Let's help young learners satisfy their natural curiosity about the Future | Edutopia
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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Let's help young learners satisfy their natural curiosity about the Future

Let's help young learners satisfy their natural curiosity about the Future

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My hope is that we can share pragmatic, affordable, and also consequential ideas about tools, techniques, and other aids for aiding K-12 people - by which I mean EVERYONE - youngsters and adults, on and off the payroll, in and outside of the building, degreed and otherwise "smart" - make more of their potential for using futuristics. For openers, it would be great if YOU would informally share here some of the ways you already employ for advancing this goal. We are all of us "futurists" in that we plan the day, the week, and the year ahead - all the time. We can get better at this, much to our gain and that of all who care about us - and scores of those who do not know we exist. Over time I hope this site will become a treasure trove of methods and insight; shall we begin?! In my classes (over 42 years) I began by updating students about my choice of the "Big Deals" of the past 24 hours in current events, linking some of that to the day's subject matter - and taking care to adjust all of it to the maturity and interest level of my co-learners (my preferred term for students). They came to rely on me for this - and several told me later it helped them improve their standing with their folks, who had not expected them to be so up-to-date. Try it .. it just might "work" for you.

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Comments (11)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Arthur Shostak's picture
Arthur Shostak
Emeritus Professor of Sociology from Drexel University, Phila., PA

Robert Frantz directs our attention usefully to the notion of the ideal online high school. Even as we share ideas to help him we need to also focus on the less than ideal schools all around us, the brick-and-mortar schools to which the vast majority of youngsters look for critical help in shaping the one life of which we have any surety.

I would ask us to volunteer ideas for upgrading the uses average K-12 teachers can readily make of futuristics in non-privileged settings. For example, the WSJ last week ran a feature story about the attention Mexicans are paying to the possibility that Cycle Forecasts may see a Revolution in Mexico in 2010 as before in 1910 and 1810. Middle and High School students could study the strengths and limitations of this approach to forecasting - and it could interest far more than Spanish-speaking youngsters.

Arthur Shostak's picture
Arthur Shostak
Emeritus Professor of Sociology from Drexel University, Phila., PA

In this comment I would like to underline our ability to start with very accessible tools - as by asking K-12 students of almost any age to research the year of their birth and identify the major developments in it that seem to have had the greatest impact to date in shaping our future. In my case, 1937, the first uses of nylon, the automatic transmission in cars, and the return of poor economic conditions under FDR would seem especially consequential - even as war clouds darkened. This items would lend themselves to extensive helpful classroom discussion (especially if major athletic and entertainment items were included alongside of current event material).

Arthur Shostak's picture
Arthur Shostak
Emeritus Professor of Sociology from Drexel University, Phila., PA

On January 19 we learned that Micronesia has challenged plans by the Czech Republic to refit a coal-fired station. The tiny Pacific Island maintains that this will produce more greenhouse gases that, in turn, threaten the Island's already threatened existence. Middle and Upper School studemts could learn much researching and debating the ongoing matter. Better yet, they could struggle to clarify a middle ground, a "win-win" plan that just might appeal to both sides. It is vital that youngsters begin as earlt as possible practicing avoidance of taking sides and pressing for total victory: far more sensible is crafting a middle ground and bringing sides closer together.

Arthur Shostak's picture
Arthur Shostak
Emeritus Professor of Sociology from Drexel University, Phila., PA

News about an unprecedented reduction worldwide in maternal mortality, gains in containing possible access to nuclear weapons, and the passage of America's most inclusive health aid legislation appear the sort of accomplishments we can highlight in Educational Futuristics - if we take care not to appear pollyannas, and instead help youngsters wrestle with complexity and shades of gray in social change. Children come complete with what Neil Postman called a "crap detector," thank Goodness, and while helping them appreciate change - and stay hopeful - we must also - as cautious optimists - ALWAYS be honest.

Arthur Shostak's picture
Arthur Shostak
Emeritus Professor of Sociology from Drexel University, Phila., PA

As educators we are eager to spend our summer break time both enjoying ourselves and also gaining fresh material with which to enrich next year's teaching. More specifically, as educational futurists (EdF) we look for clues regarding major policy-shaping choices, recognizing in choice-making the core challenge humankind has in shaping as much of tomorrow as is in our province. Accordingly, our vacations focus on gaining glimpses of the near future, as for example, through visits to three outstanding museums: The Museum of Emerging Technologies, in Tokyo; the Museum of Science and Technology in Munich; and the Museum of Information Technology in Linz, Austria. The MET features retired engineers and scientists in lab coats who serve as cordial dozens - and, as I have seen, help school children master cutting-edge concepts. The MST, the most visited such place in Europe, has recently opened a world-class building devoted to nanotechnology and related frontiers. And the MIT employs as dozens sparkling personal teenagers who are expert in IT matters - and, as I have seen, can help visitors of almost any age gain valuable ideas about uses and abuses of tomorrow's IT advances. Should your travel plans make possible one or more of these over-the-horizon sites, your school has MUCH to profit from your talk this fall of what you did this summer.

