Looking Toward the Future


Last week, I read an interesting post on David Warlick’s 2¢ Worth blog. In “Becoming Future-Ready“, Warlick points out the trouble with predicting the future based on current knowledge through film interpretations of the future. Depictions of mobile computers space travel in 1984’s 2010 (sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey) were fairly inaccurate, almost laughable.

This happens often in film, literature, even in governmental and institutional policy-making. We make predictions based on what we already know. It is impossible to foresee every development or discovery that will change the direction of society and culture in the coming decades.

A good representation of the limitations of a particular time period looking toward future innovation comes in the satirical videos portraying current social media tools in the context of past decades. For example, here’s a look at Google had it been invented in the 1980’s:

Granted, this video is made with hindsight being as perfect as it is, but it is not beyond possibility that such predictions would have occurred 30 years ago. Based on the technology of that time period, it would have been nearly impossible for anyone to have predicted what Google (among many other websites) would look like or function in the future. These predictions would have been limited by the constraints of the times.

Still, as Warlick points out, we insist on predicting what this future will look like for our students. This persistence to predict what students will need after they graduate and enter the workforce is even “arrogant.” How can we accurately predict what students will need to know 10, 15, 20 years from now with only the knowledge we currently possess?

Warlick summarizes what needs to happen perfectly:

How our children learn is critical today, not so much as a point of pedagogy, but for the development of a distinct and most important skill – learning.

Basing what and how we teach on the past is limiting for our students. What needs to be fostered is a love of learning that goes beyond rote memorization. After all, we are preparing them for a future we cannot comprehend. So why not prepare them for something bigger than a standardized test? Why not prepare them for life?

What skills and/or knowledge do you see as necessary for our students’ future? What do you do to prepare students for a future we can’t predict?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.