If you are tuning in for Part 3 of The Past, Present and Future blog series than you are in the right place! In Part 1, we looked back into the past to consider some of the origins of the educational system as we know it. In Part 2, we discussed student-led learning and the benefits of student ownership in the learning process. In this post, we may dabble in a little here and there, past and present in an attempt to foresee the future of learning. We will travel back in time a little to consider the origins of education in order to reflect on current practices in education. Meanwhile, these past and present introspections will be aimed towards envisioning the future of learning, rethinking education and reimagining society.

A Look Back…Again…Before We Move Forward: (future of learning)

Ted Dintersmith is the author of Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Age and he also produced the edu-documentary with the same name. See the trailer below

In the Washington Post article, A venture capitalist searches for the purpose of school. Here’s what he found, Dintersmith is able to point out the impetus that drove him to reimagine education. He comments on how shocked he was by the spoon fed nature of some of his son’s projects and assessments. He couldn’t understand why diverse ways of solving a problem weren’t accepted by the teacher. Rather, the only solutions that would be accepted were those being assessed on the standardized test. This spiraled him into a deep investigation of the education system.

It was in this research that he uncovered “in 1893, Charles Eliot of Harvard and the Committee of Ten anticipated a surge of manufacturing jobs as our country moved beyond agriculture. They re-imagined the U.S. education model, ushering in a factory school model to replace the one-room school house.” This is not dissimilar to the Changing Educational Paradigms video we watched in Part 1.

Also with some similar arguments, this week @ntchelebi shared a video by Prince Ea that addresses this same story of learning as work and cog-making. The video below is called, I Just Sued the School System where he recognizes the flaws in the system created over 100 years ago. (By the way, this acknowledgement of Prince Ea in this post does not negate my rant against one of his other videos in my post, Is Fearmongering Winning?)

An Unsettling Look into the Present: Rethinking Education

Will Richardson, similarly acknowledges the Committee of Ten’s influence on our education system and proposes the need for change in his article titled, 9 Elephants in the Classroom That Should Unsettle Us. Richardson laments, “Lately, I’ve become increasingly frustrated with our unwillingness to acknowledge these ‘elephants in the (class)room,’ if you will, because the new contexts for modern learning forged by the networked world in which we now live are creating an imperative for new ways of thinking about our work in schools.”

Some of these elephants include an over-reliance on content,  student disengagement, lack of student choice, grade-centric mindsets, and overly explicit instruction to name a few.

Specifically, elephant #6 outlines our feeble attempts guessing what the curriculum should be comprised of. Much the same way that Dewey showed concern on an over-reliance on formal education as I described in Part 1. Richardson, recognizing this reality jokes when he writes, “as Seymour Papert so famously asks, now that we have access to pretty much all there is to know, “what one-billionth of one percent” are we going to choose to teach in school?”

Elephant #4 corroborates the arguments I was making in Part 2 about the dispositions we need as learners. Richardson says, “It’s much more difficult to assess the literacies, skills, and dispositions that are required to succeed and lead a healthy, happy life, especially in a world where answers are everywhere via the technologies we carry in our pockets. In that world, creativity, curiosity, a change mindset, the ability to create, connect, and participate in networks…all of those are now required, yet few of those are currently assessed at all.”

Richardson’s article helps to propagate the anti-curriculum and pro-student-autonomy that I have been outlining in this blog series.

To Advance the Future of Learning and Education, We First Must Reimagine Society

Since we are all just grappling at this question, it is obviously very difficult to envision the future of education. All our attempts are merely attempts, although, this is true about any curriculum at any point in history in any part of the world. I wouldn’t be surprised though, if most people think immediately about technology when they are asked about the future of education. Certainly, our future world will be embedded with technology but it will not be the only feature of future learning. Let’s watch this video called Future Learning: Networked Societies to get a balanced vision moving forward.

As we can see in this video there are already many examples of how educational thinkers are working to change the learning landscape. Also, as we discussed in Part 2, there are a wealth of student-led learning platforms that are transforming the way our students can access content. We may think that the future of learning is all about holographicsClass Badges, Maker Spaces, 3D Printing or Virtual Reality but not exclusively. Education HAS changed because of technology and it will continue to change! However, I also know that the way we interact with students, the tasks they need to do while in school and the dispositions that we inculcate within them, are far more important!

In order to create a new future of learning we must adopt a change mindset.  In the article, To Advance Education, We First Must Reimagine Society, John Abbot, Director of the 21st Century Learning Initiative argues, “either way, schools are stuck in the past: The emphasis has been on feeding children static information and rewarding them for doing only what they’re told, instead of helping them develop the transferable, higher-order skills they need to become life-long learners and thrive in an uncertain future.” Furthermore, he argues that what we really need to be asking ourselves is not what is the future of learning? Rather, what skills, dispositions or mindsets do our students need for this future? Even more importantly, what kind of society do we wish to create? Only then we can inform the changes needed to be made in education. Now this is something I can endorse whole-heartedly. I am an firm believer that education is meant to teach us to become good people, prepare us for life and to instill a passion for learning. Additionally, I believe in the dispositions that I discussed in Part 2 are essential for the tumultuous and unpredictable future of our societies and our planet. I believe these are the foundations for future learning!

So what is Modern Learning or the Future of Learning?

Will Richardson, argues that in order to create modern learning opportunities, we must consider the following equation:

(Beliefs + Contexts) + Practice = Modern Learning

What do we believe about how we learn? To me, learning needs to be personal, meaningful, relevant and engaging to name a few. Richardson is suggesting that we align our beliefs about how we learn in an effort to disrupt the pedantic and didactic status quo that has dominated our education system for so long.

Contexts, he argues, plays a role because of the overwhelming amount of changes that have occurred in technology, the development of our networked society and the way the world has changed. Ignoring these very real factors fractionalizes ourselves and our students from current mindsets that enable us to develop into not only functioning members of society, but creative problem-solvers of the future.

Practice, in this equation asks us to synthesize what we know about how we learn while contextualizing it within real-world contexts that are relevant. Richardson says, “For thoroughly modern learning to take place in schools, we have to think about our practice in a different way. And that has to start not with curriculum and assessments, but with beliefs and contexts.”


Ok, let’s summarize.

1. Standardized (non-adaptive and non-flexible) curriculum is basically bunk. Just like Dewey mentioned, we have to find a way to balance the formal and the informal. Access to content at our fingertips has revolutionized the role of the teacher. Instead of the teacher being viewed as the gate keeper of content and the students being viewed as passive receivers of knowledge, we are witnessing a paradigm shift in teaching and learning.

2. The learner now needs to learn to drive their own learning in an effort to develop a growth mindset, creativity, problem-solving and a love of learning. The teacher needs to be a facilitator, coach, guide and motivator for their students.

3. Future learning acknowledges that we are continuously learning about teaching and learning. We are considering past, present and future contexts in an effort to create new and potential learning experiences. We also understand that technology will be integral but will not be the sole solution to the future of education!

With all of this in mind, we need to continue the disruption of the education system as developed over a century ago. We need to give agency to our students so that they feel empowered by their autonomy and access. Finally we need to envision a future society that we want to exist and subsequently, begin to redesign education that mirrors that ideal while remaining flexible to emerging realities and contexts.

What do you think?