Jeffrey Hillmeyer's picture
Jeffrey Hillmeyer
Single father of 2 elementary age boys in Albuquerque, NM

What interests me about "future-thinking" in our children has much to do about understanding the child within us all. I'm a fan of James Hillman's book, The Soul's Code, because it aludes to the connection within us that says the future is right now. Its about shedding the layers of misconception, worldly deceit, emotional encumberances, the sins of our fathers, and develop the understanding of what it is we are meant to do. Is it mythology? In the past (20 years ago)I participated in middle school programs to bring an understanding of what an architect does, but find fewer opportunities today - is there too much curriculum in schools today to not allow professionals to come into the classroom to work on specific projects with kids?

Arthur Shostak's picture
Arthur Shostak
Emeritus Professor of Sociology from Drexel University, Phila., PA

Jeffrey makes several helpful points.

As I understand his counsel, Educational Futuristics (EdF) should include advocacy of many creative appearances in class by professionals available to actually work collaboratively with youngsters, and not just talk with them. John Dewey helped us understand decades ago that DOING WITH trumps talking with every time.

Second, EdF should include advocacy of more openings in curriculum for all such ventures. They should be "play in the wheels," and not the rigid drumhead-tight tension that mars too many school calenders.

Third, and this is the "deepest" and most original point, we should value a link between EdF and the child within us. Wow! What a fine whimsical, and yet also maturing insight! He would have us thereby seek a finer-than-ever understanding of "what it is we are meant to do."

I believe that among the many worthy things we are meant to do is artfully promote 24/7 a wide range of significant gains in the Futures "I.Q." of one and all - a goal worth folding into the Life's Mission of us all.

Arthur Shostak's picture
Arthur Shostak
Emeritus Professor of Sociology from Drexel University, Phila., PA

The papers are increasingly carrying sad tales of the death of sensible school budgets and the arrival of budget crunch time from coast to coast. Once again, as far too often before in the roller-coaster history of school financing we are looking at red ink in excess and seemingly without end. Despite the fact that annual polls affirm the considerable satisfaction of Americans with their own K-12 school, the OverLords are demanding the sort of budget constraints that have us cut and cut and cut, when we should be adding and adding and adding.

The temptation grows to think Educational Futuristics trumped by this turn of events, a casualty through no fault of its own of economic stringency.

Quite the opposite is true! Now, more than ever, EdF has a strong contribution to make. For one thing, those young teachers who survive the layoff bloodletting must be helped by Edf-users to retain their Vision of what drew them to K-12 education to begin with - its enormous potential to do Good. Second, the children who silently look on as bear-counting Elders screw up things in K-12 schooling must get help understanding this too will pass. Other wiser Elders who keep faith with what is owed children may soon again gain the upper hand. And above all, the cadre of EdF supporters in every school building must renew their low-budget, high-profile efforts to upgrade the Futures "I.Q." of all. The stakes are too high to let transitory finance woes undue our long-term effort to draw K-12 schooling further into a sounder future.

Arthur Shostak's picture
Arthur Shostak
Emeritus Professor of Sociology from Drexel University, Phila., PA

Over 60 staffers from a suburban school district in upstate New York invited me in mid-July to lead a 2-day Workshop promoting the use of Educational Futuristics. All had copies of both my 2008 and my 2010 books, along with copies of related recent articles of mine (I can send the articles to you on request, and most are at my Web site - educationalfuturistics).We had a rousing fine time, and I learned much of value.

For one thing, I learned receptivity is high, and almost all seemed ready to get started. Second, I learned that a new idea of mine - that a Futures Academy be embedded inside a going high school - was of special interest, as it seems far more doable than my earlier call for a High School of the Future. Third, I learned that the District Superintendent remains THE key person where innovation is involved: unless you have the strong endorsement of that person your idea cannot get beyond polite head-nodding.

I left the event, my third in as many months, VERY encouraged. I remain convinced that despite severe financial cutbacks, demoralizing firings and staff riffs, and the possible weakening of the Obama educational momentum, the prospects for EdF - looking out 5 and 10 years - are good. Bright people "in the trenches" understand how much be gained from ever greater resort to futuristics, and they intend to become Futuristic Educators - come what may!

Arthur Shostak's picture
Arthur Shostak
Emeritus Professor of Sociology from Drexel University, Phila., PA

Please say more about ways in which Educational Futuristics can help - both in our American schools and elsewhere around the globe. If the Secr. of Education Arnie Duncan is right in contending that education is THE Civil Rights issue of our times, then we MUST help assure that reforms include Educational Futuristics as a major component - and YOU may have distinctive clues with which to help the matter along.

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