing of restrictions from traditional production houses. This means that schools will have more choice when it comes to content than ever before and over the next few years this will become more integrated into our LMS products.

Q: When you look at the needs of the Education Sector over the fullness of time – what hasn’t changed?

The curriculum and the assessment of that curriculum has been very slow to change. Although many schools work around this with innovative programs within their schools, ultimately schools are required to report back to a curriculum and assessment framework that has not fundamentally changed in 30 years. This requires complex mapping and tracking to ensure that schools are still sticking with the old framework even though they are delivering it in new ways.

The particular issues that are faced are the heavy reliance on handwritten assessment, lack of collaborative projects and the difficulty in personalising the curriculum to a student’s interests.

Q: Right now, in the present day in the Education Sector – what needs to change?

The workplace environment we are educating students for has changed radically in the last 30 years. Things like personal computers, internet, multimedia and social media have altered the modern workplace. We now require our employees to be competent team members, advanced technology users and critical thinkers. All while expecting them to be socially and ethically responsible in a global environment.

The education system needs to recognise that we should not be teaching students facts, but instead teaching skills. It needs to refocus on the skills required in the modern workforce, not the subjects. In particular we need to focus on communication, collaboration, team work and critical thinking.

Alongside changes to the curriculum, assessment should also be modernised to recognise the role technology can play in simplifying assessment. Minimising marking and reducing the delay between feedback will ensure students can quickly move through the curriculum when they have achieved the appropriate level.

It is also important to recognise a world in which the internet is always available changes the skills set required from memory and recall to critical thinking and application. No longer should we assess student’s memory, but instead we should be assessing their ability to discern fact from fiction.

Outside of the curriculum it will be really important to see more integration between products. There are important protocols like SIF and LTI being developed but they are slow and difficult to implement. This integration needs to be fast and easy to allow consumers to choose from a wider range of tools. Increased integration will mean a more diverse and healthy ecosystem of technology products. Rather than monolithic tools, schools will be able to choose from a wide range of tools that fit specific purposes or requirements.