Slides with speech: New Futures for Education: Beyond the information age.


Published on

The transcript of my 2003 presentation on emerging change and higher education, for the WFS Mexico Conference; this was also reprised to the WFS World Conference in August 2004.

Published in: Education
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Slides with speech: New Futures for Education: Beyond the information age.

  1. 1. 5/11/2003 Good morning. I want to thank the WFS for their invitation to reprise this presentation, offered originally as a keynote at the WFS Mexico conference in November 2003. I am here this morning to pose some questions about possible long-term futures for education. I shall touch only briefly on the current crises in education -- not because I think them unimportant, but because our role as forward thinkers, as futurists, is to explore the boundaries of possibility at least one generation forward.© Infinite Futures 2003 1
  2. 2. 5/11/2003 Let us briefly acknowledge current educational pressures -- some combination of which may be found in almost any school system anywhere in the world. Either too little infrastructure exists: it is inadequate for potential student load, as in, for example, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, where the local high school literally lacks enough seats for all potential students -- or the infrastructure can accommodate the student population, but it is ageing, in disrepair, and little or no funds exist to renovate buildings and equipment. Third, the infrastructure may still be functional, but it was designed for the subjects and teaching styles of the industrial age -- creating workers with skills appropriate to factories and mass production -- and it lacks resources to upgrade to such information-age infrastructure as computers and media labs. Or too few trained teachers are available. And of course, all of these are exacerbated by ongoing budget crises and underspending on education generally.© Infinite Futures 2003 2
  3. 3. 5/11/2003 Given the current challenges, what possibilities exist for the future? We have many scenarios to choose from: over fifty years of futures studies have produced libraries of scenarios, no few of which have focussed on education. Even a quick Google search for education scenarios uncovers a geographically and substantively diverse array of scenarios. The next few slides focus on those produced for the National Education Association, and are available in their entirety online and by CD.© Infinite Futures 2003 3
  4. 4. 5/11/2003 Quality driven: The National Education Association in the USA, has proposed two basic scenarios for the future of higher education, each of which produces several different delivery models. Their preferred outcome is driven by shifting public values emphasizing quality in education, that “education must be a seamless web, that opportunities… should be available to all residents. Higher education becomes viewed as a public good, as an important investment in societal well being.” Market driven: But in many ways the outcomes that will be more recognizable to the academics and educators in the audience emerge from their “market-driven” scenario, which assumes that education is no longer a government responsibility, but the responsibility of each individual instead.© Infinite Futures 2003 4
  5. 5. 5/11/2003 In order to survive, educational institutions scramble for strategies to handle reduced funding -- and increased demand by the economy for workers trained in new skills. The “MacCollege” scenario offers cheap and cheerful education by a coordinated national network of franchised community colleges, with educational product tie-ins -- and the teaching, you should note, outsourced to Mexico.© Infinite Futures 2003 5
  6. 6. 5/11/2003 Emerging business and university partnerships to enhance education for the new economy result in “educational maintenance organizations:” higher education institutions begin to administer education through contracts with industries and states.© Infinite Futures 2003 6
  7. 7. 5/11/2003 The “outsourced” approach maintains the face-to-face campus experience, but approaches the budget crisis by adopting advanced business models, including outsourcing all university activities to the cheapest bidders. © Infinite Futures 2003 7
  8. 8. 5/11/2003 With shifting economic structures producing increasing unemployment, large universities are used to “warehouse” youth, and students actively encouraged to stay in school as long as possible. Instruction increasingly computer-based, with little contact with actual faculty.© Infinite Futures 2003 8
  9. 9. 5/11/2003 Some universities, in an attempt to maintain quality, focus on the media-based delivery of “star” faculty and researchers, leading to the “Hollywood-ization” of education, and “edutainment,” touting the excellence of its production values.© Infinite Futures 2003 9
  10. 10. 5/11/2003 Let’s take that last scenario and focus in on it: “wired,” online delivery of education. What is the promise? Flexible, asynchronous “just in time” delivery of educational resources, fitting in to individual student schedules; make maximal effective use of “information-age” media distributed via the web; access to the best teachers, researchers, and instructional materials, no matter where in the world they are, or the students are. The University of Phoenix is one of the largest USA-based examples of this sort of distance education.© Infinite Futures 2003 10
