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Acting Today to Embrace the Future for Learning

The future is not a fixed point. It is ours to create.

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Topics: Emerging Trends, Future of Learning

Guest post by Katie Varatta

Our strategic foresight work at KnowledgeWorks looks at present-day trends in education and in the workplace, from which we outline broad patterns of change that we can expect. It is with this information that KnowledgeWorks helps schools and other organizations think strategically about the future of their work and their work’s development.

The notion that we can engage with and help create the future, now, is how KnowledgeWorks third comprehensive forecast into the future of learning, Recombinant Education: Regenerating the Learning Ecosystem, opens and is still true today. It is a good representation of how KnowledgeWorks approaches a conversation about the future of learning with any group: if we are willing to embrace possibilities, both positive and negative, then we can begin to take an active role in shaping the future of education.

Engage audiences in conversations about how schools and communities might respond to the changing landscape to shape the future of learning with Building Support for Student Centered-Learning: A Toolkit for Exploring the Future.
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I was recently able to participate in a presentation Katherine Prince gave at a Summer Institute for schools in the Ohio Early College Association. The audience, made up of faculty and staff from early college high schools around Ohio, was presented with key drivers of change that are reshaping work, along with what it could mean for us to prepare today’s learners for the future workforce. A glimpse of what those included:

  • Advances in artificial intelligence and the escalated presence of smart machines are changing the way we interact with each other and our institutions. Smart machine technology is present in many of our lives through the smartphone or Amazon’s home assistant Alexa, but smart technology is also currently being used by doctors to diagnose illness, robots are being used to perform surgery, factories are becoming largely automated and the self-driving car is on the horizon.
  • Smart technology has changed, and will continue to change, people’s role in the workplace. Which means the way in which we prepare our learners and the skills they will need will change. Whether smart technology will create new work opportunities or displace vast numbers of workers is not clear. What is clear is that this driver of change is important for educators to be aware of. Educators need to discuss how best to support our learners so they are ready for the changing world of the workforce.
  • Work structures are changing due to firms using the internet to access people with specialized skills on a global market. Work is becoming more project based, with workers responsible for specific tasks. Right now, the average person will hold 11.7 jobs across their career lifetime. By the year 2040, we will likely see significant decline in full-time employment, with work becoming more fluid and flexible and with people having to take on a variety of projects as needs change.
  • Given these changes, education needs to become more grounded in developing social- emotional skills. Students will need to develop deeper self-knowledge, individual awareness, and social awareness and will need to embrace and thrive in ambiguity.

Presented with these changes, faculty and staff were asked to look ahead and explore how these changes could shape the future of learning. Comments from the group ranged from excitement at new possibilities to concern for how best to prepare their students for some of the unknowns. Embracing the possibilities opens up a space for educators and schools to take an active role in supporting learners and the community as each of us navigates these changes.

Explore new possibilities for learning and consider what role you might play in shaping the future of learning in The Future of Learning: Education in the Era of Partners in Code, our fourth comprehensive forecast into the future of learning.