Welcome to 2040. I no longer teach in a classroom. There are no grade levels or specific subject matter. Schools have never been better.
It’s 2040. I’ve been teaching for over 20 years.
I remember my first decade of teaching and how hard it was to meet the specific academic needs of each of my 100 high school students scattered throughout my four courses. The best a teacher could do was foster relationships with as many as they could and take opportunities to connect the course content and curriculum to them.
Some students would find the course content engaging. Some would be motivated to achieve a certain grade or assessment level. Some couldn’t be bothered and counted down the days until they would graduate from high school and be free to enter a field of work or study they’d actually enjoy.
Then teaching technology evolved to allow truly personalizing education. Software and AI began determining student’s cognitive ability starting with a series of engaging game like programs through their school issued personal device. Engagement levels were simultaneously recorded through EEG headbands, and wearable fitness tech and apps took into consideration the well-being of the child in terms of sleep, nutrition, and activity. The students loved the satisfaction of scoring points in the games.
Assignments and academic materials were then crafted from the data collected from the students, which started as soon as they entered school. This type of programming really took off when AI software began writing programs specifically to match the needs of each student as it understood their zone of proximal development, what engaged them, and the proper time of day to challenge them.
Many of my colleagues wondered what exactly our roles would be moving forward. Teachers were no longer the designers of course material. Instead they were tasked with doing what the AI could not do — create meaningful relationships with students and foster an environment that allowed students to create meaningful relationships with their peers and community. While some teachers resented this others realized how much the curriculum actually got in the way of creating relationships with students. Socially, the change was for the better.
Teachers were now also expected to become experts on world issues, both within and outside their previously chosen fields. In fact, teachers too used the AI program and had programming individualized for themselves to foster their own professional development. Teachers were instructed to begin collaborating with elected government officials, corporations, and community leaders, in order to help both determine, understand, and ultimately direct the AI to develop educational material that would enable and empower students to address topics like climate change, cultural friction created by immigration, inequality, and advancements in technology and science.
School became much different. There were no set hours, however, students were encouraged to come in during their AI determined optimal learning times. In fact, much of a student’s academic learning could be completed anywhere with a suitable network connection. The chief purpose of physically going to school was to collaborate with others. Discussion groups, hands on learning and building, sports, gardening, sharing food, and debates were among the chief activities done at school.
Traditionalists scoffed when grade levels were abolished and the meaning of “graduation” changed. Students only “graduated” when they became completely comfortable interacting with others without a teacher guiding them on a particular subject, and in fact, could re-enter school if they sought guidance later on in life. Higher education, universities, and colleges began to adjust to this, along with corporations.
In fact, many occupations and industries utilized programs that connected to the same AI system students used in order to train and teach employees. And why not? The system is accessible for all to use. Upon “graduation” students were expected to connect with communities where they felt their ideas and influence could be felt, to join like minded corporations, or to start their own community or businesses. Since all of these things evolve, it became important for everyone to realize they were lifelong learners.
Of course, even today there are still dissenters. There are those opposed giving away their privacy, since everything from sleep cycles, eating schedule, exercise, sickness, and cognitive functionality was and is expected to be reported to this grand AI machine during every moment of the day (this ensured optimal data on each person). Many pointed towards the disastrous data breaches that influenced elections during from roughly 2015–2025. Others are still uncomfortable with AI playing such a large role in determining the academic material for youth and how that will influence global politics. Are children being swayed through “school” to cling to certain political ideology? Does the AI educational software program hold left wing or right wing politics? Does it believe in democracy, or has it determined it to be inefficient? Honestly, these fears were not lost on myself.
But the truth was and is that this information was now regulated far beyond what it was when the tech first hit the market — when counting steps and inputting diets into apps become a mainstream trend, and algorithms fed users political stories that engaged them on their political beliefs despite their accuracy. The dissenters seemed to ignore the fact that this information also provided data to the medical community and enabled them to expand life spans across the world, tailor diets to individuals, and most importantly, improve the quality of life for all. In the end, it was determined that the potential of this new system of education outweighed the negative.
Also, if we didn’t adopt this technology and education system other nations would, which would put us woefully behind in our industrialized world.
Note: This piece was inspired by Ida Auken’s, “Welcome to 2030. I Own Nothing, Have No Privacy, and Life Has Never Been Better.”
While I do hold certain opinions on whether or not this futuristic look of education is the most ideal, I absolutely maintain the opinion that this type of technological capability will be possible by 2040 based on current trends in data collection and personal computing technology.