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A woman frames her hand around the sunrise to illustrate the coming changes in the future of learning.

5 major changes in the future of learning


The future of learning will look dramatically different--here are the key drivers behind how teaching and learning will change

Five changes have incredible potential to influence the future of learning, according to a new forecast–and we have to embrace these changes in order to understand the challenges and opportunities facing education.

“Exploring the future of learning today is an act of stewardship to our future communities and to the young people who will live in them,” according to Navigating the Future of Learning from KnowledgeWorks. At at the center of this exploration will be not only schools and districts, but also postsecondary institutions, community-based learning organizations like museums and libraries, and educators and innovators to lead these changes.

The five changes outlined in the forecast are grounded in trends, patterns, plans, and developments that are all taking place today. The authors pose two key questions–one specific to education, and the other general–alongside each change to prompt reflection.

The forecast also includes what the authors call a series of provocations, arranged in four themes, that lay out what the future of learning and teaching might look like.

5 drivers of change for the future of learning

Drivers of change are “societal shifts that will impact education over the next decade.” The five major drivers of change are:

1. Automating choices: Algorithms and artificial intelligence are becoming increasingly embedded in our lives. They are automating many of our experiences, services and interactions with one another to achieve efficiency and personalization and are raising questions related to trust, bias and individual agency.

Key questions:

  • What challenges and opportunities might arise from the widespread use of artificial intelligence and automated systems?
  • How might education stakeholders develop strategies for using artificial intelligence in learning without sacrificing student and educator agency or deepening inequity?

2. Civic superpowers: Individuals, nonprofits and volunteer organizations are flexing their civic muscles. They are using participatory media, machine learning and data analytics to fill a growing governance gap, with hopes of reweaving the social fabric and redefining civic engagement.

Key questions:

  • Who will create the guidelines necessary to ensure responsible use of, and equitable access to, civic engagement technologies?
  • How might tech-enabled civic engagement reshape educational governance and decision-making?

3. Accelerating brains: Rapid advances in technology and neuroscience are combining to transform our cognitive abilities in intended and unintended ways. They are shaping how we partner with digital tools, relate with one another and engage with our surroundings.

Key questions:

  • What might be the ethical and long-term health implications of using neural enhancement technologies?
  • How might learners retain their rights in deciding when and how to use new cognitive tools while also navigating new expectations of performance in education?

4. Toxic narratives: The narratives and metrics of success and achievement that shape people’s aspirations, choices and behaviors are becoming increasingly detrimental to individual and social health and are contributing to growing toxicity in systems and institutions.

Key questions:

  • How might stakeholders from education, communities and businesses collaborate to create new definitions of success that ensure good health across diverse populations?
  • How might educational accountability expand to support a broader perspective on learner development and well-being?

5. Remaking geographies: Migration patterns, small-scale production and efforts to grow placed-based and cultural assets are combining to reshape community landscapes in response to economic transition and climate volatility.

Key questions:

  • How might new ways of creating economic value in communities and regions change what it means to be ready for work?
  • How might education play a leadership role in helping cities, towns and rural communities find new signature identities?

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Laura Ascione

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