The Future of Elementary Schools and Teachers

Do you think technology will cause the brick and mortar schools to become obsolete?

Not elementary schools. The elementary school experience is a powerful, enduring part of our society that fundamentally works for a large percentage of the population.

The main role of the elementary school is to socialize children. Being with one-another, and being with teachers, caring and qualified adults, is deeply fulfilling. This socializing role is increasingly important in our ever-diversifying population. World events have made the United States much more inclusive of varying cultures than in prior years. The elementary school is a social construct that forms an essentially backbone for our society.

Brick and mortar elementary schools will be around for quite some time. Imagine 20 million elementary school students surfing the web from home all day long. These are children. They are not yet independent. Even as the high-school experience evolves towards a more self-directed, self-paced, virtual attendance system, there will be plenty of challenges around safety. For elementary students, they will be attending school with adult supervision.

So, does technology replace the role of the teacher?

One of the best things we can do with computers, iPads, whiteboards, and all the rest is to augment the role of the teacher. I was approached by a young investor who asked me, “Why can’t your math technology give us a cost-saving 60-to-1 ratio in classrooms? That would be a home run!”

I responded, “Tell your wife: Hey, I placed our second grader in the perfect class today! I chose the one with 60 kids and one teacher, instead of the old-fashioned class with 22 kids.” She’d be crushed, and she’d send you right back to that principal in a nanosecond to fix your egregious error.

So, what do you mean by augmenting the role of the teacher?

Help the teacher nail every day with excellence. I think we can all agree that navigation systems in cars are pretty amazing. When they work, which is about 80% of the time, they totally change the game of driving. Imagine today’s teacher navigating through her day. 28 fifth graders. Some with special needs. Others with language differences. And she’s teaching multiplying fractions! Deliver technology directly to her to help her lead discussions, understand what her students are thinking, and foster good learning throughout the class.

Technology should bring teachers and students closer together. Class conversations – just like you and your partner have better vacation planning discussions when you are looking at websites. Teachers can lead better discussions when sharing a large, front-of-the-room screen with images that enlighten and promote dialogue. Student work – when students are working at a machine, well-designed digital curriculum can instantly flag when they are stuck. Much better than pencil and paper. So, the teacher can visit, right then, right when the student needs some help.

Technology can be a great tool to make a teacher successful every day, or, at least 4-out-of-5!