Defining Our #EduFuture – (#SlowChatED August 18-24)

 old school

“The future” is a loaded term – one that evokes tremendous flights of imagination AND trepidation in myriad art forms.  Most science fiction looks into the future (or, like Star Wars, looks at societies from “long ago” that are clearly more technologically advanced than we are) and sees a mixture of fantastical technology and dystopic social realities.  The list is long: in the recent film Elysium, the technology exists to cure terminal cancer by simply lying down in a machine for a few moments, but this is only accessible to the wealthy who have fled Earth to live on a (really cool looking) space station; the rest of humanity lives in squalor and disease.

Our vision for the future – at least through the lens of science fiction – is rife with deep anxiety and stark dichotomies.

Is science fiction arguing that, the more powerful our technology becomes, the more fractured our social dynamic?  Or is it saying that technology, in and of itself, is only a means to an end – not the answer to what ails us?  Ultimately, I choose to interpret science fiction as a projection of how we interrelate: human to human, human to environment, human to the unknown (an alien, an unexplained force/phenomenon, etc.).  It asks us: Have we made tangible strides in our social dynamics, or is the future a repeat of all our societal ills, just dressed up in sleek outfits and awesome, flying cars?

 new schoool

Image courtesy of

For next week’s chat, I would like us to think about the future – our #EDUFuture – and see if we can move beyond the standard dichotomy struck in the science fiction we know (and adore).  While we understand implicitly that technology will continue to advance, I propose that the future of education isn’t just about the circuitry we know will surround us with an ever-greater degree of ubiquity.  Technology simply refers to the tools (physical, pedagogical, spatial, relational) that allow us to interact with our environment, and each other.  Language is the first technology, and the one we need to go back to again and again in a cyclical act of rediscovering (redefining) our common ground and deeper purpose.

While most agree that schools (and education as a whole) should have a coherent set of policies and practices, we must also continually practice – and evaluate – thoughtful divergence.  How will we grow if we simply replicate what we’ve inherited?

“Living systems contain their own solutions.  Somewhere in the system are people already practicing a solution that other think is impossible.  Or they possess information that could help many others.  Or, they defy stereotypes and have the very capabilities we need.”  Margaret Wheatley in Bringing Schools Back to Life: Schools as Living Systems (1999).

If schools, as Wheatley proposes, are truly “living systems,” then what are the mechanisms by which we engage the entire system in reflection and study on who we are and co-creation of who we can become?  In a living system, everything is intrinsically connected, and the separation between one “part” and another becomes less distinct.  Living systems – like organisms – change and grow over time, inexorably.  How can we educators take charge of the change process rather than experiencing it as a random act that comes about in an undetermined, periodic (sometimes surprising) fashion?  Can we move beyond easy dichotomies (Blended learning or not? Standards-based grading or not?) and embrace a more nuanced, textured educational future-scape?

Advance Resources to Peruse:

Sean Ziebarth dug up this GEM from John Seely Brown: New Learning Environments for the 21st Century

Ewan McIntosh‘s posts on school design.

Katie Lepi’s recent post on Edudemic – “Is This the Future of Education?”

We will post one question per day Monday through Saturday.  Some won’t be questions, rather prompts to generate conversation: video clips, quotes, short readings.  I’d like to crowd-source YOUR ideas for questions/prompts to guide our weeklong conversation – please tweet them to @ecsaibel.

I’m excited to look ahead with you.


Cross-posted at SlowChatED.

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