Ed-Tech Predictions Part I

Guest post by Ray Schleck, Director of Match Next

I’d like to talk with you today about predictions.

In 2010, a bill was proposed in Romania to levy an income tax on witches in an attempt to help buoy the state coffers. At first, senators balked at the plan. And for good reason, considering the witches’ angry threats of curses should the bill pass.

But in early 2011 a bill did indeed pass the Romanian Senate. Not only would witches be forced to pay income taxes, the bill punished them for bad predictions with fines and jail time. Some of the witches responded by throwing poisonous mandrake into the Danube to put a hex on offending lawmakers.

Our own Congress should consider a similar measure. I’d just switch every instance of the word ‘witch’ with ‘political pundit.’

Speaking of predictions and punditry, here’s a question I was asked this weekend: On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being radical change, and 0 being no change, how different will a typical K-12 classroom look ten years from now due to technology?

Think of your answer. Now think if you’d change your answer if you knew you’d be fined and/or jailed should it turn out to be wrong. Does your number go up or down?

I got this question on Saturday at a conference at Harvard on ed-tech put on by LearnLaunch, a Boston-based ed-tech incubator with a mission to support New England ed-tech companies in their creation and growth. They asked Match Next to join a small panel titled: How will schools change as technology becomes more embedded in instruction?

Our moderator was Andy Calkins from Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC), an organization that gave us a grant to help us launch our new blended learning middle school called Match Next. Andy put the ‘1-10’ prediction question to the panel, then to our audience of about 30 (mostly self-identified ed practitioners).

There was pretty broad consensus in the room. I’d estimate that 80% of folks responded with a number between 4 and 6. The other two panelists, a former principal of an ‘Innovation Zone’ high school in NYC, and a consultant who works with school districts to design and implement new school models, said the same: in the 4-6 range.

Which I thought was fairly modest for a room full of people at an ed-tech conference. Typically at these things you see folks who are very high on the impactfulness of whatever the conference happens to be about. Andy, our moderator, has been working in this ed-tech space since the ‘80s. He chuckled a bit after polling the audience and said that people have been predicting that kind of change for years and it hasn’t happened. Then he said that he thought we were at a unique moment, and that it felt like this time could be different.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about what our early-going findings about ed-tech have led me to believe regarding this question. Luckily, Romania’s Queen Witch Bratara Buzea has provided some strong wisdom on how to respond should your predictions turn out wrong: “They can’t condemn the witches, they should condemn the cards.”