8 Education Tools That Are Going Away

Posted by The Committed Sardine on

“Posted at Ask A Tech Teacher on by Jacqui on February 6, 2014. ”


upset boy

If you don’t have children, you may not have noticed the massive changes going on in how students learn. Where adults are struggling with adjusting to the onslaught of technology in their lives, hoping to slowly inch their way into its use, students have no such luxury. Every year, there are new iPads, apps, online grading systems, a teacher website they have to visit every day for homework. As a teacher for twenty five years (the last fifteen in technology), it has my head spinning.

But students don’t mind a wit. They’re ready, wondering what’s taking us so long to use the tools they can’t get enough of at home.

For every tool added, one that has been a mainstay of education for decades must disappear. Here are eight that you should wave goodbye to because within the next ten years, they’ll be gone:


Do you remember when you used to have a textbook for every subject. When it was social studies time, you pulled the textbook out and followed along chapter-by-chapter, hoping to finish by the end of the year? Not anymore. Now, teachers use a variety of multimedia materials, rarely as mundane as a text with pictures. Now, history comes alive with primary source audio and video, simulations of events, and games that reinforce math and science.

Textbooks–if not already in your school–will soon be all digital. Not only does that eliminate overstuffed backpacks, lost and forgotten book, they’re lighter and highly portable wherever students are likely to end up for studying. Plus, digital books are usually interactive, including links to movies, animations, and other multimedia that teaches students in ways they learn better. Even literature is read on ereaders rather than checked out of the library.


Pencils have been the mainstay of the classroom for decades. Teacher kept cups full of them, nicely sharpened, available for students who forgot theirs. Now, all those reasons that made pencils irreplaceable are disappearing. Tests are as likely to be taken online with a keyboard as by passing out paper. If there are tests at all. Assessment is as likely to be by a project, a presentation, or anecdotal observation of student work. Notes are often taken with Evernote or OneNote (Or Google Apps for sharing with classmates) on a netbook, iPad, or laptop. Notes to the teachers are via email or a shared document through Google Docs. If by chance, a pencil is required, students probably have a mechanical one.


Blackboards gave way to whiteboards, and now, those have been replaced by Smartscreens. They’re interactive, touch-sensitive, can be saved or erased with a touch.

And there’s no chalk dust.

Face it. When was the last time you saw a chalkboard?

Teaching from the Front of the Class

The traditional classroom with neat rows of desks pertly facing forward, the teacher occupying pride of place at the front as s/he pontificates Important Information, is dated. Chairs are now collected in inward-facing tables circles, the teacher weaving her way through student groups collaborating on projects–sometimes on the same topic, usually self-directed and self-paced . Teachers are now coaches, mentors, guides, part of educations new ‘flexible learning paths’, responsible not for dispensing of knowledge but differentiating for each students unique learning style.

This is nowhere more apparent than the growing interest in online classes. It’s not just in college anymore. Now, students can go to accredited K-12 schools online, never setting foot into a classroom with a teacher marching along the front. Online classes have changed over the past decade, adding tools like screen-sharing, online group collaboration (like Google Hangouts), multimedia (like audio and video) on demand, 24/7 availability, never the worry of losing homework or assignments. Once they can offer 3D and holograms, there’ll be no reason to enter a school building.

Technology-free Class

Common Core has stuck a fork in this one. If teachers were clinging gamely to the hope that they could retire before being forced to add tech to their classrooms, they just lost that race. The new Common Core Standards mention ‘technology in the classroom’ and ‘digital devices’ at least twenty-seven times I counted as tools for accomplishing the goals of college and career. Technology is required for all the significant K-8 goals, including publishing, sharing, constructing knowledge, deep learning, close reading. Consider these (truncated for brevity):

Expect students to demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding to type a minimum of one page [two by fifth grade] in a single sitting
Expect students to evaluate different media (e.g., print or digital …)
Expect students to gather relevant information from print and digital sources
Expect students to integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats
Expect students to interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., … interactive elements on Web pages)
Expect students to make strategic use of digital media
Expect students to use glossaries or dictionaries, both print and digital …
Expect students to use information from illustrations and words in print or digital text
Expect students to use a variety of media in communicating ideas
Expect students to use technology and digital media strategically and capably
Expect students to use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information
…and this Common Core note:

New technologies have broadened and expanded the role that speaking and listening play in acquiring and sharing knowledge and have tightened their link to other forms of communication. Digital texts confront students with the potential for continually updated content and dynamically changing combinations of words, graphics, images, hyperlinks, and embedded video and audio.

The underlying theme can’t be ignored: A 21st Century learner requires technologic proficiency. Final proof is that Common Core summative assessments will be completed online—only possible if students use technology as comfortably as paper and pencil to demonstrate knowledge.

