Dr. L. Robert Furman, Chief Operating Officer at Young Scholars of Western Pennsylvania Charter School

Dr. L. Robert Furman is an educator, leader, principal, student, speaker, and published author. As a former teacher and now administrator, Dr. Rob serves in the foreground of everyday education. Currently, Dr. Rob serves as Chief Operating Officer at Young Scholars of Western Pennsylvania Charter School outside of Pittsburgh, PA, and has truly become a sought-after leader in topics surrounding the field of education today. Dr. Rob is the author of several books including Reading, Technology, and Digital Literacy and the ISTE bestselling title Are You Future Ready. His most recent publication, Engaging Young Readers, has quickly become a must-read in the area of technology and literacy. Beyond speaking at venues across the country, Dr. Rob was a contributing blogger for The Huffington Post as well as the Ed Tech Review.  Further, he has received several prestigious awards, such as being named in the National School Board Association’s “20 To Watch” in technology education and a Pittsburgh Tribune Review News Maker of the Year. Rob lives in Morningside, Pittsburgh, PA with his beautiful wife, Lynn, and their four-legged friends.


I consider myself an educational futurist. I attempt to employ the same tactics that futurists do when they forecast. I had the wonderful opportunity to be a member of the World Future Society for many years and the experience was second to none. When the WFS forecasts they typically do not look to the immediate future. Rather, they consider 25-100 years out or even more. Using that experience and what I have learned here are three forecasts or predictions for the future of education.

Lesson Design and implementation

I feel that the area of the daily lesson is what will be impacted the most in the next several years. Consider the news in regards to technology in the past 5-10 years. We started with the buzz of augmented reality. You can now find AR in just about every home improvement app and design app. You can see the furniture in your home before you purchase it. You can see what the eyeglass frames look like before you buy them. After AR came VR, virtual reality. The craze was the headgear. Playstation got involved, and Apple has a VR headset. We had Google glasses and cardboard. Oculus was the pioneer of these headsets. Nowadays you can not watch the news without hearing about artificial intelligence or AI. Students are already having AI write papers and the music and arts industry are concerned about AI copying them and mimicking their voices and images. But what about education and how will this impact those daily lessons?

If you consider a lesson as an expert teaching the students about a topic, using their hands and brains to create and discover, learning from the past experiences of others, you can start to catch a glimpse of what a lesson might look like in the future. Let’s take a look at science class. You first put on your headset and are transported to a chemist’s lab. You are seated in the chairs around the lab and your teacher is there as well. But this isn’t just a virtual lab, this is Thomas Edison’s virtual lab. Complete with Thomas Edison himself. Mr Edison starts to share with the students his history as well as his science. He teaches them about chemical reactions and combining chemicals. Then he gets the students involved. Each student now finds themselves in their own personal virtual chemical lab (this actually exists today in the VR world). The students begin to work on their projects. They can mix the chemicals and get the virtual reaction that they would have received had they actually mixed the chemicals in the real world.

Virtual Reality lets students be transported to all locations, past and present, around the globe. Artificial Intelligence will allow you to speak to the experts of every field on every subject and learn from them. Augmented Reality will allow you to take those artifacts that are gone in time or too dangerous to actually handle and be able to investigate them right in the classroom. Can you imagine a Social Studies class being held in Independence Hall during the signing of the Declaration of Independence? How about piano lessons from Mozart?

The powerful combination of these three new technologies will revolutionize the students’ daily lessons. They will be more engaging, more interesting, and steeped in best practices.

The Teacher

When technologies are embraced the typical concern arises from teachers about being replaced. I have said for years now that if a computer can replace you then you probably deserve to be replaced. In the future, I believe that statement will continue to hold true. The teacher’s job, in the future, will be different, but no less critical. The teacher will still be in charge of the lessons, being the facilitator of the lesson. They will still deal with behaviors and the human side of education. Teachers will still bring empathy, love, concern, excitement, joy, and other emotions to the classroom. We are too far out to even contemplate artificial intelligence having emotions. The teacher brings the human element to the classroom and, most importantly, to the students.

The classroom

The classroom of the future will be as simple as the headgear to as complex as a campus setting. Students will be able to do certain lessons asynchronously. Remember being taught by Thomas Edison? That lesson structure can happen anytime. That portion of the students’ learning will happen on their own time. Then there will be the lessons that require human interactions, while it can still happen “alone” there will be structured times when students will be required to log into their VR classroom with the teacher and other students. These lessons would be those that may require group projects, debates, discussions on current events, and other human-to-human opportunities. Then finally there will be larger campus structures where students will have to physically attend for certain lessons that require face-to-face time in a brick-and-mortar building. These lessons would be opportunities for humans to interact with other humans in that formal setting. Team sports and bands would be conducted during these times. Physical education would play a role during the campus times (Yes, you can do P.E. virtually, but human-to-human interaction is important and team sports and activities are perfect for that type of opportunity). This would not necessarily be a daily commute. Possibly once or twice a month. These campuses would also be more structured as a county or multi-town setting where one campus would be shared by students from say a 25-mile radius.

Can you see it now? Change happens and it should happen. If not then classrooms would still be in a one-room schoolhouse and lectures would still be the primary means of teaching. Don’t be concerned about the changes. It’s an exciting time to be in education. Embrace the change and be a part of the educational revolution.


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