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9+ things that will disappear in our lifetime

My buddy Ian Jukes forwarded me an email with this list with commentaries by Plinio Granado. I love such speculations and having just dropped our cable TV service and our land telephone line (not because we couldn't afford them, but because we weren't using them), the e-mail resonated with me. I agree and look forward to most of these things "going missing."

Whether these changes are good or bad depends in part on how we adapt to them. But, ready or not, here they come .....

  1. The Post Office. Get ready to imagine a world without the post office. They are so deeply in financial trouble that there is probably no way to sustain it long term. Email, Fed Ex, and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive. Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.
  2. The Cheque. Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with cheque by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process cheques. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the cheque. This plays right into the death of the post office. If you never paid your bills by mail and never received them by mail, the post office would absolutely go out of business.
  3. The Newspaper. The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper. They certainly don't subscribe to a daily delivered print edition. That may go the way of the milkman and the laundry man. As for reading the paper online, get ready to pay for it. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services.
  4. The Book. You say you will never give up the physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes. I wanted my hard copy CD. But I quickly changed my mind when I discovered that I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music. The same thing will happen with books. You can browse a bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before you buy. And the price is less than half that of a real book. And think of the convenience! Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead of the book, you find that you are lost in the story, can't wait to see what happens next, and you forget that you're holding a gadget instead of a book.
  5. The Land Line Telephone. Unless you have a large family and make a lot of local calls, you don't need it anymore. Most people keep it simply because they've always had it. But you are paying double charges for that extra service. All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes
  6. Music. This is one of the saddest parts of the change story. The music industry is dying a slow death. Not just because of illegal downloading. It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it. Greed and corruption is the problem. The record labels and the radio conglomerates are simply self-destructing. Over 40% of the music purchased today is "catalogue items," meaning traditional music that the public is familiar with. Older established artists. This is also true on the live concert circuit. To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies."
  7. Television. Revenues to the networks are down dramatically. Not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. And they're playing games and doing lots of other things that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV. Prime time shows have degenerated down to lower than the lowest common denominator. Cable rates are skyrocketing and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds. I say good riddance to most of it. It's time for the cable companies to be put out of our misery. Let the people choose what they want to watch online and through Netflix.
  8. The "Things" That You Own. Many of the very possessions that we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future. They may simply reside in "the cloud." Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of that is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services." That means that when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system. So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider. In this virtual world, you can access your music or your books, or your whatever from any laptop or handheld device. That's the good news. But, will you actually own any of this "stuff" or will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big "Poof?" Will most of the things in our lives be disposable and whimsical? It makes you want to run to the closet and pull out that photo album, grab a book from the shelf, or open up a CD case and pull out the insert.
  9. Privacy. If there ever was a concept that we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy. That's gone. It's been gone for a long time anyway. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone. But you can be sure that 24/7, "They" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View. If you buy something, your habit is put into a zillion profiles, and your ads will change to reflect those habits. "They" will try to get you to buy something else. Again and again.

All we will have left that can't be changed are "Memories"... And then probably Alzheimers will take that away from you too!

Can we construct a similar list for 9 things that will disappear in our lifetimes from K-12 education? Given the pace of educational change one might need Methuselah's lifespan, but here are my predictions/hopeful thoughts:

  1. Book-only libraries and librarians. Libraries will remain, they just won't be repositories and tombs, but active places where students go to create and consult with information experts. Actually these libraries are already rapidly going.
  2. Textbooks. CMS like Moodle that provide links to multi-media resources, tied to specific curricular outcomes and teacher passions will be the norm. Add curriculum guides in 3-ring binders to this list too.
  3. Paper tests, worksheets, study guides, and student essays. Paper report cards, school newsletters, and student handbooks. It's all moving to the web, boys and girls. It's just easier.
  4. Classrooms comprised of age groupings. This has been a dumb idea for a long time, only continued out of sentimentality and laziness. Students grouped, if grouped at all, by IEP needs makes more sense if we are serious about all kids learning.
  5. Closed wireless networks and prohibition of student-owned devices in the classroom. We once didn't let kids on the network? They couldn't use their own computers in school. Grandpa, you've got to be kidding me. 
  6. Technology-clueless, content-expert only teachers. Information ubiquity is requiring all teachers become process-experts as well as pedagogy/content experts. And since that information comes in digital forms, technology expertise at some level is a must.
  7. Norm-referenced/summative testing. Using tests to sort kids into A-F categories just is not needed, even counterproductive, in a society where there are no jobs for D and F students. Private schools will move to formative assessments and growth models only first, but any public school worth its salt will also do what it must to placate the politicians and do what's right by kids.
  8. Computer labs. Whether it is BYOD or 1:1 initiatives, personal student devices will make labs obsolete. I am even amazed at what low-powered devices like iPads can do with video editing.
  9. F2F parent teacher conferences. Real-time monitoring of student progress through parent portals into the student information system makes such conferences as we know them unnecessary. If they continue they will need to be conversations about students rather than one-way reporting.


