Future Trends in Educational Technology

Future Trends in Educational Technology

The development of the personal computer and the Internet has “enabled man to transcend the barriers of physical distance” (Castro, 2001). People no longer limit their learning to an educational setting such as a school or university. Learning can take place at home or at the office, by online distance learning. The future of technology will enable people to be life-long learners (Thornburg, 1999). Learning will continue into the work place where there is a “need to keep up with current information” (Castro, 2001).

Learners do not have to depend on their memories. They can store information on their personal computers and be able to retrieve it at all times. The concept of knowledge has changed from having information in the brain, to “having access to information about a particular topic and knowing how to use it” (Castro, 2001). Teachers’ roles will ultimately change since they will no longer be providers of information. They will be facilitators who concentrate “on the teaching of social skills rather than academic or technical expertise” (Castro, 2001). However, “teacher-mediated classrooms do not foster computer-mediated learning” (Snyder, 2004). “Technology requires changes in the way humans work” (Mulcahy, 2003), yet schools are “adding computers to a traditional, authoritarian, classroom-centered” (Snyder, 2004) setting. It won’t work. “As General Electric CEO Jack Welch has said, “If the rate of change inside an institution is less than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight” Welch (as cited in Thornburg, 1999, p.7). Technology is developing at a very fast pace. If education fails to keep up with the current trends, will it keep up with those of the future? This paper will discuss two articles that deal with future trends of educational technology. The articles are: David Thornburg’s “Reading the Future” (1999) and Aureo Castro’s “Learning in a Digital Age: Current and Future Trends in Educational Technology” (2001).

Even though David Thornburg’s article appeared in 1999, the trends he writes about are still relevant today. David Thornburg lists seven “trends and their consequences” (1999) while Aureo Castro mentions six. The former discusses the “rapid increase in the growth of information, the collapse of the information float, increasingly global marketplace, computers continue to increase in power while dropping in cost, the computer chips continue to follow Moore’s Law, bandwidth is becoming free and finally network power continues to obey Metcalfe’s Law as future trends that will have “implications for education” (1999). Aureo Castro’s future trends include, an increase in web enabled courses, more home schoolers, new roles for teachers, a paradigm shift in primary education, new roles for schools and centralization of curriculum and instructional development” (2001).

According to David Thornburg, because the Internet is “doubling in size every year, [and] the web is doubling in size every 90 days [there is need for] a complete rethinking of education” (1999, p. 4). He suggests the need for “technological fluency [so that students] can sit down at a computer and use it as easily as [they] can pick up and read a book in [their] native language” (1999, p. 5).

Aureo Castro sees “home schooling [and] more web-enabled courses” (2001, p. 2) as future trends in “rethinking education” (Thornburg, 1999, p. 4). He predicts “new roles for teachers [as] facilitators [who will] concentrate on the teaching of social skills rather than [on] academic or technical expertise” (2001, p. 2). Aureo Castro predicts that there will be an increase in online courses “offered through the Internet” (2001, p. 2). He suggests that “the only way to go with the fast increase in population and the physical constraint of the existing colleges and universities [is] in cyberspace” (2002, p. 2). Aureo Castro focuses on the Internet and “distance education” as a trend that will become even more popular in the future. He claims that future “schools will cease to become like a mill where students undergo academic processing but will evolve into becoming community centers where students engage in a variety of activities and projects” (2001, p. 3). According to Aureo Castro, school “curriculum will shift from what used to be extra-curricular activities and become the main curriculum” (2001, p. 3).

David Thornburg focuses on another trend for the future of schools. He worries about “the lack of technologically fluent workers” and getting prepared for jobs that have not been invented yet (1999, p. 5). David Thornburg claims that educators “must create an educational system that prepares students to work in fields that do not even exist” (1999, p. 6). David Thornburg doesn’t predict how educators would deal with the educational trends of the future. However, he does claim that once “technologies become commonplace with all students, the tools for lifelong learning will be in place, [adding that] the notion [of] lifelong learning is a survival skill” (1999, p. 6). Future trends cannot be ignored. David Thornburg’s final words are harsh. He claims that “Schools that ignore the trends shaping tomorrow will cease to be relevant in the lives of their students and will disappear quickly” (1999, p. 7). The competition is tough. This reflects Jack Welch’s statement that “if the rate of change inside an institution is less than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight” (as cited in Thornburg, 1999, p.7).

“Truly global leaders are geo-strategic futurists who gaze across time and make extraordinary things happen” (Feather, n.d). Aureo Castro and David Thornburg are educational futurists who have looked at future trends in technology and their impact on education. Technology can improve student learning and make teachers’ work much easier. Educational technology will become “powerful low-cost, off the shelf tools that can make learning more engaging and knowledge more accessible” (Snyder, 2004). Educators “must work in partnership to break down the barriers of time, space, content and form so [learners] can collaborate, communicate, and share ideas” (Mulcahy, 2003).


Castro, A. P. (2001). Learning in a digital age: Current and future trends in educational technology. Retrieved April 20, 2004, from http://www.geocities.com/apcastro111/conteduc/edutech.htm

Good, D. G. (1999, January). Future trends affecting education. Retrieved April 20, 2004, from http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/13/27/1327.htm

Feather, F. (n.d) Seeing the future. Retrieved April 20, 2004, from http://www.future-trends.com/executive2020_seeing.html

Mulcahy, A. (2003, March 11). A new way to work. ICT World Forum CeBIT. Retrieved April 20, 2004, from http://www.creative010.com/Client/ictwf/press_on_site/speeches/


Snyder, D. P. (2004, January). A look at the future: Is technology the answer to education’s long-term staffing problems? American School Journal. Retrieved April 16, 2004, from http://www.asbj.com/2004/01/0104technologyfocus.html

Thornburg, D. D. (1998, June). Reading the future: Here’s what’s on hand for technology and education. Electronic School. Retrieved April 20, 2004, from http://www.electronic-school.com/0698f1.html