  11. 11. 5/11/2003 But does this really represent a new paradigm in teaching, a model created entirely for the information age and the emerging information economy? In daily practice, classes are often structured in lock-step -- if the student falls behind, they are lost. Content is often simply a transfer of the print- based materials of the face-to-face classroom to the hypertext environment of the web, with little recourse to richer arrays of media. Granted, this is usually due to lack of budget to prepare a media-rich environment, or buy server / bandwidth resources to deliver it well. Teaching this way is time-intensive, and often outsourced to part-time faculty. Are we simply saying that the future of education will be a lot like today, only on-line -- and equally under-resourced and pressured to produce income? Commodifying knowledge transfer, and applying industrial economic models to what should be a quintessentially information economy activity.© Infinite Futures 2003 11
  12. 12. 5/11/2003 Twentieth century education was designed to mass produce an educated workforce which would fit into the environment of the factory production line. A production line increasingly populated by robots controlled by expert systems. The information age economy demands something much more like the individual worker as self- employed entrepreneur.© Infinite Futures 2003 12
  13. 13. 5/11/2003 What new models are available? One example resource is offered by Vos and Dryden, in the research they present in The Learning Revolution. They have collected best practice case studies describing education innovations around the world, presenting a myriad of models that are alike in one respect: they apply our emerging knowledge of learning styles, multiple intelligence, group process dynamics, and human brain function to optimize learning conditions and processes -- but in ways suited to different cultures. I will not describe each of these models: I refer you to their book -- which is available in its entirety free online.© Infinite Futures 2003 13
  14. 14. 5/11/2003 But one model is to make educational resources available free: it is a model which the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has implemented in their “Open Course Ware” initiative. This specifically challenges industrial-age economic notions of commodification, and creating value for goods by limiting access. Making all of MIT’s curriculum resources available online and open to anyone with web access, follows one of Kevin Kelly’s dicta from New Rules for a New Economy: in the information economy, you can, paradoxically, enhance product value by giving part of it away for free.© Infinite Futures 2003 14
  15. 15. 5/11/2003 This takes education at least one step out of the industrial age and into the information age. But the next step might well be completely open source, self-designed, asynchronously delivered information and learning, supported by a globally self-organizing community of education.© Infinite Futures 2003 15
  16. 16. 5/11/2003 The precursors of which may well be the self-organizing global communities of the Open Directory Project (ODP) and Wikipedia. Both are voluntary efforts to identify, document, annotate, and organize knowledge, in many different languages, involving people from all over the world. The ODP, for example, is an global community of over 50,000 people that creates an annotated taxonomy of websites. This database provides core data to GOOGLE, Lycos, and many other of the commercial web search engines.© Infinite Futures 2003 16
  17. 17. 5/11/2003 Perhaps a more useful way to innovate in education is to consider the customers of the future -- age cohort analysts refer to the transitions of experience and expectations between generations. Millennials will be accustomed to choosing and manipulating their own experiences -- that is, creating their own CDs and DVDs, and designing their own websites. They will be used to participation, collaboration, and having more control over their activities and their information environment. In designing programs for them, we must involve them to gain their interest and commitment. What exactly does this mean? Let’s consider how they play:© Infinite Futures 2003 17
  18. 18. 5/11/2003 Briefly, they expect fun to be when they want it, how they want it, where they want it, immersive and high-speed, participatory, and providing a platform for individual creativity -- and they want it to challenge them.© Infinite Futures 2003 18
  19. 19. 5/11/2003 And they will use technology to create their own media and languages to share these experiences: the rudimentary examples today are texting and gaming. © Infinite Futures 2003 19
  20. 20. 5/11/2003 Based on these trends away from print-based media, another possible outcome often extrapolated by futurists is the end of literacy. Personally, I think a world without books would be a poorer place -- and as many obsolete but elegant skills have been maintained through history (for example, fencing) -- I believe there will always be some core group of eccentrics who love to read, even in the next millennium. But I do think emerging new media will change the landscape for learning, communicating, and thinking.© Infinite Futures 2003 20
  21. 21. 5/11/2003 Reading online is very different from reading a book, of course: it is potentially non-linear, given the capability for annotation linking any given paragraph, sentence, or word to databases, case studies, bibliographies AS well as other authors’ works; multi-sensory, allowing viewers to switch seamlessly from print to music to art to movies -- and eventually to sculpture and scents; and enables multidimensional structuring of narratives and logical arguments. An vivid illustration of this is offered by David Brin in the novel Earth. © Infinite Futures 2003 21
