As soon as you finish reading this, go to and check out the 2020 Forecast: Creating the Future of Learning, a recently released landscape map produced by KnowledgeWorks and the Institute of the Future.

My friend Chad Wick flipped his foundation from a focus on schooling to a focus on learning.  He’s been thinking creatively about this for a decade and is producing some useful tools. 

The Forecast, while filled with Palo Alto hyperbole, points to some important trends

1.     Altered bodies: this combo category combines cognitive modification and eco-schools—all overhyped for a 2020 forecast.

2.     Amplified organizations: no question—social networking and open platforms allow amplification (maybe not ‘superheroes’) and advance meritocracy.

3.     Platforms for resilience: this section deals with failures of public systems and the need for schools to be connection points for kids/families.   This section points to the emerging learning ecosystem.

4.     A new civic discourse: while they note a few hopeful trends, the larger and more destructive trend is the eroding political problem solving ability.

5.     The maker economy: the discussion of the DIY economy is a little overwrought; more important to the global economy is the rise of India and China—and how the West participates.  

6.     Pattern recognition: the emerging ‘data picture’ of our lives makes me wonder about fragmented filters—newspapers and TV news used to create something close to a common filter; as we each create custom filters, do we create knowledge niches?

Change forces I wish they had considered more fully:

·          Culture Matters: as Huntington’s book title suggests, clan culture and the role that learning plays is a vital input into a youth learning motivation.  We attempt to combat a weak learning culture with engagement, relevance, and support, but culture has substantial influence on individual and group achievement. 

·          Geopolitics matter: while the learning ecosystem will emerge with some ubiquity, formal education will remain trapped in a web of local and national politics—some geographies will sprint ahead while others will remain trapped in 1950. 

·          Funding matters: there’s a global gap in access to quality secondary education—there will be continued cost pressure on learning systems as health benefits are extended globally to an aging world population. 

·          Investment matters: the lack of public and private investment in learning innovation contributed to the disastrously bad state we’re in.   It’s too weak to call a trend, but public/private partnerships that leverage the benefits of philanthropic, venture, and public investment will be key to the FutureofEd.  

More to come on implications of these trends. 

Previous articleCan economic development & social justice coexist?
Next article2020 Forecast: Implications
Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here