What's on your list of things that will (or should) disappear from your school before you kick the bucket?

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Reader Comments (22)

I find it hard to argue with any of the items on the list Ian sent and I'm not sure I would miss them. However, I do dispute the item that music is going away. It's the music industry as we know it that will die away - and good riddance.

Musicians for centuries have made their living by performing. It's only been in the past century that we've had a way of distributing music separate from the performer and under the current model, most of the revenue goes to the distribution company, not the creator of the work. I think we're seeing a shift back to the previous model in which musicians themselves are more in control of their creations.

As to your education-related list, textbooks, computer labs, and "technology-clueless, content-expert only teachers" all deserve to disappear (well, not literally the teachers themselves :-) but I suspect the transition will not happen quickly or easily. These elements seem to be hard wired into the fabric of too many schools, and in the case of textbooks, have a multimillion dollar industry behind the concept.

February 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertimstahmer

Wonderful list. It is gratifying to see where we are ahead, or actively planning for some of these transitions, and interesting to see where we need to do more planning. This post will be helpful in my year-end report, where I will be adding a "visioning" section. This will be helpful in budget advocacy.
Many thanks!

February 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobin Cicchetti

Cursive writing is gone too...

February 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Fisher

I agree with most of what you said Doug, but I want to push back on #9 for schools for a second.

F2F parent teacher conferences. Real-time monitoring of student progress through parent portals into the student information system makes such conferences as we know them unnecessary. If they continue they will need to be conversations about students rather than one-way reporting.

I think that students lose some autonomy when their parents can just log in and track their child's progress any time they want. I want those conferences to continue, but they should include the students. In fact, I'd like to see student-parent conferences become more normal than they are in schools, along with student-teacher conferences, and student-teacher-parent conferences.

February 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Wees

"Get ready to imagine a world without the post office. They are so deeply in financial trouble that there is probably no way to sustain it long term."

The only thing wrong with the Post Office is the poison pill they were given by the Congress, requiring them to fund 75 years worth of reitree health benefits with 10 years. Without this requirement the PO runs a profit.

February 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbob

One thing I sincerely hope disappears in tertiary level university education is the tiered lecture theatre with fixed seating - but I'm not holding my breath!

February 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Bright

While I can't argue with most of it, I wonder if you have looked at the price of ebooks recently? More and more often it is cheaper for me to buy the paperback than the ebook. I bought the original Kindle and was thrilled with my ebooks lower prices and ease of access. Now that I am a librarian, I get more and more frustrated with ebooks because of the price increase and the restrictions of use in libraries.

I do look forward to a time where there (hopefully) will be some consistency between publishers and the level of control we have over an ebook we purchase.

February 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

Until we improve connectivity in this country, many of these things will not disappear. People in rural areas could not do much of this, as the cell or fiber connectivity is not available--some either have to have money for satellite or deal with dial-up. Cell service is sporadic or nonexistent. This means bills cannot be paid online, land line phones cannot be abandoned. In a suburban or urban area, I would agree that this is happening, but this author is not in touch with the technological hurdles facing our rural dwellers.

February 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

So the item I just pre-ordered written by you is coming in a soon to be obsolete format via what will probably be a very soon defunct service?

February 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary Jane

Great response here (via Twitter):

February 7, 2012 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Letter Grades, Class Rankings and Traditional Report Cards! Please make them go away before my kids are done with K-12.

