Inspiration for Leaders

Enjoy this news and reflection blog brought to you from the LHRIC Technology Leadership Institute!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tech Expo 2008 AM Keynote - 16 Trends and Their Impact on Education

Gary Marx is a "Futurist ". Which is to say, he seems to feel as at home describing the future as he does the present. Gary starts out challenging the group to feel how fast and unpredictably the world is changing. For example, in 1865, he reminds us that it took 12 days for the news that Lincoln had been assassinated to reach the newspapers. How fast did the news about Spitzer make it to the public consciousness?

"Nothing is Certain, Everything Changes." – Michael Gelb.

And then the anchor slide: Progress is optional – we need both hindsight and foresight.

And then the facts – population is skyrocketing. China produced 1 million engineers last year; the United States produced 70,000. Gary reminds us that we are in an age of massive migration as people cross borders and pursue dreams.

Why should we care? Why should educators care? Are we of this world, or separate from it? Are we flexible enough to meet needs of such a fast changing world? Gary pleads for us to get reconnected to forces impacting the whole of society. This indicates a necessary shift from strategic planning to living and evolving strategies that can turn on a dime. And he reminds us that ISOLATION is not an option; that education is connected to the advancement of quality of life and no longer just the sage in the community. We are called to "help release the genius that’s already there "–that is the purpose of education.

Trends – seismic shifts (often violent or uncomfortable), societal forces. We have a choice – defend the status quo or create a future.

Gary identifies 16 "big idea" trends and only a smattering had to do specifically with technology. How do these trends impact our schools and systems? What are the implications of each of these trends: aging, social and intellectual capital, ethics, scientific discoveries, career trends ("leisure consultant", "artificial intelligence technician", "shyness consultant", "robotics theologian", "ring tone composer", "media archaeologist")? Note: this list of anticipated careers went on and on, to the delight of the audience. What does it mean that for the first time in history the old will outnumber the young in the Western World? And in the context of these 16 broad trends, we ask the question - are we as educators truly invested in making sure that every person has access to a good education?

And what happens after the Millenial Generation about which we have become so intimate (at least in recognizing how different they are from the rest of us?) Marx awaits a "Generation E" – equilibrium. The world will move so fast that people will literally stop understanding what’s going on. This generation will need to "consolidate our gains, cut losses, and establish a new norm."

Now, the technology trend: technology will increase the speed of either progress or decline. Brilliant observation, in my opinion. Nanotechnology is bound to drive our future, down to medications that we can deliver to a single, diseased cell...or a "computer the size of the cube of sugar that has more power than all the computers that currently exist on earth." So who is going to further develop subatomic machines, new sources of energy and propulsion? (The examples he uses here would sound like science fiction if most were not currently in development.) And that begs the challenge - it is not the technology that "unleashes the genius " of students, staff and community." That is a very human enterprise. But only of those that believe progress is not optional, that we are accountable for the future, and that each of these trends touches us in our individual classroom silos whether we realize it or not.

Education, then, that develops enlightened individuals, pays attentions to student interests and sensibilities, develops disciplined and ethical minds, will not only withstand these trends, but will thrive on them.

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