Skip to main content

21st Century Pedagogy: An Educator’s Guide for Teaching the Future

Luke Holm earned bachelor's degrees in English and philosophy from NIU. He is a middle school teacher and a creative writer.

The internet can connect teachers and students from across the globe in the blink of an eye.

The internet can connect teachers and students from across the globe in the blink of an eye.

Education in the Future

In the future, the average student will wake up in the morning with a list of educational reminders that a touch screen holographic image will project in front of their face. After checking her MyFaceTube app (or some similar form of multi-purpose social media), she will open up a reminder from her tenth-grade teacher that displays across the bedroom wall. As the student brushes their teeth, the teacher will give a brief summary of the previous day’s lesson and what e-books to bring to class.

“Arriving at class, stepping out of ecologically friendly vehicles, students will enter a classroom that is no longer set up lecture-style, but forum-based and focused on a holographic projector that will enable discussions to be had by members of academic communities that reside in other countries."

— Mitchell LeBlank

Connecting With Students Through Technology

In the very near future, educators will begin taking advantage of out-of-class technological sources. These sources will be used to reach the students outside of school, which will greatly expand the potential of what can be taught. As more portable technological inventions are created, students will use them as agents for communication, information, and entertainment. Currently, “85% of 13-to-18-year-olds have email contact lists, 81% IM buddy lists, 77% have cellular phones, and 75% have social-networking or community site profiles” (Rice).

In the future, educators can use the students’ personal devices and social networking outlets as an outside learning source for their classroom. By mixing human interaction with online networking, teachers will use options like Facebook, YouTube, video e-mail, Instagram, Google Classroom, and online presentations as a direct link to their students. The use of social media will integrate the students’ social networking sites with the educators’ professional WebPages, where out-of-class questions can be asked or discussed not only by the teacher but also in the form of online classroom discussions.

The use of social media and online classrooms will be a way of producing out-of-class lectures in the form of Podcasts, relevant links, or videos. (Podcasting is an online broadcast; it is a combination of audio and video communication through an online presentation that offers information on a certain subject or inquiry.) Through Podcasts, teachers will teach extra material that could not be given ample time in the class. The beauty of Podcasts is that educators only have to record the lesson once, and the lesson can be published and watched an unlimited number of times. These same basic principles will apply to e-mailing systems and online classrooms and presentations. All will be good ways to communicate extra material to the students and inform them about upcoming assignments and which materials to bring to class that day.

Technology in the Classroom

In the future, educators will take advantage of advanced in-class resources. These sources of technology will not, as some educators fear, take over the educational institutions.

"Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.” By using in-class technology, such as the wireless Internet, educators take advantage of immediacy and “free access to the sum of all human knowledge."

— Bill Gates

Expanding the Educational Frontier

With the need for immediacy growing, one main in-class technology that educators will utilize is the wireless classroom coupled with wireless computing devices. “Interesting innovations are already making their way into classrooms being built today” (Craven). Educators will teach their students through interactive learning experiences that take advantage of wireless networking. With over “sixty-percent of the US population using the Internet in some capacity” (Storslee), it is reasonable to say that a large portion of the learning process will be wireless and will take place online.

As educators of the “Net Generation” focus on the changing attitudes within the classroom, the first thing they will notice is that their students “like portability, and they are frustrated by technology that tethers them to a specific location” (Carlson 34). Because Internet access will be available at any moment during the school day, educators can create tasks that students can quickly research on their wireless devices and participate through interactive surveys that will instantly be displayed on the board. As the media in a learning environment moves from the physical world to the “cyber world,” educators will be given a broader range of topics to lecture on and the option to pose more difficult questions to their students.

Technology is shaping the future of learning.

Technology is shaping the future of learning.

Higher-Level Thinking

When the learning environment begins to make the switch from physical to “cyber,” educators will also become aware of how their students obtain their information, and therefore alter the way projects and questions are proposed. One approach is through inquiry-based learning. Instead of asking a student, “What is cancer?" educators will ask more in-depth questions such as, “How can cancer be found and treated?” By manipulating the question, the student will no longer just “Wikipedia” the answer, but will have to do actual research on the Internet.

David S. Jakes, in, “A Structured Approach for Effective Student Web Research,” “believes that successful use of the World Wide Web within an instructional setting is tied directly to a pedagogical approach that promotes inquiry-based learning.” By applying inquiry-based learning within the classroom, students will learn to think outside of the Internet, ultimately combining their brain power with the power of their technology. However, since all students may not have the same technological devices, it is the educational institution’s duty to provide appropriate hardware—tablets, laptops, e-paper, etc.—that will connect the students online and thus connect the students to their teachers.

The classroom of the future will look different.

The classroom of the future will look different.

Paperless Classrooms

By using in-class technology, educators will move to the paperless classroom. Teachers can say goodbye to the “My dog ate my homework” excuse; students can say goodbye to their backbreaking backpacks, and both can say hello to the light-weight future of paper e-paper and e-books. “Students will have continuous access to these devices, which weigh about 22 ounces and can be transported easily outside of school. The physical mobility allows the educational process to grow and branch out” (Caterinicchia).

