Educational futures thinking

Lisa: I attended the BETT Exhibition in London on Friday, where I heard Richard Sandford from Fututurelab speak on the importance of futures thinking for the educational sector.  Today’s learners will probably be in formal education until around 2025, so we really need to stop and think about what 2025 will look like.  This does not mean making predictions about what the future will be, predictions are not neutral, they change peoples perspectives and force action, for example if you predict that an outbreak of bird flu is imminent in the next two years, you would expect this to force people into adopting measures to cope with such an outbreak.  Whilst prediction is important, Richard argued that instead, you must consider multiple futures, challenging your assumptions to include various scenarios.   Other industries, such as transport infrastructure and energy supply, which are not so limited by policy funding cycles and elections, have much more experience in futures thinking, they must due to the huge investments in infrastructure required.  I’ll finish off with four points that Richard made when considering future scenarios:

1.  Is it new to me, or to the world?  For example, just because you have discovered Facebook in the last 12 months, does not mean that social networking is a particularly new or novel thing. 

2.  The difficult present is not the likely future.  We humans are notoriously bad at predicting the future.  We tend to think that problems that seem impossible to solve at the moment will continue to be difficult in the future.

3.  Society is not homogenous.When predicting future scenarios it’s useless to predict that ‘people will ….’  Which people? 

4.  The rate of change isn’t uniform. As the original cyberpunk writer William Gibson said, ‘The future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed.’

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