Information Age Education Blog

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Forecasting Possible Futures of Education

Recently I have been thinking and writing about possible futures of education. This naturally required that I think about and forecast still more broadly-based futures reflecting possible major changes in our world, changes that will strongly impact the future of education.

This IAE Blog lists and comments on forecasts for 15 areas that I believe to be quite relevant to our educational systems. For each item in my current list, I have provided a brief comment about its possible impact on our PreK-12 schools in the coming decades. My list is in alphabetical order.

Addictive Games and Other Entertainment, Drugs, and Brain Stimulation

For many people, life in school is “dullsville” compared with playing addictive games, social networking, listening to music, viewing entertaining videos, using drugs, and so on. This is true both for many Prek-12 students and adults. Schools can help to address part of this by helping students to develop habits of mind that support lifelong learning, and by encouraging them to become responsible citizens of the world.

Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and Jobs

Problems and tasks that require physical and cognitive skills will increasingly be automated, and there will be fewer and fewer such jobs. I believe that a major goal in schools should be to help students to develop habits of mind and values that are consistent with living in a world in which many of the jobs available today will have disappeared, a world in which it is not obvious what (if any, or what type) replacement jobs will become available.

Big Brothers and Sisters Are Watching and Controlling YOU

The world is making rapid strides in the direction of routine surveillance and control of people, and there are no signs that this will not continue. Privacy is disappearing. More and more of a person’s decisions and actions will be prompted and monitored by computer systems. (Just consider targeted ads on the Web.) If we want students to learn to think for themselves and to make decisions for themselves, we already face an uphill battle, and this will only become more difficult.

Climate Change / Global Warming

Our world faces a number of global problems, and climate change due to human activity is a major one. This already is contributing to increasing shortages of fresh water, to droughts that lead to food shortages, and to greater flooding. Rising ocean levels will greatly increase human migration. Effectively addressing such problems requires worldwide cooperation, and our students need an education that prepares them to be responsible adults in such a world.

Decreasing Animal Populations / Increasingly Rapid Extinctions

Extinction of animal species is another example of a worldwide problem that is being strongly affected by human activity. The global cooperation and global education that are essential to dealing with this problem will require a well-educated and caring world population.

Fake News

“Fake news” is a short expression for published content that is fake (made up), deliberately incorrect, strongly biased, intended to mislead readers and viewers, and so on. There is a growing science of creating such material and a growing use of artificial intelligence to detect such publications. Every student needs to learn about fake news, including ways to detect and guard against it. Students (and all other people) need to develop a general habit of mind of being suspicious of published content that just does not seem to be accurate and/or is from unreliable sources, or information that does not provide adequate research data or other information to support its content.

Genetic Engineering of Humans, Other Animals, Plants

Human evolution by natural selection is on the verge of drastic changes created by genetic engineering. We now can cure or prevent a variety of gene-based problems, and we will eventually produce “designer” babies that are physically and/or mentally improved; our schools will need to accommodate such children. The same technology now is being widely used with plants and non-human animals. Genetic engineering is certainly an important topic to include in the school curriculum.

Increasing Globalization – “It’s a Small, Small World”

Steady improvements in transportation and communication, along with a growing understanding of problems that cut across country borders and/or are global, all increase the need for students to learn to work individually and in groups as they “think globally, act locally.”

Increasing Human Life Spans and Increasing World Population

The earth’s human population is expected to continue its rapid growth for quite some time due to improvements in health care that result in longer life spans. Our schools need to prepare students to be lifelong learners so they can be comfortable participants in a changing world with larger and larger numbers of older people.

Land, Sea, and Air Pollution

Worldwide pollution will require considerable worldwide cooperation and effort in order to alleviate this steadily growing problem. Students need an education designed to help and encourage them to be active supporters and helpers in addressing such worldwide problems in time to avoid irreversible damage to the earth and its inhabitants.

