A Resilient Learning Ecosystem or Fractured Learning Landscape?
At ASCD's Leader to Leader conference in July, I had the pleasure of sharing KnowledgeWorks' latest 10-year forecast on the future of learning, Recombinant Education: Regenerating the Learning Ecosystem (PDF), as a prelude to participants' exploring how they might improve the ways in which we support learning through the whole child. The very title of this forecast emphasizes the need for the entire education system to become more resilient, to regenerate itself by combining learning resources, experiences, and supports in many right ways in order meet the needs of all learners.
Since our second forecast came out in 2009, KnowledgeWorks has been highlighting the need to create platforms for resilience through which learners and educators can adapt nimbly and innovate quickly as the world continues to change. We are certainly not the first organization to highlight the need to redesign our education system for the post-industrial era in which we live. Nor are we the first to highlight the potential for any long-established system to resist change, to engage in autoimmune responses that attempt to preserve the status quo because that's how we're used to operating.
But Recombinant Education emphasizes the stark degree to which we cannot afford to hang on to our current education structures and approaches simply because they've become the norm. Indeed, the trends shaping the future of learning point toward a decade of deep disruption for education of the scope that Amazon brought to retailing and that iTunes brought to the music industry.
The great potential of this disruption is for all of us to collaborate in creating a vibrant and resilient learning ecosystem in which learning adapts to each child instead of each child's trying to adapt to school.
As the infographic (PDF) accompanying our full forecast highlights, in a resilient learning ecosystem, "school" will take many forms. Learners and their families will create individualized learning playlists reflecting their particular interests, goals, and values. Radical personalization of learning approaches and supports will become the norm. Learning will intersect with other dimensions of community life in new ways. And credentialing will diversify to reflect the many ways in which people learn and demonstrate mastery.
In short, we expect to have at our disposal the knowledge and tools that could enable all children to have the learning experiences and supports that they need in order to succeed in college, career, and life.
The great challenge of the coming disruption is whether we will deliver on the promise of radical personalization for all children, not just those whose families have the time, attention, and means to shape and supplement their learning journeys. If we do not take a deep look at redesigning the education system, we risk creating a fractured learning landscape dominated by two parallel and unequal pathways: an ailing public education system and a rich array of alternative and customized approaches to which only the fortunate have access.
In order to help each and every child achieve personal resilience, we need to create a resilient learning ecosystem that puts learners at the center. Not the needs of adults. And not the traditional structures of institutions.
We at KnowledgeWorks believe that this regeneration of learning is not just possible, but imperative.
As senior director of strategic foresight at KnowledgeWorks, Katherine Prince leads the organization's exploration of trends shaping the future of learning. Since 2007, she has helped a wide range of education stakeholders develop aspirational visions and strategies for change in the context of KnowledgeWorks' 10-year forecasts. Before joining KnowledgeWorks, Prince introduced innovations in tutor support systems at Britain's Open University. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from Ohio Wesleyan University; a master's degree in English from the University of Iowa; and an MBA from The Open University with emphases on creativity, innovation, change, and knowledge management.