Future consciousness and transformations in learning: Special issue forward by the Editor

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 15 May 2009



Richter, J. (2009), "Future consciousness and transformations in learning: Special issue forward by the Editor", On the Horizon, Vol. 17 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/oth.2009.27417baa.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Future consciousness and transformations in learning: Special issue forward by the Editor

Article Type: Guest editorial From: On the Horizon, Volume 17, Issue 2

  • It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most responsive to change (Charles Darwin).

    Seek wisdom, not knowledge. Knowledge is of the past, Wisdom is of the future (American Indian proverb).

Are our schools in their present form affectively aligned with the very future that our students are inheriting? The question of how we best prepare people for the future within a rapidly changing world continues to propel educational leaders to different degrees of action – some well framed, others of more questionable efficacy. Indeed, policy makers, philanthropists, and world leaders are all variously called to attend to these questions and answer with increasing vigor and frequency. In this age of change, with knowledge at a premium, we appear to crave new solutions for how best to learn to embrace our futures.

For millennia, we have relied upon formal methods of transaction through text and the spoken word given by experts to would-be students in effort to efficiently and effectively transfer knowledge. We have used lecture, textbooks, taxonomies, and disciplinary specialties as media to efficiently organize, dialog, distinguish, and disseminate human knowledge – and to a very remarkable degree and up to this point, have been rather successful. Indeed, to this point the Euclidean penchant for establishing a learning system decided through classifying the total body of knowledge into discrete parts in cause-effect and hierarchically nested patterns and “spiraling curricula” in mechanistic fashion has worked very, very well.

But now we are poised on the edge of history where, by a variety of accounts: a number of human spheres of endeavor are undergoing exponential change and transformation. A number of futurists claim that the singularity – a time when the rate of change accelerates so rapidly that humans cease to be able to deal with it in any effective way – is not far off. Learning, thus, by way of transferring vetted, expert-codified knowledge through neatly defined and measurable objectives in discrete disciplines is, under such conditions, of questionable strategic value – as new knowledge and the pace of change is arguably far outstripping the capacity for experts to vet, assemble, and integrate the requisite knowledge for students to be productive amidst a blooming ecology of innovation, new concepts, and previously never before encountered work contexts.

Future Consciousness – that degree and way in which people integrate the chronologic future into their own lives such that they effectively adapt to change – is tantamount to wisdom in the twenty-first century, as Tom Lombardo outlines in the first paper of this issue – and the American Indian Proverb at the beginning of this preface underscores.

Innovations in learning technologies have, like those in other areas of innovation, been growing exponentially. Multi-user virtual environments, video games, wikis, blogs and other Web 2.0, etc.

This special issue of On The Horizon is aimed at preparing students for a breathtaking future – a future filled with change and what we, as teachers and administrators of educational institutions can do to help prepare people to do that. In this issue, we’ll explore what we need to think about to adapt to rapidly changing conditions and how technologies might enhance these capacities. While not a comprehensive overview by any stretch, as the contexts and optimal strategies around Future Consciousness are varied and complex, we intend to introduce the notion to more people with the ability to make real change and underscore the need for more comprehensive, systemic collaboration around these notions. The crux of the issue is that, while the introduction and adoption of technologies have been major drivers of change on Earth, we now have the capacity to change the very way in which we learn, perceive, and function with the addition of technologies devoted to learning itself. These Learning Technologies can potentially assist us with the breadth of vision, imagination, critical thinking, and interconnected collaborative processes which our times are desperately in need of.

Of course, the paradox of this possibility is that we first need the vision, decisions, and capacity of people to apply these learning technologies in an orchestrated way across the curriculum for each appropriate age group and population before we can hope to truly affect the sort of systemic changes brought about by a society endowed with an enhanced future consciousness. As you read through these chapters contributed by authors looking at the challenges from different angles, beginning with that of future consciousness itself, I hope you may consider how your institution, your classroom, your actions are helping others to frame and prepare for this rapidly interconnecting, fast-paced, and increasingly interconnected world. It is ours to co-create and the possibilities are great.

May our futures be filled with hope, learning, and challenges well-met!

Jonathon RichterCenter for Advanced Technology in Education, University of Oregon USA.

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