Yesterday I spent the day in a pretty heady, day-long workshop sponsored by the Institute for the Future out here in Palo Alto talking about what schools, and specifically teaching might look like at some point down the road. It was titled “The Future of Learning Agents” and Steve Hargadon was there too, sitting in as the unofficial, official blogger of the event. I tried to add some value to a great conversation that included folks like Howard Rheingold from Stanford (and author of Smart Mobs), Tom Carroll, the president of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF), and Mark Morrison, the Director of Leadership Development for the New Technology Foundation among about a dozen others.
Bottom line? As one of the participants said, “There are 1,300 teacher preparation programs that are preparing teachers for schools that none of us think should exist.” It was pretty edgy.
At one point we were put into small groups and asked to come up with a job description and an ideal candidate for a “learning agent” 10 years down the road. The result was pretty interesting. None of the job descriptions were for traditional teachers. Few of the candidates’ qualifications emphasized schooling or even classroom experience. Instead, the group identified candidates that had a wide variety of life experiences and attributes, most centered on the ability to facilitate or connect, and an understanding of social technologies and deep collaboration. And my take away was that we’re looking at a future where there will be many different opportunities for working with kids and communities in a teaching role other than the traditional idea of what a teacher is.
How long it’s going to take for that future to arrive is another question altogether, however. I think there was consensus in the room that it could take a very long time. But where we lacked consensus was where the pressure points for real change are. Some said it has to happen on a national level (myself included.) Others said that change in education might actually be driven by the faltering health care system or environmental pressures. It was a wide-ranging discussion that really left my head spinning.
For some context, you can check out this Education Map of the Future that IFTF and Knowledge Works Foundation created that looks at some of the “drivers” that are pushing change and some of the trends that are cropping up in response. And, you can check out the pretty awesome graphic recordings and some other photos from the day. Zoom in and scroll around to get the gist.
More on this later…long plane ride home today.
Alfred Thompson says
Can we even retrofit this new model of teaching and teachers into our current schools? Or do we need to start new schools that work in a new way?
a. woody delauder says
How do we go about getting our “decision making few” involved in these conversations. It would be nice to have all district administrators attend one of these workshops. It sounds like they could learn a few things from attending.
Suzanne Falkenstein says
I wish I had known about this workshop. It sounds fascinating.
Lee Wilson says
I love the interactive graphic you linked to but like most of these things it gives no sense of priorities. My sense is that the gateway skill to this new world is navigation/filtering/goal seeking (is there a word for this yet?). Until teachers themselves can model these skills students will have to discover them on their own or be left to drift in a sea of what appears to be nonsense.
Tracy Rosen says
Wow – wish I had known about that…actually probably best I didn’t since it was so far away!
I love the mindmap and the institute’s process as you described it.
What are you going to do personally that reflects some of the thinking and learning you all did together?
I’m looking forward to reading more about it 🙂
Has anyone asked the question, “Should the future exist as we predict it?” And, “Should we be more cautious in how we contribute to the shaping of the future and the speed at which it is realized?” The quotation, â€œThere are 1,300 teacher preparation programs that are preparing teachers for schools that none of us think should exist.â€ is pretty scary to me. They are products of those very schools. I understand “in spirit” what this means, but to imply that our schools as they stand now are totally dysfunctional is irresponsible. There are very real problems in schooling (and society) that are not going to be alleviated by new technologies, web 2.0 and the total redesign of schooling.
I am as much a proponent of innovation in learning as anyone, but many of the reform issues we have been talking about over the years are not new. Dewey, Vygotsky, Bruner (“facilitate, connect, collaborate”, life experiences grounded in authentic contexts…), and many others’ dreams of schooling remain unrealized… in spite of technology. Sure, small pockets of ‘reform’ have happened, but we still face the same battles. I just think we need to balance such discussions a little more when talking with today’s ‘futurists’. These old relics’ views of the future of schooling is still worth striving for, I think. Hopefully, they think so, too. These rich authentic and highly social contexts today would look different than in Dewey or Vygotsky’s time, but the principles remain the same.
School Violence Prevention says
that graphic is great! I do agree though, where are the priorities?
Tracy Rosen says
A shared mind map like this one, as I understand it, is a gathering of knowledge: a visual representation of the way a group of people think together.
It is not meant to be a list of priorities. The action of creating a mindmap creates a certain synergy that can be a catalyst for change, but doesn’t outline the change process itself.
When we are thinking about mapping a future we are talking about a dream and I think it is outrageously important to dream with abandon.
The next step is to outline the steps we can take to get there, and I have no doubt that we will stand on the shoulders of giants (Dewey, Vygotsky, Bruner) in order to do so. But without the dream, I’d almost go so far as to say: why bother?
phew **wipes forehead** got a little worked up there. But then again I tend to do that about things I really care about 🙂
Will Richardson says
Wow…Tracy…what you said! ;0) Were you there???
Tracy Rosen says
lol – no, wasn’t there, but this is the kind of thing that turns my crank. It’s what I base my work on.
I find that the only way real to trigger change is to get the people involved in a room having meaningful conversations around what is important to them and to create an artifact that represents their conversation (like the mindmap).
