20 Year Forecast: Broader Aims, Students at the Center

Student-centered learning was the centerpiece of two remarkable conversations this week–one with US experts and one with global advisors. It’s been interesting to watch the dialog move from blended (2010-12), to personalized (2013), to next gen (2014) to student-centered. As described by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, student centered is personalized, competency-based, anytime anywhere learning that is student-driven.

The hunch that encouraging student agency will produce better education outcomes was pervasive at the Russian sponsored Global Education Futures Forum which met this week in Silicon Valley in conjunction with the 12th Global Technology Symposium and following up on an October meeting in Moscow.

Using only hashtags to summarize global education trends, half of the list generated by global educators were commonly heard at US education conferences while other trends and terms sounded foreign.

Common Uncommon

Learning networks

Computer mediated learning

Personalized learning

Blended learning

Relevant learning

Connected learning

Student voice

Design thinking

Knowledge mapping


Big Data

Open access

Meaningful fun

Existential skills

Emotional intelligence

Empathic technology

Spiritual growth

Evolution of society

Reinventing community


System innovations

Community GDP



GEF lead Pavel Luksha noted that all of the discussions stressed learning as community, discovery, and a journey. Advisors discussed ways hard and soft technology can build community, support discovery, and map the journey.

If Michael Barber is the UK’s best known champion of improvement, Valerie Hannon is the queen of innovation. Co-founder of Innovation Unit, Hannon is champion of high engagement, project-based approaches like High Tech High and Big Picture Learning. She was one of the forum participants advancing agency, empathy, and ecology. Hannon joined Muhammed Chaudhry, Silicon Valley Education Fund, Karl Mehta, EdCast, and me on a panel talking about a 10 year forecast for education.

Trends. The discussion highlighted four global learning trends: structured to unpredictable, closed to open, one way to mass customized, and directed to collaborative.

Backdrop to the conversation was a giant roadmap of 16 trends shaping global learning prepared by Luksha’s Reengineering Futures. (The only thing comparable in ambition is the KnowledgeWorks’ Future of Learning project which helped frame the organization of Getting Smart). As you scan these global learning trends, consider how different they are compared to the stifled US education dialog.

  • Promotion of global values: globalization and multicultural societies require possession of a set of competencies based on universal values
  • Asian leadership: as a result of unprecedented urbanization and targeted investments into human capital, Asian countries become world’s biggest education and science markets
  • Growth of business participation in education and science: educational institutions respond to the demands of economy and society; programs take employer demands into account; development of applied research
  • Hypercompetition: in a hypercompetitive world, companies try to attract and retain talented employees that become their most valuable assets.
  • Growth of labor and academic mobility: growth of student and workforce mobility; campuses and workplaces become mobile.
  • Spread of DIY-culture: DIY-culture spreads driven by the development of 3D printing and smart technologies
  • Internetization: Internet has deep influence on all aspects of human life; in their everyday life people rely extensively on online solutions
  • Automation of intellectual routines: complex intellectual processes are handed over to machines
  • Technological mobility growth: miniaturization of gadgets becomes even more versatile and energy efficiency allows  owners to learn anywhere any time
  • Aging population: the most dynamic development in the sphere of education occurs in its post university segment. Growth of the middle class and advances in healthcare lead to the formation of a class of physically and mentally active post 60 year-olds
  • Individualization of education: automation and ICT change the model of education. Programs, courses and teaching tools are individually tailored.
  • Number of online communities of practice grows: online communities uniting practicing professionals flourish; educational function is embodied into the communities of practice.
  • Wikinomy: spread of mass collaboration practices
  • Economy of merits: development of non-monetary exchange (including volunteerism)
  • Trans- and polydisciplinarity development: interdisciplinarity and convergence become a norm
  • ICT prompts appearance of new cognition model: complete review of knowledge management models, including science, education and archive management

For a recap of the domestic experts talking about student-centered impact opportunities, check out our YouTube channel (and watch for a full report next month). As our friends at JFF would say, it’s nice to see students at the center.

For more on trends, see


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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