Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Future Needs Learners and Leaders

I am attending the World Future Society’s annual conference here in beautiful Vancouver, BC, Canada.  I spent the last two days immersed in an Education Summit focused on education and the future.  Last night at the opening plenary session, we heard from leadership teacher, Lance Secretan, author of The Spark, the Flame and the Torch: Inspire Self. Inspire Others. Inspire the World.  Lance iStock_000011759967XSmallspoke to us about topics such as “Destiny: Why am I here?” or higher purpose, “Character: How will I Be?” or how do I want to be known, and “Calling: What will I Do? or what difference will I make”.  He refers to this as Why – Be – Do.  We need to be learners who use the energies of explore, excite, examine, and execute to interact with our world and the people around us.  He says to abandon mission statements – they basically all say the same thing – take them all, scramble them up, pick one and it will look like yours.  Mission statements are boring, uninspiring, and people can’t remember them let alone live them everyday.  But… do we have dreams? 

An example of a dream statement he shared was for a bank (ATB) “Changing our world by putting people first and making their dreams come true”.  He shared a story of a 17 year old who just got a job, had no bank account, money, or credit cards but asked to meet with the ATB bank manager to asked for a car loan.  The bank manager listened carefully and offered to open an account, give him a credit card, and said that if he can pay all his bills and keep his account in good order for six months, that he would give him the car loan.  If this bank had a “mission” to only make money for their shareholders they would say “no” to a person in this situation rather than “make their dream come true”…  How could our orientation as leaders and organizations change with an inspiring dream?

Lance shared some thoughts on leaders…  People are not inspired by cowardly, phony, self-serving, lying, fear-based, or incompetent leaders.  Rather they are inspired by leaders who exhibit the CASTLE principles: courage, authenticity, service, truthfulness, love, and effectiveness.  If a person’s mind, mouth, and feet are out of alignment, they are seen to be inauthentic.  Leaders need to liveiStock_000010797682XSmall these principles.  They need to serve other people – impact them in profound ways.  We all should aspire to create a legacy, pay it forward, and make a difference in the lives of others.  I don’t know about you but these thoughts shared by Lance can serve as a pretty solid guide for those of us involved in thinking about and leading others into an uncertain future!

At the Education Summit we heard about the New Normal 3.0 – technology driven transformation of everything and the destructive wave of the curve of creation.  More often than not, difficult change comes through destruction of what is “normal” and through the change, a new normal is established.  The history of technology bares this out for sure.  One speaker relayed a forecast that the last paper-based textbook will roll off the presses sometime around 2015.  We have a few years in education to figure out the transition to full on e-resources…

Maria Andersen, Learning Futurist at LIFT Institute of Muskegon Community College spoke about her idea for a new learning system called SOCRAIT (a play on “Socratic” that includes SOC for social, AI for artificial intelligence, and IT for information technology within its name).  She advocates for a “Learn This” button every where.  Imagine that for any digital content or tool, there was a Learn This button that allowed you to bookmark and record / document your thinking in a system (a personal learning portfolio).  You could develop and record questions or choose questions others have created, that you answer later using various media to support your view.  You could reflect on this and rate your understanding of the material, the quality of your “answers”, etc.  Or, you could invite others to provide their answers and input.  This sounds like a well organized and equipped e-portfolio that can attach to any digital space.  Could be powerful…

Kieran Egan, a professor in the Faculty of Education at SFU described the Learning in Depth (LiD) approach to broadening and deepening learning for students.  LiD is designed to overcome the “breadth for all, depth for hardly any” problem and allow students to gain expertise in some area.  Students receive a topic when they enter school as a five year old that they will study throughout their school years.  Quickly, the student knows more about their topic than their teachers and are able to share with their peers and present their iStock_000002030715XSmalllearning.  They study their topic across fields of study / disciplines through field work, library research, online research.  They make maps, charts, videos, etc. A bi-product is that students become experts at learning which will transfer to other areas beyond their topic.  Kieran advises that topics need to be complex, varied, and multi-dimensional, connected to human history, emotion, psychology, not too technical, general, or particular.  And, parents need a veto over topics assigned to help avoid sensitive topics.  A challenge is having a topic that engages a 5 year old and then continuously until 17.  Overall the idea is to create conditions for the joy of learning… It’s an interesting idea, I wonder what others think?  You might want to read West Vancouver Superintendent Chris Kennedy’s thoughts on LiD here in Going Deep about One Thing.

Yvonne Marie Andres from Global SchoolNet and some teachers who’s students won the 2011 CyberFair Platinum award shared some interesting project-based learning examples.  Check out this short video clip on the winning project: The River Rouge Watershed – Ours to Protect.  Students become eco-warriors and activists in their community promoting the health and welfare of their local environment.  Global SchoolNet has a registry of projects that teachers and students can access for their classrooms.  Projects provide rigor and relevance for kids – they are challenging, stimulating, meaningful, and engaging.

The last session for the Education Summit was educating the Wise Cyborg of the Future.  The view is that increasingly humans will interface with their technology.  Think about it, any one of us is willing to augment ourselves to reduce pain, fix an injury, or enhance our abilities.  People do this everyday.  Increasingly, this is iStock_000012625357XSmalldone through specialized technologies.  It is a slippery slope…  The presenter, Tom Lombardo advocates that virtue or wisdom should be a guiding principle for human development (learning, education).  Wisdom is the highest expression of self-development and future consciousness, a fascination of learning, of the big picture.  It is practical knowledge, a synthesis of the head and heart.  With an increased focus on wisdom, we will be able to augment ourselves thoughtfully and carefully. I find the possible extent of merging humans with their machines idea to be somewhat disturbing but, it’s coming, are we ready?  How can we wisely prepare young learners for this future?