Gorbis and Saveri: More Evidence That Foundational Change is Inevitable and Already Here

As I am writing chapters to my book and an article for Independent School Magazine, I find threads from both inside and outside of education weaving together into a tapestry of future vision that is both exciting and inevitable.  I came across two more such threads today, or more accurately confirmation of threads from two authoritative voices. I will cite both more extensively in the future but I wanted to pass the references and links along to the rest of you.

Screen shot 2013-06-20 at 5.13.34 PMMarina Gorbis (@mgorbis) is Director of The Institute For the Future in Palo Alto.  (Thanks @donbuckley for the Twitter mention of her work.)Her book The Nature of the Future looks at the evolution of major industries and sectors through the lens of what she calls a “socialstructed” world: “combining initiative, passion, social connections, and the drive to build new things outside of existing institutions, ultimately with more flexible and resilient results.  Much of her narrative is highly coincident with work I am synthesizing by Shoshona Zuboff of Harvard Business School.  Both see the rapid development of lower-cost and more personalized alternatives to traditional products and services, including education.  Much of Gorbis’ narrative on education is based on her experience as a parent at The Peninsula School in Menlo Park, a bastion of progressive learning (I had friends who attended way back in the day).  While what takes place at Peninsula is not wholly representative of schools across the country, much of what I have found termed “innovative” at even traditional schools is trending straight in this direction.

Gorbis also cites the inevitable development of structures that facilitate the flow of knowledge, confirming my discussions in this blog with Adrian Bejan of Duke earlier this year.  The evolution of a branchlike-system of interconnected learning nodes, be they individuals or organizations, is inevitably driven by the tendency towards more efficient flow within the system.  In the case of education what flows is knowledge.  We see the introduction of such flow facilitators all around us in education as technology speeds up the creation, access, and management of knowledge. I have called this global system of interconnected knowledge the cognitosphere, and we keep getting validation from multiple angles that this fifth global system is evolving in real time, right now.

The second reference is to an article in Edutopia by Andrea Saveri (@asaveri) pointing out five trends for the future of education which dovetail with what many readers of this blog have read here and recognize from their own experience.  She particularly cites “democratized entrepreneurship” and “personalization strategies” which, as Zuboff finds, are keys to meeting the demands of customers for tailored products and services.  She also sees significant changes in the landscape of urban education, what I have been calling the tendency for schools to become more “permeable”.

Experts from economics, engineering, education, and “the future” are all telling us that our observations from the ground in schools are both correct, and, more importantly, that the changes are inevitable. Both Gorbis and Saveri cite many examples of companies, technologies, organizations, and individuals who are already successfully bypassing traditional school frameworks to deliver knowledge and the learning experience more efficiently, faster, and customized to the individual.  I will be revisiting these authors more in the future as I refine my own work.  All of them should be on a reading list for educators that expands our horizons in both time and professional space.

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