I say trigger, because I can’t make change happen on my own. I can only trigger it to happen by creating certain conditions where people will be able to pinpoint the passion around what it is they do and why.
I’ve written a bit about it throughout my blog.
I like that I am seeing it in other blogs as well!
@ Tracy – Dream away! It certainly is important. All I am saying is that we are still struggling to realize (“how to get there”) the dreams of the “giants” and we should recognize this more in such discussions, as we are still talking about the very same visions for schooling and learning. They championed wholeheartedly that teachers need to be more like learning agents, and I bet that they would be really excited about some of the new technologies available today 🙂
Lee Wilson says
Phew – didn’t mean to make the priorities comment a criticism of Will’s post – just that it is a next step to moving forward with something like this. Put this in the hands of most people and the logical question is “where do I start? What do I do differently tomorrow morning?” As noted my personal take is that folks should start with whole arena of navigation/filtering skills which those of us past a certain age don’t come by naturally because we grew up in an age of – relative – information scarcity. I’ll bet that others have other ideas and that is what I’d like to see.
For more see – http://www.educationbusinessblog.com/2007/08/learning_in_a_world_of_infinit_1.html
Tracy Rosen says
Steve, definitely, honouring where we come from is important.
I do feel that focusing on a positive future and seeing how to get there is ultimately a better use of my time than attributing the roots of the ideas to points and people in history.
I agree that we are championing the same thing in theory as any socio-constructivist from the past. Yet our ‘socio’ is so different, our tools and technologies are so different, and our students are different as well. The playing field is rapidly changing.
Someone could give me a theory, written by someone else I have never met or had a conversation with, and say – here. This is the answer. Let’s do this and education will be perfect. I could even go on and study that theory and agree, wow. This is beautiful. But until I have serious conversations with people who care as deeply as I do about education and until I can dream with them about our own future and flesh out the theoretical structure with our own relevant meat, the theories will not have all that much real meaning for me.
What Will and the others at that conference did was live those theories. They were learning in social interaction.
I can’t think of better recognition.
I am enjoying this conversation. I sit on the edge of my seat as I type – thanks!
Joan Vinall-Cox says
I am fascinated by web 2.0 as it impacts education. In 2004 I got my Ph.D. with a thesis on how I moved from being a technophobe to being a technophile. I’ve used the web in my teaching for over 10 years, but I can’t interest any local education institutions in a course on using web 2.0 in teaching. I think all the undergrad teachers should be getting as much training in this as possible, but it doesn’t seem to be on their radar at all.
@Tracy – I think we are finally finding a common ground in our negotiations. What you write is really at the root of what I was trying (maybe not all that well, though) to get at. Educational leaders, innovators and teachers have been having the same conversations for decades, yet we still struggle with the “how do we get there” part. The targets are the same, I think… only the tools and frameworks, or as you put it, “playing fields” change. Serious and passionate conversations and dreams are essential in this process – no doubt. Theory always needs to be grounded, negotiated and fleshed out in practical ways. I guess I am continually amazed at speed (slow!) at which we are able to “get there”. It’s my hope that increased options and opportunities for communication and collaboration by all, such as that which Will participated in, will speed up the rate at which we “get there”. Great discussion!
Cheers from a McGill Education Alumnus! See… the ripples are expanding 🙂
Tracy Rosen says
For Steve…and anyone else following this thread 😉
I am getting the idea that we, at least those of us involved in this conversation, are ready to act on new ideas. People have asked for priorities, have asked about where we go from here.
I think that something like this can help us get there. I know that Gervase Bushe has been using Appreciative Inquiry with the Vancouver Public School System. This was published in the Summer 2007 edition of the SFU Business Newsletter, the Executive Edge:
It’s a powerful change process, based in the very foundations that have been brought up in this thread.
If we were to design an appreciative change process for our school systems I think we could find out way to get there…together.
This is the type of stuff that excites me, that I want to see more of. I’m continuing this post here –> The Future of Teaching: Let’s continue the conversation.
Tracy Rosen says
For some reason that embedded link doesn’t want to work. I must’ve mis-typed the code, it’s getting late! Here is the actual link:
A. Mercer says
I’ve started a meme on some of the themes this post evoked: http://mizmercer.edublogs.org/2007/08/17/schools-20-meme/
Jeremy Fox says
This sounds like a fascinating workshop. I believe that we as educators have not only a right but a responsibility to attempt to predict the future; however, I also believe we need to remain cognizant of the difficult, if not futile, nature of this endeavor. We simply do not know, in the context of such a highly complex system as that of the educational landscape, where we are heading, at least not in any definitive sense. I agree with Steve that the notion “There are 1,300 teacher preparation programs that are preparing teachers for schools that none of us think should exist” seems to unfairly negate all that is currently right in the world of education. Yes, we must constantly strive to move forward and look towards an improved future. Yet, we must heed the lessons of the past and build upon that which we have worked so hard to accomplish.
Mark Cruthers says
The furture of teaching should include a market model. Let students and teachers find each other online or live. With Web 2.0 technology like http://www.wiziq.com the power starts to transfer to the hands of those who actually do the teaching and actually do the leaarning and the institutions over time will have less and less power.