When we look to the future of learning, we need to consider how communications channels, power dynamics and work practices could shift. New kinds of approaches and tools could change how educators and learners work and interact. One zone of possibility is that amplified voice and impact could emerge, with education stakeholders reconfiguring engagement and outcome frameworks and communications channels to bolster individual capacity and increase community impact.
This provocation from KnowledgeWorks’ latest ten-year forecast, Navigating the Future of Learning, suggests ways in which learners’ and educators’ influence and performance could be extended as the result of new tools and practices, including increasing use of participatory media, new approaches to civic engagement and accountability, and increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in education.
Among the possibilities in this space, amplified student government could take hold. Empowered learners could transform the role of student government by exercising their civic voice and influence. They could leverage digital tools to create community coalitions beyond school that monitored governing bodies, worked to influence political candidates and shaped policy issues that impact their lives. One current signal of change supporting this possibility is the student-led #NeverAgain movement, which aims to end gun violence in communities.
Another possibility is that education social impact scorecards could help schools and communities monitor impact in new ways. Communities could develop cross-sector, locally relevant, social impact metrics and scorecards that assessed education organizations’ impact on reducing social pollution, improving mental health and stimulating positive economic and cultural conditions. Already, some groups have begun to explore new ways of measuring community impact. Among them, Harvard’s Transparency for Development Study explored whether a community-led transparency and accountability program could improve health outcomes and community empowerment. In another example, Metrics for Healthy Communities helps evaluate cross-sector efforts to improve community health.
New tools could also help educators support learning and carry out their jobs effectively. In ten years’ time, AI educator support bots could serve as personal digital partners for educators, helping them vet curricular resources, manage classroom and student data and coordinate with other educators. These bots could also augment educator-directed professional development by making recommendations and providing access to just-in-time training.
Machine learning open educational resources could also become widespread. Open educational resource communities could engage educators in using straightforward tools to develop, share, rate and modify machine learning algorithms that addressed their unique teaching and learning needs. These communities could emphasize machine learning applications created by educators, for educators.
Today, open source AI is spreading, with a range of artificial intelligence developer tools for building and sharing open source machine learning applications available. These kinds of tools enable educators who want to engage with it to create meaningful solutions to their own teaching needs. In addition, the nonprofit AI4All is working to support broader use of AI by cultivating a diverse group of future AI leaders and promoting a humanistic view of the AI field through summer education programs for under-represented high school students.
Such possibilities promise to respond to the drivers of change shaping the future of learning while helping to support the healthy development of young people, enable effective lifelong learning and contribute to community vitality. We cannot know whether they will come to pass, but we can consider whether they might help us achieve more of what we want for learning – and for all learners.
How might amplified voice and impact and the more specific possibilities described in this post benefit your organization or community? What first steps could you take to begin exploring their potential further?