By the same token, parents who want to shield their children from technology are losing their battle. It used to be acceptable to not want your student to use the internet for research or online work, but now, that is no longer an option. As much as teachers must change, so must parents.


Memorizing state capitals is so yesterday. Now, students know where to find the answers they need using strategies like online websites, tools like Google Earth. It’s not enough to know an answer–the student must provide evidence and sources. Critical thinking is as likely to be evaluated as that the student can rattle off 50 capitals.

Teacher as expert

Teachers are no longer the last word in any discussion. Now, teachers are coaches. They prod students to understand material, figure out the logic, solve problems. The buzz word is ‘inquiry’–students learn a little, get curious, ask questions. Student interest drives the class. The teacher has a general syllabus, but s/he is tuned into student needs and interests, listens to what catches their attention, then expects students to seek out answers, experiment.

This plays right into another major shift in education, that being collaboration. Look at the growth of Personal Learning Networks, face-to-face meetings like Google Hangouts, forums, and group chats. The importance of peer-to-peer is replacing working alone. The firestorm of dread and worry over social media is not going to stop it. Students are rushing ever-more-quickly that direction, no matter how we try to scare them away. We as teachers might as well teach kids the way they want to learn rather than stick our finger in a failing dam.

This one’s going to get me into trouble, but please–don’t kill the messenger! It’s not my fault that cursive is finding less and less utility in the modern classroom. There’s a reason Common Core never mentions the word ‘cursive’, yet keyboarding is critical. By middle school, students use keyboards (much) more often than handwriting. Sure, there are things that will always require handwriting (I used to say checks, but those are going away, too, so lets say notes from parents), but how much time should teachers spend preparing students for those rare events?

That’s eight trends that will no longer be part of a student’s life. I bet you can come up with a few more.

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.


  1. Pingback: 8 Education Tools That Are Going Away | Fluency21 – Committed Sardine Blog | Learning Curve

  2. Christina Greer

    I agree 100%. Teachers need to embrace these changes and meet the needs of today’s students.

  3. Kevin McVey

    it will be a long time before most schools will have digital books. the cost for the devices per student, which will be outdated within two years will also be a stumbling block. I am all for technology, I’ve taught business classes 5 out of my 15 years of teaching; but unless the taxpayers are going to give schools more money, it will be awhile before there are no more physical textbooks.

  4. Eliot Levinson

    I think the article should also include how fast some of the technology tools are becoming obselesent
    1. Interactive white boards were replaced by lMSs, whici are now being replaced by adaptive assessment and instruction—
    2. SIF compliance is moving to the 3rd generation of interoperability
    3. Tech fluency is a new skill set …as evindenced by common sense media….it is no longer using the MS suite alone….
    4. SIS systems don’t fit a non building based vision of learning…

  5. Rob

    Scary thing is, we have some schools that have chalkboards still, and those teachers use chalk. (Glad I have a writeboard). There are plenty of areas where people cannot afford the new ipads/tablets/etc. I know a lot of people say “It’s just 100-200-400$$”, not when many teachers use Blackboard, Edmodo, Youtube, and other webbased things. So, now families have to fork out internet fees etc, or live outside a Burger King/Starbucks. PC computers have been coming out more and more since the mid 90′s, yet why almost 20 years later does not every house have one? Money. Computers are too expensive, and are outdated as soon as they are bought. While I am a huge proponent of tech, and our district really uses it all over, I don’t see this really for another 10-15 years where it becomes, not necessary, but part of life. Put it this way, very low income people. wont have access. There are already govt. programs where not only do they get a free food stamps/link card, they also get a phone. When they start making it where they will also get a free ipad and free internet (paid for by the taxpayers), then it will become a reality.

    • Skip Gole

      Thanks for this Rob. Lack of money is THE unspoken, neglected topic here. I use all of the tools you mentioned, and my class is blended with a wiki as a basic LMS; however, I don’t have a smartphone! I can’t afford it. Also, my college is in a wealthy area (D.C.), but adjuncts are not given any benefits and paid a very low salary. How can you expect these tools to be developed and used well if the teacher is too harried to be of use? I teach ESL, so am looking to go back overseas (Korea), so I can take advantage of learning how to teach with these tools. I think this will not be done in the USA until we have dealt with our declining moral values. Education is essential. It’s not an option!

  6. Joyce Wimmer

    Memorizing is more than a tool–it is brain growth. Hope the concept stays–brains need to grow.

    • Carl Hochmuth

      There will always be memorizing. Basic sets of data are learned and used to evaluate other information. Sure the types of information to be memorized will change – but the skill of memorizing will remain.

  7. D. Rogers

    If textbooks are done away with how will parents help their children at home? Many a time a parent has come to me and ask where can I find this material in the book. A student cannot do long division without memorizing their times table can’t be done.