February 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterColet

Doug - I don't doubt that all of these things will transform, but disappear? Think of what "ancient" forms we still have - radio, movies, concerts, theater. Movies didn't kill theater. TV didn't kill radio. But they are transforming, no doubt. We don't have clay tablets and scrolls anymore, true, but we have text. It seems to me we just "add and alter." This prediction seems to be of the "food will be replaced by little pills" type. A bit too extreme. To sound a little 1984, there are benefits to print that can't be duplicated by the iPad I'm working on. And perhaps the Post Office will shed itself of the Congressional pension bonds, and become more like FedEx. But, as today's news reported, it is the most efficient system in the world.

February 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Interesting list, but I truly think it misses the biggest one, representational democracy. Another real possibility is the complete collapse of the global economy. If my second example does indeed come to pass, then anything on your list that relies on some technological breakthrough, or expansion will not come to pass.

Additionally, I have to agree with the comments that question your use of language in regard to music, and I say books as well. Sure, both of those industries will be utterly transformed, or maybe disappear, who knows? But people will always make music, and people will always collect things. I have tons of records, and tons of books, and cassette tapes, and cd's...these things are not going away.

February 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkarl

Will the class room be mised? No, but the people who you were with in that class room will be.

February 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDestiny

Another very good reaction:

February 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Tim,

Interesting about music. I suspect it is the music industry, not music that was was meant by the writer of the original post. Music is ingrained in the human soul.

It may be a battle between big money interests when it come to textbooks. Basically Apple vs Pearson. Does the ed dollar go to plastic or paper?


Hi Robin,

Thanks for the comment. This is really a list that anyone might be able to make. Don't forget to add your own!


Hi Mike,

I know I can't write in cursive or hardly print anymore!


Hi David,

Point well taken. I'd always looked at our portal as means of making parents partners in their children's success. But I just heard an NPR story on how such systems are enabling helicopter parents as well. It's another case of it being less about the inherent value of the technology than how it is used.

Thanks for the comment,


Hi Bob,

I've read other places about the retirement funding issue and the PO. I wonder why in the devil they don't just raise the rates of junk mail!


Hi Stephen,

I think we call those sorts of huge classes "cash cows" here in the U.S. As long as they help pay the bills, we may be stuck with them.



Hi Jenn,

The transition to e-book will take some time and I believe there will always be some books in print format. It's a messy transitional time right now, but the music industry adapted surprisingly fast.


Hi Leslie,

It took electricity a little longer to get to some areas than others (and some places still use generators), but how many people still light their homes with wood and lamps?


Hi Mary Jane,

You could have purchased it as an e-book, on-line.

Now the question of whether the author is obsolete is a good one!


Hi Colet,

Given that your kids have a brilliant mother, I suspect that they will survive just fine.


HI Jack,

Haven't seen an 8-track tape lately.


February 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

I appreciate that you pointed these things that you hope/predict might disappear from classrooms. I tend to agree with most of them, but especially a few.

3. Paperless classrooms are excellent. I'm taking one right now, and I really like it. Saving trees and not having to lug around multiple folders is wonderful, but I also think it just makes sense. I find myself working more efficiently because I save time in a lot of ways too. I agree with you. It's just easier.

6. I think functioning not only as a teacher, but an employee of any company or business, people seeking employment in the very near future (even now) will need to have technology expertise. I'm optimistic about this one, because I think the next generation (I'm thinking of my students) seem excited about the changes happening with technology. I think our world is becoming more efficient and better everyday. I feel more and more able to share information all the time.

7. I like what you said about summative/formative assessment. I think summative assessment in a lot of ways will be phased out in the future, although probably not completely. In most cases I think it is more effective/fair to formatively assess students, but I also think there is still a place for summative student performance.

Just a few thoughts/ideas.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDan R

Thanks for your reflections, Dan. Doug

February 14, 2012 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Books will be obsolete and students will have their own devices ONLY when they can all afford them, which based on what I see at our school, isn't going to happen anytime soon - especially in this economy.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEllen

I really don't believe any of this is true, but if it were to be, I really hope I don't live long enough to experience such an awful world.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDjvan

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