2020 Forecast: Creating the Future of Learning (1 of 2)

As soon as you finish reading this, go to www.FutureOfEd.org 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. 

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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