  8. Stern Advice

    I am not pleased with any of the list in this post. It is clear that a “dependent on other things beside an imagination” wrote the article. The author clearly has a vision of a future of commercialized drones. Very disappointing.

    • Jason

      At the same time, it is reality. Ignoring reality does not make it go away. Look at the business word and you will get a better picture of what the future of education.

  9. Ian Jukes

    Thanks for taking the time to respond Stern Advice – I’m really pleased with the responses and love the passion. I partially agree with you – your passion is great!

  10. ESL teacher

    I think there are a lot of false dichotomies set up by this list, things portrayed as mutually exclusive that in fact all play useful roles. Yes, I prod students to think deeply, understand the material, and apply it to new contexts, but there are also times when I DO play that expert role, explicitly teaching a grammar lesson or explaining the importance of historical events. y classroom has a blackboard, a whiteboard, AND a Smartboard, all of which get used every day. My students learn how to use many tools to find information they need, but I also make them memorize quite a bit so they don’t NEED to look those things up! There are times when we use the phones, iPads, etc., but most of the time they live in a shoe organizer on the back of the door, and I have yet to hear a complaint — the students are too busy in class to have time for them. We do work in groups a lot (and yes, my tables face in!), but the whole class is usually working on related assignments, because while exploring individual interests is important, there is also core content that every student needs to master. When was the last time I saw a chalkboard? When I left my classroom around 5:00 this afternoon. I have a blackboard, a whiteboard, and a Smartboard, and all three get used every day. I assess through projects, but my students also take paper tests, and there is a cup of pencils in the middle of each of those inward-facing tables! And as for books… One of my students just finished demonstrating her ability to compare/contrast by writing a letter to the school’s textbook committee, articulating the reasons why she believes that for all the sparkly appeal of tablets, paper textbooks are still much more conducive to student learning.

    Is education changing? Of course. The whole world is. But to say everything we’ve historically associated with the classroom should’ve dispensed with in the name of “progress” is often to throw the baby out with the bath water. In many, many classrooms where students are deeply engaged, I doubt most of the items on this list are going away any time soon – nor should they.

    • Alex Kluge (@AlexVKluge)

      I am also uneasy with the idea that the teacher as expert is going away. For the student to have confidence in you and what you say you have to maintain a level of expertise, and a high level for more advanced topics. Further, you will want to know what the common misunderstanding are so you can quickly recognise them.

      Now, how that expertise is applied is clearly changing. For example you mention prodding your students to think deeply, do you really think you can do that well if you don’t have a deep understanding of the material yourself?

  11. Gary bau

    The ultimate dispense..teacher, physical classroom and school..A.Tofler-Deschooling Society takes a few more steps closer

  12. Gary Bau

    Oops a Tofler Future shock
    Ivan illich Deschooling society

  13. Pingback: OTR Links 02/11/2014 | doug --- off the record

  14. Val

    Variety is the spice of life……..everything in moderation and with passion!

  15. Pingback: You can have my chalk when you pry it from my cold dead hands! | ND EdTech - EdTech Topics at Notre Dame

  16. Pingback: Another snow day…another bunch of resources

  17. Ian Jukes

    Wow!!! That article really struck a chord…

  18. Pingback: 8 Education Tools That Are Going Away | weiterbildungsblog

  19. kunofm

    8 Education Tools That Are Going Away

    1. Books
    2. Pencils
    3. Chalkboard
    4. Teaching from the Front of the Class
    5. Technology-free Class
    6. Memorizing
    7. Teacher as expert

    8. Counting even small numbers ???

  20. Shelbyivlle High School

    Another thing that seems to be disappearing in education is school librarians. In 2002 our district had 3 certified school librarians. In 2014 we have none. They have all been replaced with teacher aides who know nothing about ordering age-appropriate library materials, online research databases, keeping up with technology, or how to organize library materials for borrowing purposes. School libraries are in crisis and no one seems to care!

  21. Charlotte

    The majority of my students do not have online access at home. We do not have 1-1 devices at school. One campus has a BYOD policy, but the other does not, and the web is not open for students there except on school computers. I do not foresee that books will disappear from the library. The students who read on ereaders are still few. My readers still check out books daily, and for those who want ebooks, we can check those out to them. Libraries, though, will struggle with publishers to be able to afford ebooks for students. Students, when questioned, still prefer to read a print fiction book, although they don’t seem to mind ebooks in nonfiction.

    Do some better research, counting in all these factors. Look at the level of poverty and underfunding in the schools before you jump to conclusions about what is going away with books. Those of us in the trenches are following this closely, and we do not see this coming soon. (Although I am in love with ereading and totally would welcome it, I think it will be quite a while before schools get there–unless the God Corporations will pitch in with funding for it.)

What do you think?