Thinking About the Future of Learning

Looking back, we could not have made more mistakes in the purchase of our first house. In a sequence of events that included making an offer on a house that we had only seen in the dark, covered in snow, in March of 2008, perhaps the greatest mistake we made was not considering the space that a future child would require. Throughout the house hunting process the idea of a child was far off. It was an eventuality that we would deal with some day. Now, as the idea of a second child is somehow emerging in casual conversation, I know that a discussion about more space will undoubtedly come about too.  Being proactive, last month I reached out to my realtor to begin the discussions; intent upon avoiding the pitfalls that I fell into in our first venture.

Oddly, the conversation that occurred over coffee with my realtor has informed much of my thinking about education for the last month. To provide a little context, my wife and I are both educators. My wife teaches first grade in a small community school. I formerly taught high school social studies and now work in the area of education reform, advocating for new and innovative models of teaching. Thus, when my realtor began to inform me of the various educational merits of the areas where we were looking to buy a house, I had reason for concern. I knew of all of the schools he mentioned. I knew which schools practiced project-based learning, those that had a focus on twenty-first century skills, and others that remained in the traditional pedagogical structures of the 20th century.

Knowing my profession, my realtor was absolutely shocked when I told him that the school district in which my future house resided played a very minimal role in my decision making process. Thinking he understood my rationale, he responded “Well I suppose you will have a greater than normal involvement in your daughters education, but I still think you should take schools into account.”

The problem that most people, including my realtor, make in thinking about the future of education is in underestimating the capabilities that technological innovation has to redefine the way we learn over the next half century. My daughter will graduate high school in 2029. It is not lost on me that this is roughly the time that Vernor Vinge predicts to be the singularity. While I am not one to quickly jump on the bandwagon of all futurists (I certainly haven’t started prepping for the doomsday scenario predicted by some), I do think that there is a fundamental shift that may occur.

Over the course of the next few weeks I will explore the role that technology will play in the future of learning. More specifically, I want to examine how technological innovation could redefine the way we experience and perceive learning, which may completely revolutionize our conception of education. In many ways this will be an exercise for me to clarify and guide my own thinking, but I absolutely look forward to engaging in conversation and bringing in the point of view of others. In my next post I will delve into the idea that we may be living in the digital revolution.

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