Education serves many purposes. In much of my writing, I combine these purposes into the following short statement:
I believe that the overall and unifying goal of learning (via a lifetime of informal and formal education) is to develop and maintain cognitive, moral, physical, and spiritual knowledge and skills that help learners to solve or in other ways to cope with the problems they encounter.
This is a future-looking view of learning. We are all lifelong learners. We can use our learning to help us to better understand what we and others have done in the past, but we cannot change the past. We can use our current level of learning and our continuing lifelong learning to deal with the problems, tasks, and other challenges we will encounter in the future.
In some sense, all of us are futurists and make plans for our immediate, short term, and longer term futures. Our school systems are definitely engaged in such futurism. The curriculum content, teaching, and assessment that students encounter in our schools (including home schools) are based on what we believe will be helpful to students as they grow towards being mature, responsible adults.
Follow that line of reasoning as you think about the required curriculum in the three Rs: Reading, WRiting, and ARithmetic. Are these likely to still be very valuable in the future lives of your students? Then think about a fourth R—Reasoning (Computational Thinking). Such reasoning involves learning to use a combination of human brains and computer brains to solve problems and accomplish tasks. This is the focus of my recent free book, The Fourth R (Moursund, 12/23/2016).
My Recommendation to Teachers
Each subject you teach has a history and a future. Each has certain types of problems and tasks that it addresses. Each is being changed by research and development in technology, and by other changes going on in our world. Please take these basic ideas and integrate them into every subject that you teach. Remember, you are preparing your students for a future that does not yet exist, but that is gradually creeping up on all of us.
Consider establishing a "futures forecasts" time period each week, in which you engage your students in an exploration of possible futures they will live in and how the subject(s) you are teaching are helping to prepare them for these possible futures. If you need some help in selecting possible topics, take a look at my IAE-pedia page, What the Future is Bringing Us (Moursund, 2017). This website contains yearly collections—starting in 2007—of major changes in technology that are likely to affect education. I believe you will enjoy reading some of the older forecasts and reconciling them with what now currently exists.
Engage students in a discussion of a "futures forecasts" topic you select. Perhaps point them to some supplementary materials to read. Engage them in a discussion of how the content you are teaching might relate to the forecast. If the forecast you and your class are discussing actually proves to be quite accurate in the future, how will it affect the lives of your students?
Another approach is to encourage your students to bring in hard copy materials and Web links that contain "futures forecasts". Each week a different small team of students could assume responsibility for leading the weekly "futures" session.
Still another approach is to raise the following question with your students near the beginning of any new unit of study: "What changes are going on around the world that are having a major impact on this unit of study?" The idea is to emphasize change and the understanding that you are helping your students to get an education that prepares them for a changing world.
Teachers working with students may also be interested in having the students research and report on one or more "futures forecasts" from 5 to 10 years ago, or perhaps when they were in first grade, or the year they were born, and so on. It can be interesting for them to find out which predictions have become part of our world today, which ones failed to materialize, and why or why not in each case.
"Futures Forecasts" from Thomas Edison
Here are two quotes from Thomas Edison. The first is from a little more than 100 years ago, and the follow-up quote is from about 10 years later. I hope you get a good laugh out of them.
“Books will soon be obsolete in the schools.... Scholars will soon be able to instruct through the eye. It is possible to touch every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture.” (Thomas A. Edison; American inventor and businessman; quotation from 1913; 1847-1931.)
“I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks.” (Thomas Alva Edison; American inventor and businessman; quotation from 1922; 1847-1931.)
References and Resources
Moursund, D. (2017). What the future is bringing us. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 4/17/2017 from iae-pedia.org/What_the_Future_is_Bringing_Us.
Moursund, D. (12/23/2016). The Fourth R. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Download the Microsoft Word file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/289-the-fourth-r/file.html. Download the PDF file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/290-the-fourth-r-1/file.html. Access the book online at http://iae-pedia.org/The_Fourth_R.
Moursund, D. (10/29/2016). Good curriculum, instruction, and assessment. IAE-Blog. Retrieved 3/27/2017 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/good-curriculum-instruction-and-assessment.html.
Moursund, D. (2016). Problem solving. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 4/3/2017 from http://iae-pedia.org/Problem_Solving.
Moursund, D. (2016). Computational thinking. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 3/27/2017 from http://iae-pedia.org/Computational_Thinking.
Free Educational Resources from IAE
IAE publishes and makes available four major free online resources:
- IAE-pedia. See http://iae-pedia.org/index.php?title=Special:PopularPages&limit=250&offset=0.
- IAE Newsletter. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-newsletter.html.
- IAE Blog. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog.html.
- IAE books. See http://iae-pedia.org/David_Moursund_Books and http://iae-pedia.org/Robert_Albrecht#Free_Books_by_Bob_Albrecht.