Ever wonder what the future of education looks like? It’s easy to imagine what it will look like 10 or even 20 years from now. Following the trends, we’ll see technology propelling student-directed learning, increased collaboration among students globally, and competencies displayed publicly as students build their profiles for college acceptance and workforce entry.
But what about 100 years from now? 200 years? 500? In the year 2517, will we still have a national department of education? State departments of ed? School districts? School boards? Schools? How will life be different? How will the workforce have evolved? Will we still struggle with geopolitical conflicts over territory and religious differences and scarcity of food and medicine? Will climate change have redirected our populations away from coastal areas? Will we have new energy sources that render pollution and fossil fuels obsolete?
These are the questions we should be asking today as we think about how to educate our children. With all the resources we allocate to education, we are fundamentally reactionary in our approach. We struggle with the ability to educate our children as we react to problems like attracting teachers to fill classrooms, wage competition between states, and schools of ed that can’t educate teachers with the most basic data literacy skills necessary to understand available data and make it actionable for our learners.
We have smart people in education. And increasingly sophisticated technology. And yet, we still aren’t asking the most basic questions. Where do we want to go? And how are we going to get there. Education needs to be proactive. I read a lot of the education press. I attend conferences. I get the news feeds from the Post, the Times and CNN. And I am inundated with Twitter feeds. For the most part, the education press is informative and gives a good snapshot of what is going on in education right now. The mainstream press gives me a lot of he-said, she-said. And Twitter repeats the process. What I don’t see is a serious discussion about where we are going and how we are going to get there. We have a major-league opportunity, and I would argue a major-league responsibility to our children, to shape the future of education. Instead of directing the future, we are hanging on by the skin of our teeth.
I had an interesting discussion with Sonny Magana recently. Sonny is an education futurist and author. He thinks a lot about the future of education, and how technology can get us there. We agreed that for all our amazing technical progress, we haven’t changed a thing. We’re still not asking the most basic questions. Where do we want to go? How do we apply action steps to get there? How can we leverage our technology to accomplish learning productivity in a way that’s not possible without technology?
There is a very old saying that applies: “If you don’t know where your harbor is, no wind will get you there.” There are many discussions about education methods and practices. We talk about standards – CCSS vs. state, whole school design, competency-based education, project-based learning, and these are all wonderful discussions – for now. To make these discussions truly valid, we need to be asking “Why?” Where do we want to be in 20, 50 and 100 years? How does this get us there? Let’s chart the course, knowing technology will change along the way. We may start the journey with a sextant and end with GPS. But let’s have the discussion. Anything less is sailing blind.