The Education Futures Blog


Education Futures is pleased to announce the release of the book, Emerging education futures: Experiences and visions from the field. With contributions from four continents, this volume reveals a ‘snapshot’ of some of our best thinking for building new education futures. Diverse experiences, visions, and ideas are shared to help spark new thinking among educators and policymakers, provoke conversation, and facilitate new ideas for meeting human development needs in a rapidly transforming world.

This book is available for puchase at Amazon.com and other booksellers.


Excerpt: Introduction to Emerging Education Futures (by John Moravec)


It’s tough to make predictions,
especially about the future.


We task fewer industries to think about the future like education. In a world awash in accelerating technological and social change, schools today must think about the future and preparing students to be successful in environments and contexts that may differ greatly from what we experience today. But, are we really thinking about the future?

Consider the used future concept introduced by Sohail Inayatullah:

Have you purchased a used future? Is your image of the future, your desired future, yours or is it unconsciously borrowed from someone else? When we look at Asian cities, we see that they tend to follow the same pattern of urban development that western cities did generations ago (Inayatullah, 2004). And yet many, if not most, western mayors now believe that they were mistaken. Instead of spending billions on unplanned growth, development without vision, they should have focused on creating liveable communities. They should have kept green public spaces separating developed regions. They now understand that their image the future—of unbridled growth without concern for nature or livability—led to the gigantic megacities where while many had jobs, they suffered in almost every other way. Asian cities have unconsciously followed this pattern. They have forgotten their own traditions where village life and community were central, where living with nature was important. Now they must [find] ways to create new futures, or continue to go along with the future being discarded elsewhere. This used future is leading to a global crisis of fresh water depletion [and] climate change, not to mention human dignity. (Inayatullah, 2008, p. 5)

Education and schooling are prime examples of used futures that lead to a crisis of relevance, following the same patterns of top-down pedagogies, age separation, absence of play, etc. We designed our systems to meet certain goals centuries ago, yet we continue to fool ourselves into thinking we are changing the paradigm by introducing new technologies and social situations when, in reality, we are simply remixing the same formula.

It is for this reason that it is challenging to imagine a future for education that differs greatly from what we have employed in the past. I argue, we have a crisis of imagination in education and schooling. ‘Schools’ depicted in popular science fiction shows such as Star Trek, Starship Troopers, and even Ender’s Game would be immediately recognizable as a school to any person who lived 100 years ago. The concept of what a school is and does seems immutable despite huge shifts in the needs of society and advancements in technology. If we are to educate effectively for the future, it is especially important to expand our thinking to confront ideas or assumptions about teaching and learning that hold us in the past.

This volume presents a compendium of diverse experiences and ideas to help spark new thinking among educators and policymakers. We aim to provoke conversation and facilitate new ideas for meeting human capital development needs in rapidly transforming societies. With authors spanning four continents, this book reveals a ‘snapshot’ of our best thinking for building new education futures. Chapters focus variously on primary through tertiary-level education, as well as looking at the idea of ‘education’ more broadly.

It is always interesting to learn what ‘others’ are thinking or doing and to expand our thinking a bit. The authors in this book provide diverse perspectives across cultures, and I do not expect readers to agree with all ideas presented. What this book contains, however, are ideas and practices from a competitive call for submissions that each author believes is helping to push the future of education across diverse contexts. While all chapters underwent an editing process, I strived to ensure the ‘voice’ of each author remained true to themselves.

I divided this book into two parts. The first part focuses on experiences and research from the field. The second part presents visions and ideas for the future of education.

Leona Ungerer looks at how artificial intelligence impacts higher education. She briefly introduces the field of AI, discussing many opportunities that the mode of technology offers. And, she also addresses concerns about incorporating it in higher education contexts, especially in emerging countries such as South Africa, where an ecosystem is forming to support applications of AI in education.

