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Bringing positive disruption to education is my passion and inspired by Jane Gilbert,  this post is all about exposing the use of those seemingly harmless words in education that we seem to throw around willy nilly without a true understanding for what they mean and how to achieve them effectively. And guess what just by saying these words doesn’t bring about the disruption we need in education. All it does is put a label on a process that we are already doing or adding something else to the already extensive programme. Sound a little last century for you? Well in reality, what does modern really mean and is it what we need to be focusing on in our education system for today and tomorrow?


So let’s go right ahead and put some of these words out there- collaboration, agency, connectedness, modern learning. All really valid in their own right and all essential skills for our learners but are they the bee all and end all and are we servicing them appropriately in the classroom?  To address this we first must look at perhaps the scariest and most ubiquitous word of them of all: FUTURE FOCUSED! There we go we have just dropped the F bomb of education! Bam!


So what does it mean to be future focused and what is the future of education???


To establish the future of education, we first must take a step back and peer into the crystal ball of the future of the world and society as a whole. When looking at the future, we are not talking about the ‘back to the future’-esk vision here with hover crafts, flying cars and self drying and sizing clothes, as fun as it might be, we are focusing on the words of futurists who "look to the future" and just as frequently to those who "provide analysis of the future"  (cited at For many the future is unknown  but there are possible scenarios of what could be played out. James Dator (1979; described these as being Continued growth  (where current conditions are enhanced: more products, more roads, more technology, and a greater population); Collapse (continued growth fails as the contradictions are too great);  Steady state (establishing a balance in the economy and with nature creating a balanced, softer and fairer society and finally Transformation (comes through dramatic technological or spiritual change).  Furthermore, Dator’s work suggest that the future can be moulded by our conscious decisions in the present. therefore which of these four scenarios would you choose? This would be building new skills, creating and collaborating to craft our new future.

Starting to see where this is heading now?


If we want to be able to build new skills, create and collaborate in society to transform our future then this needs to be echoed in the education system too. After all education, of all things, should be about the future! And although we can never be fully certain of what future will emerge from the present these skills are about being flexible and responsive, collective and collaborative. In fact we need to step away from our current modern system where things are linear, constant and predictable  to a post-modern system which is living, interactive, complex, uncertain and self organising. Sound a bit scary and chaotic? Maybe but so may be the future! Just think of what is possible and how empowered and self driven our learners will be if we can adopt this future focussed lense and mentality!


How do we achieve this? Change is not enough, a true shake up and transformation is required to positively disrupt the system into the future or post-modern era. This needs to start from the ground up, how can we expect teachers to equip students with the skills to create the future if we ourselves are inexperienced, unprepared and unaware of what is needed and how to achieve it. Teachers need to be encouraged and supported to spend time in the sandpit of chaos, to tinker, experiment, dabble and explore in order to fully appreciate what it is like and means. Our system needs to be responsive, flexible and open to opportunity and all this starts with a personal mindset and a collective voice from all.


Are you ready for the future? Is your school truly future focussed? Are you embracing transformation?

Now is the time! Join the future focussed endeavour, bring education into the post-modern era!

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Comment by Hazel Owen on November 9, 2015 at 19:39

Really enjoyed your post, Sarah! I remember my mum, and my grandmother come to that, using the old adage "the future never arrives" - it always gave me a sense of comfort in some ways. After all, I couldn't know the future, therefore, for me, it used to either represent something that was a wee bit scary (unknowable), or beyond my control, so why would I care. As I grew up I moved into a space where I felt if I only tried hard enough I could shape my future, and then into the realisation that - while I can't shape the future, I can build skills and understanding that helps me be responsive to the inevitable changes. Also, if I collaborate with other people to influence the organic nature of knowledge and ways of being, then, perhaps, I might have some input into where we all go next.

If you did a bit of a straw poll how many people in education might sit under the 'future never comes' banner, who might be trying to control the future, and those who would sit in the "I'll continue to learn and to collaborate and to walk my talk so that I may influence the future" space? The reason I ask is that, if people do see the future in different ways, does that colour how they react when we mention the 'f' word? If it does, what are the implications for education? Does it help if we can see people see the future in different ways? 

One other thing (and I am typing this as I sit on a plane, sipping a drink, and reading an eBook on my smart phone - a future that would not have been imaginable for some a few decades ago). I have just read "Disruptive innovation is good. Disruption for the sake of disruption is not" (Little, 2012, n.p.). Do you get the sense, that for the folks who aren't keen on looking at the future because it may never arrive, they often see disruption as something that is done for the sake of disruption (i.e. it's working and it has worked for years - why change it?)?

These are my meandering ponderings. Thanks for getting me to really think deeply about this, Sarah!!

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