Language Translation by Computers

Computer systems are now able to produce useful real-time translations of both written and oral text between many different languages. This is done mechanically—the computer has no understanding of what is being communicated. We know that human comprehension and use of written and oral communication is based on human understanding of the content being communicated. This presents an interesting challenge to our educational systems at all grade levels and in all disciplines of study.

Learning to Learn and Be More Self-responsible

It is useful to develop a habit of mind of viewing one’s life as containing many problems that one can learn to deal with effectively through self-education, taking personal responsibility, seeking help when needed, learning to work with the various types and levels of help that are available, and so on. Increasingly, the “help” will be provided by computers and/or robots. Thus, part of a good education involves learning to work with computer-based problem-solving aids that will continue to become more capable and readily available.

Nuclear, Biological, and Other Weapons

Humans have developed weapons capable of very wide-spread mass destruction, and are quite capable of continuing to produce a variety of increasingly powerful such weapons. This is a global problem. At every level of leadership in the world, we need educated, caring people who will cooperate to prevent the development, production, distribution, and use of such weapons of mass destruction.

Quality of Life

Our world currently has sufficient resources and production capabilities to provide all people with basic food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, safe water, and safe air. The past decades of technological progress have certainly helped to improve the worldwide averages in these basics. However, we still have a long way to go to achieve a goal of meeting the basic needs of all people.

Technological progress also has helped a modest number of people to achieve enormous wealth. In contrast, there are people living in abject poverty all around the globe. For example, a recent “count” in Los Angeles, California, identified about 55,000 homeless people living on the street.

Our world has not yet learned to deal with such huge inequalities. Progress in communications technology has helped make this problem known to vast numbers of people who deeply care about their fellow human beings. Such worldwide communication adds a new dimension to education, both for students in school and for the rest of the world’s population.

Ubiquitous Computing and Connectivity

We already have a good start on an “Internet of Things.” It is clear that today’s world has the knowledge and resources to provide all people with good connectivity, and to have that connectivity include a huge number of non-human objects. For example, the driverless cars of our near future will all be connected via the Internet. Ask yourself, “Where in our current schools do students learn the capabilities, limitations, advantages, disadvantages, and dangers of such connectivity?” One major aspect of this is the danger of decreasing personal privacy and its impact on personal liberty.

Final Remarks

The world our children are growing up in is changing rapidly, and this accelerating pace of change is challenging to the current ways we educate and raise our children. Business as usual will no longer suffice. Perhaps the most important advice is that our schools must think futuristically in order to educate students for lifelong learning in the changing world they will inherit. Think globally, act locally provides some guidance. Lifelong learning provides some guidance. Educating students to be responsible, caring adults provides some guidance. Such goals are daunting in our changing world and present a major challenge to our educational systems.

References and Resources

Moursund, D. (5/31/2019). Planning for the future of education. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 6/9/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2019-258.html.

Moursund, D. (5/21/2018). "Big Brother" is getting better at tracking you. IAE Blog. Retrieved 6/9/2019 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/big-brother-in-getting-better-at-tracking-you.html.

Moursund, D. (2018). The Fourth R (Second Edition). Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Retrieved 6/9/2019 from http://iae-pedia.org/The_Fourth_R_(Second_Edition). Download the Microsoft Word file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/307-the-fourth-r-second-edition.html. Download the PDF file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/308-the-fourth-r-second-edition-1.html. Download the Spanish edition from http://iae-pedia.org/La_Cuarta_R_(Segunda_Edici%C3%B3n).

Moursund, D. (2018). What the future is bringing us. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 6/9/2019 from http://iae-pedia.org/What_the_Future_is_Bringing_Us.

Improving Education through Forecasting the Future
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Comments

Guest - Ann Lathrop on Monday, 10 June 2019 01:32
Thanks, Dave!

Interesting and thought-provoking. Now we need the world to come together to fix all of these problems. Keep up your good work.

Interesting and thought-provoking. Now we need the world to come together to fix all of these problems. Keep up your good work.:)
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