The Future of International Education: Collaborative, Creative, Innovative – and In Flux

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Topics: Future of Learning

When delivering the opening keynote at the Association for the Advancement of International Education’s (AAIE’s) annual conference Monday, Jason Swanson and I asked audience members to describe the future of international schools in one word. Their responses appear below.

Attendees of the Association for the Advancement of International Education’s (AAIE’s) annual conference were asked to to describe the future of international schools in one word.

“Collaborative” received most frequent mention, with “innovative” and “creative” close behind. “Adaptive” followed, along with “critical” and “essential” and both “interconnected” and “interconnectedness.” These words reflect a generative mindset, a sense of partnership and interdependency, and a determination to serve students in an increasingly global world.

Among the words that received less frequent mention, there is a sense of shift: “fluid,” “transitioning,” “accelerating,” “changing,” “growing,” “stretching,” “organic.” There is also a sense of threat: “imperiled,” “threatened,” “challenging.”

Because we live in rapidly changing times, what we describe in The Future of Learning: Education in the Era of Partners in Code as an era shift, it is not surprising to see this sense of churn – both positive and negative. In face of that churn, I find it inspiring how much energy and commitment many of the words reflect, echoing KnowledgeWorks’ deep belief that we can all shape the future of learning.

During the keynote, Jason and I featured three opportunities for education stakeholders to do just that:

  • 360 Degree Learners: How can we educate the whole person and enable lifelong learning that supports academic and social-emotional growth?
  • The Whole and the Sum of Its Parts: How can we personalize learning in community, reorienting education around learners while strengthening society?
  • The New A+: How can we renegotiate definitions of success, examining what education systems aim to achieve and who gets to say?

When we asked audience members to vote on which of these leadership opportunities seemed most relevant to their schools or organizations, they weighed in as shown below.

AAIE conference attendees were asked to vote on which of these leadership opportunities seemed most relevant to their schools or organizations.

Renegotiating definitions of success and educating the whole person all but tied (testing my commentary abilities in the moment), with personalizing learning in community standing out for some people. These responses highlight how different opportunities will resonate in different locations and contexts.

Each school or organization will respond to the shifting landscapes of the future in particular ways while also collaborating with partners and fostering interconnections across a broader web of relationships and resources. For more ideas to consider, see “Shaping the Future of Learning: A Strategy Guide©” and the accompanying workbook, “Shaping the Future of Learning: K-12 School-Based Education Strategy Workbook©.”

In a workshop last fall, an international school educator reflected, “There is a driving force to do things differently in education. We just need the courage to make it happen!” My sense from these AAIE responses is that sector has that courage, along with a great deal of commitment and creativity.