Navigating the Future of Learning: Webinar Insights

Topics: Future of Learning

Releasing Navigating the Future of Learning was a major milestone, but its publication is only the beginning. As with earlier forecasts, KnowledgeWorks’ newest 10-year forecast kicks off a three-year arc of work, during which KnowledgeWorks will publish deep dives into topics raised by the forecast and engage with groups around the world to help them grapple with the future of learning.

Our first event in that arc was a webinar meant to introduce education stakeholders to the five drivers of change and the provocations for the future of learning that represent the forecast’s core content. I ended that conversation with one key takeaway: we have so much left to explore.

Navigating the Future of Learning explores how trends and other changes outside of education might affect education and learning over the next decade.

The 70 participants — school and district leaders, education technology experts, higher education researchers and nonprofit stakeholders, just to name a few of the sectors and groups represented – asked thoughtful questions that made me think about the content and possible extensions of it in new ways.

Primary among them was a question about the overlap and connections among the drivers of change. A much closer look at that question could reveal how the drivers accelerate or stabilize one another or could explore other trends that relate to all of them. As a starting point, I found myself thinking about what the five drivers of change have in common and ended up with this preliminary list.

Each driver reflects multiple kinds of change.

The drivers of change from Navigating the Future of Learning take an “outside in” look at changes happening in the broader environment that have the potential to influence education over the next decade. Because rapid technological development is at the core of this forecast, it can be easy to over-focus on that category of change. But in developing the forecast, we also paid close attention to trends and emerging issues in society, the economy, the environment and politics so as to give stakeholders a more complete picture of how many things are changing at once. For example, the Remaking Geographies driver of change focuses on the demographic shifts that many places are experiencing, a broader cultural effort for cities and towns to embrace an authentic identity, economic shifts away from anchor businesses and the environmental challenges that are causing many geographies to have to rethink their futures.

Each driver of change presents opportunities and challenges.

My observation so far is that the Civic Superpowers driver of change, which highlights individual and nonprofit efforts to rebalance power in the face of growing corporate influence and a governance gap, sparks a great deal of excitement among people who engage with our new forecast. However, the very same tools that are used to advance meaningful social causes and give new voice to traditionally marginalized groups are also being used to promote hateful messages and intentionally cause division. On the flip side, the Toxic Narratives driver of change, which focuses on how outdated and misaligned systems and metrics of success are contributing to chronic health issues and societal strain, can feel overwhelmingly bleak. But we are seeing a new sense of urgency around addressing mental health challenges for young people, partly because of the gravity of the issue. As these examples illustrate, each of the drivers presents a range of opportunities and challenges that are ripe for exploration.

Each driver of change signals new ways people are meeting timeless needs.

The drive to make better choices; to engage on civic issues; to increase our mental performance; to live up to cultural narratives of success; and to intentionally shape the places we live, work and learn is not new. The drivers of change simply highlight new ways that people are pursuing those desires or needs, either because they have new tools and avenues to do so or because the old ways are no longer relevant. An important aspect of considering change is to also think about stability and what can and should remain when so much feels as if it is shifting all the time.

A new era is unfolding in which exponential advances in digital technologies are causing us to reevaluate our relationships with one another, with our institutions and with ourselves. Learn more in Navigating the Future of Learning.

Other questions from the webinar included: How are these drivers of change playing out outside of the United States? What are the implications of these changes on teacher preparation programs? How does this new research fit in with KnowledgeWorks’ previous exploration of the future of work and readiness? Why should we think 10 years ahead when so much will have changed even five years from now?

The next three years will be an exciting time full of many more questions and lines of inquiry, and we look forward to thinking through them alongside the education leaders who are dedicated to exploring and shaping the future of learning.

In a webinar, authors of Navigating the Future of Learning discussed how the major societal shifts we are currently experiencing could shape education over the next ten years and beyond.