Focusing on competency-based education, Lisa Bosman, Julius Keller, and Gary Bertoline share experiences from Perdue University’s new B.S. in Transdisciplinary Studies in Technology. In their program, they require students to show master in 20 core competencies. Transdisciplinarity is enabled by integrating humanities with engineering, design, and technology skill sets, together with providing students agency to individualize one-third of their learning experience through classes and learning experiences of their choosing.

Audrey Falk and Russell Olwell take us on a journey, relating their experiences building the Community Engagement Institute at Merrimack College in Massachusetts with an eye toward enabling transformational learning and social justice in the campus and the local community. In moving toward interdisciplinary approaches, they discuss breaking down departmental and discipline ‘silos’ that compartmentalize higher education, share their experiences in building partnerships and other relationships with their community, and building a culture of inclusivity and transparency through student engagement.

Since 2012, Silvia Cecila Enríquez has organized a virtual community of practice (CoP) called Docentes en línea at the National University of La Plata in Argentina. In her chapter co-authored with Sandra Gargiulo, Jimena Ponz, and Erica Scorians, they connect their work in developing a CoP for online educators with the principles of Manifesto 15. In their experience in curating a diverse community of co-creators, they believe teachers cannot become agents of change unless if they change themselves as learners.

Writing from Bratislava, Slovakia, Robert Thorn shares his exploration of working with the question, what do young people really need from education? He sets out to look at happiness and success made through the decisions by young people he and his school has taught and suggests a different approach with different goals should be adopted: a learner-development-centered approach. This holistic approach, he believes, helps to build trust, provide youth with a reason for attending school, reframes roles for teachers, and allows pathways for parents to guide their children toward wisdom to a greater extent.

Erling Dahl, Einar Strømmen, and Tor Syvertsen provide an overview of what they consider a quiet, guerrilla action at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim: breaking from the use of traditional textbooks and eliminating lectures and formal exams. In their doctoral-level course, Rheology and non-Newtonian fluids, they developed an approach based on heutagogical principles. They found that students could break beyond the academic confines of a typical graduate course and built compendia that made the course content more relevant for their personal lines of research and professional activity.

The second part of the book departs from experiences and focuses on visions and ideas, providing space for creativity and inspiration to emerge. Kelly Killorn and I attempted to break free from used futures thinking, opening with a provocative question: Does the future need schools? In a small study involving an expert panel of respondents, we sought to build insight into what and why we are educating. Our investigation revealed an intriguing ecology of ideas that showed, yes, we can think about schools differently.

Pekka Ihanainen, a Finnish teacher educator, is one of the most abstract, conceptual thinkers I have ever known. He is a crafter of ideas. He shows this in his professional work, but also in art, be it painting or igniting a fire sculpture at his cabin home, blending modernity with traditionalism. His canvas in this book presents a rich palette of pedagogical affordances—objects, places, and events that make it possible to do something in teaching and learning. The ideas he presents calls for a new mindset in education that take into consideration complex interactions between affordances of observability, solvability, and partakeability.

Stefania Savva from the Cyprus University of Technology provides a framework of thought, called multiliteracies dynamic affinity spaces (MDAS). Writing as a response to Cristóbal Cobo’s chapter in Knowmad Society on skills and competencies for knowmadic workers (2013), she draws conclusions from her doctoral research, investigating the nature of multimodal, digitally mediated literacies and their implementation in an informal learning context. She suggests students’ repertoires of literacy are empowered as they engage in the learning process as active designers and multimodal learners.

Focusing on teacher training, Gabriela Carreño Murillo, a trainer and researcher at the Normal School of Atizapán de Zaragoza in Mexico, provides four 21st century teacher profiles: the knowmad, the divergent, the craftsman, and reflexive. Teacher training, she argues, needs to move away from a formal exercise into something that better recognizes the humanness of the professional development experience, integrating lifelong, informal, non-formal, and serendipitous elements of learning.

