We can all shape the future of learning, but it can be hard to see where to start. Educators and other stakeholders kicked off their three days at the EdSurge Fusion conference with an exploration of where they might begin.
I facilitated a pre-conference session based on Navigating the Future of Learning: A Strategy Guide. After getting oriented to the five opportunity areas from the guide and the associated strategies and tactics, participants organized into groups based on the opportunity area that seemed most urgent to them. The groups then envisioned what we might see in ten years’ time if their opportunity had been fully realized. Next, they worked backwards to consider the steps and strategies that might need to happen to reach that desired future state. Though each group’s vision was specific to its opportunity area, a few key themes emerged from the aspirations of all of the groups.
Navigating the Future of Learning: A Strategy Guide is designed to help K-12 educators, postsecondary education institutions and community-based learning organizations take action with the future in mind.
Challenge assumptions about who can contribute and how.
Educators as policymakers, families as technology validators, students as activists, communities as policy implementors: each group envisioned ways for members of a learning community to influence education in ways that they generally do not do today. A common theme among their strategies was the opportunity and the need to tap into the wisdom and experiences of everyone in a learning community. They all asserted that more co-designed solutions and inclusive conversations and decision-making processes were necessary to spark sustainable change. But they took it one step further: they envisioned learning communities where the traditional boundaries of roles within an organization or a community would not hold anyone back from participating.
Recognize that a learning lifestyle is a two-way street.
The strategy guide invites stakeholders to consider how they might support young people in pursuing a learning lifestyle, defined as lifelong, joyful learning embedded in community contexts. To live a learning lifestyle, they must have access to organizations, businesses, and community members – in addition to schools and teachers – that are willing to participate in and facilitate learning. Participants reflected on the notion that those organizations and individuals should also be continuously learning – from one another, from the students with whom they work and from the community at large. If we hope to see young people learning in vibrant, self-sustaining and equitable communities, then learning needs to be part of the culture of our communities.
Embrace messiness and uncertainty.
One participant stated that, in his experience, educators can articulate the current reality and their longer-term visions for learning but get stuck when it comes time to think through how to get from one to the other. That fact is true for most of us. This same participant had a guess as to why: the space between vision and reality is uncertain and messy. If the path forward were clear, we would all be well on our way. One group saw reframing our thinking about how we create change – accepting that we are going to be in uncharted territory, that we will need to rely on one another, that we will make mistakes and that we will not be sure how exactly things will turn out – as being the most important strategy for anyone trying to shape the future.
Each school’s and community’s approach to shaping the future will be unique to them, their challenges and their hopes. However, workshop participants emphasized that in any community, we need to be willing to question how things have always been if we hope to influence how they could be.
To help education stakeholders realize their visions for the future, our strategy guide closes with a series of broad insights that can inform how stakeholders talk to their communities about change and how they go about implementing their chosen strategies.