Currently, e-paper is a digital device that contains three layers: “an outer layer with the printed design and text, a middle layer containing the conductive inks, connected to a power supply, and a third one made of thick cardboard material” (Gingichashvili). Eventually, as it is mass-produced, e-paper will be as thin as a normal sheet of paper, but will still hold processing power much more powerful than the computers we have today. E-paper will have “a fine latticework of sensors that can detect the movements on a stylus with a special electrically conductive tip” (LEG). This means that while students will have the option to type their notes within the paper-thin, computer-like e-paper, they will also have the option to write their notes in the traditional manner that will utilize a “Smart Pen.” Either way, the students will instantly be able to save their typed and handwritten assignments easily and efficiently. Along with e-paper, schools and educators will also utilize e-books.

While e-paper has its obvious ecological advantages, e-books or e-readers will also provide an eco-friendly learning style. “E-readers also turn out to be very good for the environment–fewer trees will be cut down to make paper” (Copeland 68). They eliminate the mass production of tree-based paper such as in Hatboro-Horsham (Pennsylvania) High School, where, “School officials estimated that each of the 20 classes at Hatboro-Horsham used nearly 500 sheets of paper a week” (Sherretta). E-books will be downloaded (or uploaded, depending on the task) like a file onto the students’ e-paper. Through these technological advances, the only thing students will ever have to bring to class is a good attitude, their e-paper, and their Smart Pens.

High-tech educational tools are present at most, if not all, schools today.

High-tech educational tools are present at most, if not all, schools today.

Education is Evolving

However, some educators are still very skeptical about moving from a traditional writing style, print, and text to an illuminated screen. Educators who fear that future e-paper may eliminate the traditional writing and reading process, need not worry. “There are many who believe that the new generation of learners, what Don Tapscott calls the Net Generation, or N-Gen, are much more accustomed to reading and learning from a screen.” In the future, e-paper and e-books will be the social “norm,” whereas actual notebooks and textbooks will be cumbersome tools of the past.

With appropriate measures of preparation by both the educators and their institutions, technology will create a positive learning experience for future students. As technology continues to rapidly change within modern culture and society, educators can take advantage of the informational outlets that it will provide.

Through out-of-class and in-class sources, educators can connect with their students on an entirely different level. As technology brings educators and students closer together, schools can utilize the devices that they already have to make the learning process a much grander one. “Technology is a tidal wave flooding the whole world” (Hutinger), and its waters have just begun to rise within schools today. As we join together as a technologically formed and constantly connected informational community, let us build an ark, survive the waters, and sail into a new educational horizon.

Works Cited

Carlson, Scott. The Net Generation Goes to College. Vol. 52. 2005. n. pag.

Caterinicchia, Dan. "Dayton Electronic Book Classroom Pilot to Begin Sept. 1." CNN. 31 August 1999 < index.html>.

Copeland, Michael. "Paperless Books." Fortune 16 March 2009: 68.

Cragun, Ryan T. The Future of Texbooks? "Electronic Journal of Sociology." U of Cincinnati: n.p., 2007. 4.

Craven, Jackie. "Architects Design Tomorrow's Schools for Computer Technology." 2009 < design.htm>.

Gates, Bill. "Teacher Quotes." Famous Quotes and Quotations at BrainyQuote. Teacher Quotes. <>.

Gingichashvili, Sarah. "Interactive." TFOT - The Future Of Things. 9 May 2007 <http://>.

Hutinger, Patricia L. "Technology and Education: What Will the Future Bring?" Western

Illinois University. n.d. <>.

Jakes, David S., Mark Pennington, and Howard Knodle. "Using the Internet to Promote Inquiry-Based Learning." Biopoint. 2002 < /ibr.html>.

Leblank, Mitchell. "The Future of Technology and Education." 19 December

2008 < -education>.

LEG. "Smart Paper." n.d. < /smart.html>.

Rice, Martin A. "How and why do you Integrate Technology into the Classroom?" Educational Cyber Playground. 1997 < /HowToIntegrateTech.html>.

Sherretta, Ed. "Technology in the Classroom:The Paperless School of the Future Is Here Now!" Education World. 12 January 2000 < /tech059.shtml>.

Storslee, Jon, Roger Yohe, and Nancy Matte. Future of Technology in the Classroom. 2003. 1.

Tapscott, Don. "The Rise of the Net Generation." Growing up Digital. New York: McGraw, 1998.

© 2018 JourneyHolm


RachelWeeks from Australia on August 15, 2018:

Education is very important as well as approach to it. It is important that teachers know the psychological side of the education of children. On there is a list of the best universities in Australia, as well as a review on them. Teachers' professionalism depends on universities that's why they are so important.

Jay C OBrien from Houston, TX USA on May 12, 2018:

Very well written article. The most important time for learning is the first 4-5 years. Children should be taught that they are secure, safe and loved. This requires dedicated parents. Too often this is overlooked or fall short.

Mental Illness should also be addressed, diagnosis and treatment. I do not believe drugs are the solution. Children must learn to cope.