Friday, June 12, 2009

1.3.*; 5.*: Solid stuff on the future

The "Beyond Current Horizons" research programme was established to "examine how social and technological change overthe coming 20 or so years may present new challenges or opportunities for education". The Futurelab project has just released some interesting new insights into what the future may hold.

Usually I am skeptical of such reports, but there is a depth to the analysis in the "Beyond Current Horizons" work that stands it apart. The quality of the Expert Advisory Group demonstrates the level of expertise the project has drawn on, adding significant depth to the analysis and findings. The six proposed scenarios have not been merely brainstormed; rather, they have been carefully fashioned from the results of clearly documented evidence (over 60 papers written by experts, also available from the site).

The six potential futures (and their implications for education) are:

World 1: Trust yourself
  • Scenario 1: Informed choice - Learning is a bespoke, life-long journey that develops and builds upon your unique strengths. Educational providers work with you to tailor education to your needs.
  • Scenario 2: Independent consumers - Learning is an individual responsibility, educational providers are suppliers responsible for ensuring quality of delivery.

World 2: Loyalty points
  • Scenario 3: Discovery - Education helps you to understand and develop your capacity to make distinctive and useful contributions to a range of different communities, organisations and networks.
  • Scenario 4: Diagnosis - Education is about organisations diagnosing learners' pre-existing strengths and determining where they will fit in future.

World 3: Only connect
  • Scenario 5: Integrated experience - Learning is a process of participating in meaningful activities and developing competencies and knowledge to better contribute to the wider community.
  • Scenario 6: Service and citizenship - Education is a process of learning about the skills, competencies and roles that individuals play in the 'real world'.

The beauty of these scenarios is that they are realistic, discrete, and are not driven by any sense of technological determinism. There is plenty to muse on here, and plenty to study; the various papers I have scanned (such as "Learning to learn", "Digital natives and ostrich tactics?", "Reworking the web, reworking the world: How web 2.0 is changing our society", "Argumentation and dialogic teaching: Alternative pedagogies for a changing world") that inform the scenarios are all worthy of deep study in themselves. This study provides a good, substantial reference point that acknowledges the complexity of the issues involved as well as the fact that the future can often be anticipated but not pre-determined.

A must for anyone considering the potential futures of education wanting to engage with a serious consideration of the issues!

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