future-thinkingAs a student and even into adulthood I really had no concept of the future that I wanted for myself. Coming from a futurist, that may seem a bit odd. Thankfully, after a lot of exploring, I found something that I am highly passionate about and the feeling of being lost eventually went away.

Many people, especially – and tragically – many of our young learners, also lack a vision of the future for themselves. This can and should change, and our education system can be a vehicle for exploring the future and helping to foster learners’ aspirational vision of what they may want from their lives after school.

Dr. Peter Bishop’s Teach the Future initiative is aimed at bringing the future into our schools by introducing foresight to middle schools, high schools, and colleges across the country. Students will learn how to anticipate and influence the future in a world of rapidly accelerating change. Or to put it another way, students will learn how to think about the future and then act decisively to create it.

Bringing foresight into our schools has another benefit beyond thinking about the future; it has the ability to change the learning cultures of our institutions. Katherine Prince, in her paper “Innovating Toward a Vibrant Learning Ecosystem : Ten Pathways for Transforming Learning, highlighted learning cultures as one of the 10 pathways that are critical to transforming our current system of education. A vibrant learning culture is, according to Katherine, one where “…approaches go beyond simply pacing learning to each individual; they cultivate inquiry, creativity, play, and other attributes that support people in following their interests in meaningful collaborative contexts. Some learning cultures extend beyond formal learning environments to include, or facilitate connections with, community-based or informal learning experiences.”

Futures thinking can contribute to vibrant learning cultures. Thinking about the future teaches us to relish what we do not know yet encourages us to find out more, to become comfortable with uncertainty, and to fearlessly explore ideas and areas of study we may not have considered otherwise.

As a young learner who had no concept of his own future, I hope you will consider joining me in support of Teach the Future.  As a futurist, I know how powerful these methods are and how potentially transformative they can be for all levels, from the young learner to the education system in need of systemic change.




Miniaturization in action. Photo by Flickr user koka_sexton.

How will changing technology platforms, such as ebooks and mobile devices, alter how we educate learners?

I recently had the honor of exploring this question, among many other insightful topics, during Library 2.015 Spring Summit, hosted by The Learning Revolution The theme for the summit was The Emerging Future: Technology and Learning.

Together with my fellow panelists, we explored the many ways technology is affecting education. During the course of the session I noted that quite a few questions from the audience happened to center around the changing platforms we use to educate learners, specifically ebooks and mobile platforms.

The emergence of ebooks and mobile platforms are a result of miniaturization and dematerialization.  Miniaturization is a trend where the technology we invent and manufacture becomes increasingly smaller in size, as the term might imply. A great example for this can be seen in the images above, where what used to take up a great amount of room and multiple devices can now fit in the palm of the user’s hand.

Dematerialization might be thought as an extension of the miniaturization trend, but rather than shrinking in size, we see technology being off loaded into things like the digital cloud, no longer needing a physical presence, merely an access point such as a computer or smart device.

In my latest publication, “Certifying Skills and Knowledge: 4 Scenarios on the Future of Credentials”, I explore how miniaturization and dematerialization might affect credentials as part of an alternate futures scenario titled “Every Experience a Credential.” This scenario imagines what might happen if skill tracking technologies, such as the learning record store were to become common place in education, cataloging a learner’s experiences to be certified by schools and other learning institutions, thus moving credentials from something physical, like a diploma or certificate and effectively shrinking and dematerializing them in such a way that our experiences and credentials live in the digital cloud.

I would like to express my gratitude to Steve Haragdon and Dr. Sue Alman for the invitation to participate in the panel. It was a great learning experience, and a lot of fun exploring the ways technology might impact education. In what ways do you see miniaturization and dematerialization affecting learning?



Education, KnowledgeWorks and the future of learning with Steve Dackin

by Mary Kenkel May 12, 2015

Steve Dackin joined the KnowledgeWorks Board of Directors in March, bringing to the table experience in improving student achievement throughout the preschool to college educational continuum. As former superintendent of Reynoldsburg City Schools in Ohio, he has experience working with EDWorks and a local early college high school. He also worked with EDWorks to implement […]

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Highlights from Credentials #FutureEd Twitter Chat

by Mary Kenkel May 4, 2015

On Friday, May 1, KnowledgeWorks hosted a #FutureEd Twitter chat, exploring the future of credentialing in the education and employment sectors. Taking a further dive into the newly launched white paper, “Certifying Skills and Knowledge: Four Scenarios on the Future of Credentials,” the discussion explored tracking informal learning, meeting the needs of the employment sector […]

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Exploring credentials’ role in #FutureEd

by Jason Swanson May 1, 2015

I have just finished hosting my first #FutureEd Twitter Chat exploring my new paper, Certifying Skills and Learning: Four Scenarios on the Future of Credentials. For this chat, we explored some of the uncertainties surrounding new forms of credentials, ranging from what technologies might be impacting credentials, to the roles that learners might play in the development […]

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Personalized Learning: From Occasional Success Story to System-Level Reality

by Sarah Jenkins May 1, 2015

Since publishing our paper on the district conditions to scale personalized learning, the policy team at KnowledgeWorks has been moving through the next phase of our work, aiming to make personalized learning a system-level reality rather than an occasional success story. To this end, we are creating tools for states and districts interested in fundamentally transforming […]

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