  22. 22. 5/11/2003 MIT research has generated several commercial spin-offs racing to create “electronic ink” -- an infinitely reusable book composed of pages in which are embedded molecules which spin to display different colored faces as they receive minute electrical charges. Thus each page could be reprogrammed endlessly to be any page, in any book…or even a video screen. The extrapolation of this idea is vividly described by Stephenson in his novel, The Diamond Age.© Infinite Futures 2003 22
  23. 23. 5/11/2003 Ian Pearson of BT Labs wowed a previous WFS conference with his description of lab experiments with “thought activated” computers, and just last month a research team described their success with chimps activating game joysticks merely via chips implanted in their brains. Of course, sci-fi authors Niven and Pournelle have already worked out that such chips, wi-fi’d into a network, would create, in essence, techno-telepathy. © Infinite Futures 2003 23
  24. 24. 5/11/2003 E.g., the successive generations of “smart-its,” which their designers describe as “small context-aware computers that can be attached to everyday objects. If you need a coffee- cup that knows if it is full or empty, a table that tracks the objects on it, or a wine bottle that can tell if it has been stored correctly, attach a Smart-It!” We will be able to query every surface in our future environments for updates on conditions anywhere this ambient intelligence has permeated.© Infinite Futures 2003 24
  25. 25. 5/11/2003 The Navihedron, developed by the late Roy Stringer of AMAZE (Liverpool, UK), arranges a Web sites information as points on a globe. On a globe with 12 points, each point would be no more than three clicks away from any other. And you could see the whole thing by rotating the globe on- screen. He called this structure a "navihedron.” More recent examples of commercial software enabling intuitive, non-linear organization and access of information are TheBrain’s PersonalBrain, and PlumbDesign’s Visual Thesaurus, using ThinkMap software.© Infinite Futures 2003 25
  26. 26. 5/11/2003 So what *does* happen when an entire generation grows up in layered, multidimensional, multi-directional information environments? © Infinite Futures 2003 26
  27. 27. 5/11/2003 © Infinite Futures 2003 27
  28. 28. 5/11/2003 Note: it is not possible to accurately reproduce a navihedron without loading Java software, as navihedra are movable three-dimensional geometric objects. © Infinite Futures 2003 28
  29. 29. 5/11/2003 So perhaps we need to re-write that provocative possibility of the future: maybe the next century will see not the end of literacy, but the end of linear thinking. © Infinite Futures 2003 29
  30. 30. 5/11/2003 Our grandchildren and greatgrandchildren will not simply dress differently, dance differently, drink and eat differently -- not to mention behave and talk differently -- they will think differently as well. Can we rise to the challenge of imagining what they might need in terms of skills, discipline, creativity, information, and knowledge? © Infinite Futures 2003 30
  31. 31. 5/11/2003 For those of you familiar with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, you will see immediately the contrast: between the students of Ravenclaw -- studious, single-minded, disciplined readers and essayists -- and Gryffindor: risk-takers, immersing themselves in their surroundings and learning by crisis, failure, and experiment; creating their own curriculum when traditional curricula fail them. Or, to quote McLuhan, shifting from hot learning media, offering high-definition data absorbed primarily by one sense (reading / sight) to cool learning media, presenting shallower datasets over a wider array of senses such that the student is compelled to participate and add more data, and create their own organizational structure. My nephew reads instructions; my niece plays with new technology until she understands it -- or it breaks.© Infinite Futures 2003 31
  32. 32. 5/11/2003 So, what if all these changes lead not merely to a simple transition from one primary medium of communication to another, but to a complete shift in mental structures? How will the generation after the millennials think? © Infinite Futures 2003 32
  33. 33. 5/11/2003 Are we, thinkers educated in the transition from the industrial to the information age, trained in paradigms that are almost purely industrial age, asking the correct questions about what education infrastructure will best serve students in the decades beyond the information age, in a future where our rapidly evolving exploration and understanding of our own brains, and the mind-body -- and mind-machine! -- interface transforms our understanding not only of modes of communication, but of human consciousness itself?© Infinite Futures 2003 33
  34. 34. 5/11/2003 Each of these successive forms of educational delivery does not replace its predecessor; rather, each new model subsumes the previous one. I do not pretend to know, nor would I presume to predict, what the education delivery systems of the future may be -- but I do know that our open dialogue about educational improvement must acknowledge advances in understanding the human brain and how consciousness is produced and structured. And it is currently one of the most rapidly advancing areas of scientific inquiry. So we must begin to pose questions about educational models for the age of conscious technology, and the technologies of consciousness.© Infinite Futures 2003 34
  35. 35. 5/11/2003 [We are generation zero of spacekind. How will generation one think?] © Infinite Futures 2003 35
  36. 36. 5/11/2003 [As the slide says.]© Infinite Futures 2003 36
  37. 37. 5/11/2003 © Infinite Futures 2003 37