Innovating Towards Learner-Focused and Human-Centered Education at SXSWedu

Topics: Future of Learning

This post was written by former KnowledgeWorks President and CEO Charles Ambrose, EdD.

Innovation. Entrepreneurship. Cutting-edge technology. Creativity. Learning. If you add to that mix barbecue and music, you’ll find yourself in Austin at SXSWedu. You’ll also, minus the music and barbecue, be immersed in exploration about the future of learning and the opportunities that lie ahead for learners of all ages.

One of the final panels at SXSWedu, during a summit open to all SXSW festival goers, brought together leaders, thinkers and educators to focus on the future of learning. This group provided synergy and insight that not only was energizing, but also gave participants encouragement that efforts are being made to create a future combining innovation, entrepreneurship and tech in a human-centered, collective sense of both responsibility and opportunity.

John Garcia III from the California Community Foundation, Charmaine Mercer from the Hewlett Foundation and Tyler Samstag from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit joined KnowledgeWorks Director of Strategic Foresight Jason Swanson to help tie together many themes from SXSWedu. They helped us focus on not one future of learning, but the many futures that will present themselves to us in classrooms, schools districts, colleges and universities and workplaces that all become part of the places where learners will learn.

“How can we not just pivot towards this new future of learning, but leap?” This last question raised during the session is one that Jim Shelton helped me understand in 2013 at the National Convening on Innovation sponsored by the Lumina Foundation and Kauffman Foundations in Kansas City, Missouri, as we were building the University of Central Missouri Innovation Campus.

“You can’t have sustainable innovation without transformation,” said Shelton.

Taking that idea of transformation, alongside the provocations outlined in Forecast 5.0: Navigating the Future of Learning, how do we move from the edges, one-offs or patchwork change to learning communities driven and defined by:

  1. Signature learning ecosystems
  2. Human-centered learning
  3. Safeguards for efficacy
  4. Amplified voice and impact

Exploring these futures of learning is happening across many spheres. At SXSWedu, I reconnected with visionary leader, friend and higher education colleague Paul LeBlanc, president of the University of Southern New Hampshire (SNHU). SNHU now has an enrollment of more than 150,000 students. LeBlanc was in Austin with Connie Yowell, the former education director at MacArthur and current CEO of Collective Shift / LRNG to talk about their merging of city-based ecosystems to develop learning pathways that cut across education and work – from school to college to career – making ecosystem changes that allow for learning, credentials and the development of competencies required for 21st century jobs.

It was affirming to think that many of the innovations and future-focused initiatives that LeBlanc has brought to SNHU are aligned with the themes from Navigating the Future of Learning and advancing a focus on transforming systems that personalizes learning in a human-centered way and develops competencies to be competitive in both life and work.

Every conversation at SXSWedu challenged those in attendance to do more than pivot, but to leap, towards intense learner-focused and human-centered innovation.

“Power comes from community,” said Garcia during the SXSWedu panel discussion. And as a community, we must create together a future of learning that benefits all learners.

Start exploring the future of learning today with Forecast 5.0: Navigating the Future of Learning. The accompanying discussion guides will help with productive, rich conversations.