Is the future of schools no more physical schools at all?
Right now our Province in South Africa is investing heavily in broadband to connect over 1,600 schools spread out across the Province. Not only are there costs in building, maintenance, security, equipment, etc but what really hit the spot was realising most of us got to work in about a third of the normal travel time today whilst the schools are on holiday.
That got me to thinking... instead of investing in broadband to connect schools, LAN cabling, buying and replacing computers, maintaining them, and all travelling back and forth... imagine if learners had broadband at home and attended "virtual school"? Educators from anywhere could hold virtual classes for learners located anywhere. So a virtual class could enrol physical learners from far away, and likewise for the educator. Disabled educators or learners could participate without having to travel or have the stigma of "disability" that some perceive.
The "virtual classroom" would be VR so the learners would sit in their allocated places and when turning their heads they would see their "classmates" at their desks (much like Second Life already works). No more forgetting homework at home, no more missing buses or lifts to school, no more stress for parents dropping kids on time, no more muggings when leaving school. It would put rural learners on an equal footing with their city counterparts. Rural learners would also have access to the identical "equipment" and aids online.
It won't happen tomorrow but I could see a dramatic scaling back of physical school expenses and the investment going more to broadband and online VR learning. The same investment would help graduated learners run their own businesses remotely using similar technology. Sound far-fetched? Well, Australian learners in the Outback have been attending "School of the Air" via radio for decades. Apart from the costs saved, that land can be used for other purposes, and learners would save a good hour or more of their day not having to travel. It's no overnight achievement that is for sure but the more likely question is, is it something we'd want to achieve in 10 or 20 years, because if so, we should start planning that way. If universities can already hold Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) this approach merely makes that more VR orientated for a sense of realism. The technology is actually pretty ready, it is more a question of accepting such a vision and planning to channel funding away from physical schools to virtual schools at some point in the future.
There are actually probably more positives than negatives for such an approach, and if funding can be redirected instead of being an additional expense, it could actually be affordable as well.
Some negatives may be raised around the need for sports facilities and the lack of physical contact but sports could still be arranged locally (not on a per school basis) almost like community sports clubs exist for adults. I still see many pro's especially for the disabled.
The question really is, are physical schools not actually causing many con's of their own that we have just become accustomed to? Perhapos we are caught in a physical rut.