Steve Patchin: The future of education in K-12 schools

Steve Patchin

One day while conducting a bus route ride-along, a young 5th grader named Keila approached me and stated “Dr. Patchin, we were just working on self-driving vehicles in our STEM Specials class. My friends and I were talking and we don’t think a computer should be driving our cars, it’s just not safe!” She went on to explain the reasons why, discussing sensors and how to program a computer to interpret their signals. What other kinds of conversations will the future of education bring?

In 2010, a collaboration between Arizona State University (ASU) and Global Silicon Valley (GSV) created the ASU + GSV Summit. They created the ASU+GSV Summit whose goal was to bring the leading minds in business, education, and society together to expand and improve how we learn, further developing a culture focused on life-long learning. Attendance grew from a couple hundred people to over 6,000 last month.

Michael Crow, President of ASU, and Walter Parkes, a Hollywood special effects specialist, joined to create Dreamscape Learn at ASU. Their goal is to use technology to enhance a student’s education through virtual exploration. Their first creation was a freshman biology class where students are equipped with an oculus headset holding an enclosed screen in front of your eyes. Students put their hands in gloves that allow you to feel whatever you are touching virtually. Each student enters a virtual world where they each have their own avatar, a computer generated human body, including the teacher. They enter virtual world scenarios such as a forest 100 million years ago to see how dinosaurs lived, seeing how and what they ate, even offering students the opportunity to dissect a dinosaur in a virtual world. Students can work in teams and talk to each other in each hands-on immersive experience. The virtual adventure takes place in a physical classroom setting.

The focus of educational technological advance is engaging all of a student’s senses, telling the story of what students are learning. Students from a school in San Diego or Hancock will have access to the same virtual experience, even coordinating with different classes from around the world if they choose. Through these experiences careers options will begin to be identified relevant to the experience. There is an Ed Tech startup that will grade tests for teachers in any subject, analyze what problems students got correct or missed, then provide students with careers they should consider.

The future of education will focus on developing human potential. Developing relationships and participating in collaborative experiences accelerate this process. Students will need to develop better communication skills and the ability to solve complex problems. These are “durable skills” that can lead to success in both personal and professional endeavors.

Keila’s specials teachers reached out to Professor Jeremy Bos at Michigan Tech to bring some of his students to talk to her class. Some of the questions from Keila and her fellow 5th graders: Who would be responsible if the car hurt someone? How would the car handle in bad weather up here (snow)? How does the car know when the sensor stops working? Tech students brought a lidar sensor for the kids to play with in class – the sensor mapped out the room and the kids could see themselves moving on the screen, illustrating a car sensor in operation.

Young students like Keila are the reason we need to find ways to break down the barriers of physical limitations in student learning. Education technology innovations need to continue to enhance relationship building, communication, complex problem solving, and the other durable skills needed for success in life. The best is yet to come in K-12 education!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Steve Patchin is superintendent of Hancock Public Schools.


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