As a compendium of diverse ideas, not all of Part II of this volume is scientific. Erik Miletić presents a Reason-Emotion-Instinct (REI) model for education that is built on the writing by the late Slovenian marketing guru, Igor Kenda (“Eros,” 2012). This chapter was selected for inclusion as a thought piece—Kenda’s writing sparked something in Miletić, who in turn writes that we should consider educating for the development of the three intellects and appreciate students where they are on each. It provides a perspective, together with a suggested framework, for rethinking education to better connect with the human experience.

Finally, while working on edits to this volume, my niece, Zoe Moravec, approached me and asked, “what are you working on, Uncle?” I told her that this book is about the future of schools and learning, and she drew a picture and shared what she thought the school of the future would look like (included in the visual introduction to Part II on pp. 140-141). It looks similar to what we have today. Students sit in rows, but they sit closer together in a smaller classroom with a large screen in front. And, the teacher is seated in a cubicle in the back of the room. I asked, “so what is different?” She struggled for words but emphasized the classroom has a heart and that we would find what’s different in the heart.

It is what you take with you from year to year, she explained. The teacher, the other students, and what you learn are the heart, and it always stays with you and changes you. Perhaps this, too, is an illustration of a used future. It is difficult to find words to describe anything different in education. I believe we each have at least bits and pieces of what an alternate future for education could look like, but we often struggle to find the right words. That’s why it is so important to share our ideas and visions. Even if they sometimes make little sense to broader audiences, at least we are progressing toward creating new meanings.

If the vision of where we want to be in the future is not crystal clear, it is beneficial to start with a vision and principles for how we would like to get there. On January 1, 2015, we released Manifesto 15, a statement of principles for building new futures in education. As the lead writer, I intended the document to set an inspiring vision to challenges the norm—but it also presents a vision backed by research and experience. As several authors reference the manifesto in this volume, the full text is included as an appendix.

This is a book of experiences, visions, and ideas. Again, you are not expected to accept every idea presented. I believe that if an idea makes me think and pushes me to learn more, it’s worth discussing. This book is designed to challenge and inspire our thinking. Read it critically and make it your own. The same invitation applies as in our earlier work, Knowmad Society:

If you are holding onto a paper copy of this book, please do not treat it like a book. Write on it, draw on the margins, highlight the parts you like, and write “bullshit” over the parts you do not like. Tear out pages; mix in your own ideas, and share alike with others. This entire volume is Creative Commons licensed, which means that we encourage you to copy, redistribute, and remix this work. All that we ask is that you share it alike with others, give proper credit for the ideas you use, and let us know how you have added to the conversation. (Moravec, 2013, p. 25)

Just as the future is yet to be written, this is a book that does not pretend to have all the best answers and needs your extra love and attention to grow even more. Make it your own. Write and draw on it, highlight the parts you like, and tear out what you don’t like. Customize it and build it into your own guide to building new futures for education. And, please share alike with us and others so we may learn from you.

John W. Moravec
Minneapolis, Minnesota
john@educationfutures.com

Footnote: Variations of the leading quote are attributed to many sources, including Neils Bohr, Mark Twain, Sam Goldwyn, and Yogi Berra.


Click here to learn more about Emerging education futures.


References

Cobo, C. (2013). Skills and competencies for knowmadic workers. In Moravec, J.W. (Ed.), Knowmad Society (pp. 57-88). Minneapolis: Education Futures.

“Eros”. (2012). [psi]. Maribor, Slovenia: DCC Marketing.

Inayatullah, S. (2004). Cities create their future. Journal of Futures Studies, 8(3), 77-81.

Inayatullah, S. (2008). Six pillars: futures thinking for transforming. Foresight, 10(1), 4-21. doi: 10.1108/14636680810855991

Moravec, J.W. (Ed.). (2013). Knowmad Society. Minneapolis: Education Futures.

Moravec, J.W. et al. (2015). Manifesto 15. Minneapolis: Education Futures. manifesto15.org