‘Forecasting’ the future

I am currently ‘at’ the JISC online conference. I’ve cleared as much space in my diary as I reasonably can over the next three days, so that I can properly take part in the conference.  I have taken part in this conference for the last three years and have always found it excellent with some really lively debate online, but previously I’ve have made the classic mistake of thinking being online meant I could do other things at the same time; in reality of course you still need to have time and space to really make the most of the conference. [Memories of rushing through London in snow with the moderator frantically ringing me on my mobile, or rushing to and fro from a learner experience workshop to try and use one computer to post replies come to mind…]

This year’s conference has lots of interesting strands. I listened to Gill Salmon’s keynote this morning on Elluminate (as an aside Elluminate seems to have really taken off I have been involved in lots of online sessions recently, both as a participant and presenter). Gilly contextualised her talk by looking to the past to forecast (she argued we can never predict) the future. She reflected on trends in pedagogy, changing technologies and key policy initiatives. She argued that we need to use a mixture of creative visioning, coupled with empirical evidence to move forward and make sense of the future. I very much agree with this and was struck by closely it aligned with the approach we are talking with our OU Learning Design Initiative – constantly gathering empirical evidence about the design process which feeds iteratively into other aspects of the work we are doing – i.e. tool development, events and resources and new schema for innovation.

Gill supported her talk with some nice references from thinkers from a range of disciplinary perspectives. Here are some of the key ones for me:

1.      The Hawaii centre for futures studies 

2.      The Creating Academic Learning Futures centre at Leicester University

3.      Stille, A. (2003) The Future of the Past, Picador, London.

4.      Laszlo, E. (2006) The Chaos Point: the world at a crossroads, Hampton, London

5.      Dregni, E. & Dregni, J. Follies of Science, 20th Century visions of our Fantastic Future SpeckPress, Denver Colorado.

6.      UCISA technology trends suveys 2001-2008

7.      Johnson, Laurence F., Levine, Alan, and Smith, Rachel S. 2008 Horizon Report. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium, 2008. 

8.      Hype cycles 

9.      Richard Gott, (2002), Time travel in Einstein’s Universe: The physical possibility of travel through time, Houghton Mifflin Company

10.   Hank Laderer of the Minnesota Futurists

I liked this quote she used from Laszlo:

Future is not to be forecast but created what we do today will decide the shape of things tomorrow

And also this one from Joseph Glanvill a philosopher in the 17th century which could easily be a quote predicting the Internet:

To them that come after us, it may be as ordinary to buy a pair of wings to fly to the remotest regions, as now a pair of boots to ride a journey, and to confer at the distance of the Indies by sympathetic conveyances, may be as usual in the future as literary conveyances.

Whilst I totally agree with most of what Gilly was saying, my question to her was how do we do this? How do we change practice, help teachers think outside the box, really innovate – what kinds of tools, guidance, support, schema do we need to do this? There are some of the key questions we will be considering in the session Alan Mason and I are doing at the conference. We are sharing the approaches we have both being using and look forward to discussing with delegates some of these issues. I think there is some really exciting work going on at the moment around learning and curriculum design BUT I think we have a long way to go!!!

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