Catalyzing Change in the WorldFuture

Posted: August 5th, 2016


Parminder Worldfuture 2Our own Parminder Jassal, Ph.D. joined Katherine Prince and Jason Swanson of KnowledgeWorks to excite attendees at the WorldFuture 2016 conference with a robust presentation and discussion about the future of education and the learning economy. During the conference’s “The Learning Revolution” session, Jassal, Prince, and Swanson discussed how evolutions in thought and technology might reshape the way people learn and pursue career paths in ways both beneficial and concerning.  Like ACT Foundation, KnowledgeWorks is an organization dedicated to making innovative resources available to those who care about the education of students from underserved communities.

View Dr. Jassal’s presentation materials here.

The WorldFuture 2016 Conference, sponsored in part by ACT Foundation, is World Future Society’s wide-ranging exploration of topics related to the future of humanity— including trust, transparency, data security, social impact, communication strategy, government operations, intrapreneurship, how to create tipping points and overcoming cultural and gender bias. And the future was definitely on the menu as a spectrum of speakers not only contemplated concepts that might be transformative in the coming years, but also pointed to ideas that are helping pace change right now. On one end of the spectrum, Presenter Gary Marx laid out the most important emerging demographic, technological, workplace, lifestyle and educational trends facing the 21st century, while on the other end, Lt. Col. Aaron Bazin discussed the future of NATO and how it must change to tackle emerging threats facing the allies. Discussions ranged from perspectives on feeding the hungry to the hope elicited by LettuceBee, a foundation that uses drawing to give confidence to poor kids in Asia.  During the opening session, presenter Bob Richards, CEO of Moon Express, outlined his company’s efforts to return man to the moon. In fact, the concept of a “moonshot” ran from the opening session throughout, as the futurists and others attending the sessions collaborated to discuss foresight and what is possible in the world through imagination and a creative use of resources.

Prince and Swanson kicked off “The Learning Revolution” session by giving insight into areas that could significantly impact the future of education, including smart transactional models, blockchain and smart contracts, which are self-executing agreements stored on the blockchain that can be programmed to carry out more complex transactions. These advances in technology and the way they are used could also lead to developments in personalization and efficiency in education as businesses and ordinary people taking control of the educational process.

During the session, Jassal shared insight gained from iterations of Learning is Earning 2026 game play, developed in partnership with the Institute for the Future (learn more about the project here). Through the game, nearly 2,750 students, professionals and thought-leaders have contemplated possible futures where working and learning are linked, including one where the learning process is regulated like bitcoins. Bitcoins are a digital currency system that operates without a central repository by means of block chain, a distributed, encrypted digital ledger technology that tracks and verifies basic transactions.

Players generated ideas that could flip the current learning model from one where we pay for recognized learning experiences to one where formal and informal learning has more immediately recognizable value that can be leveraged. Jassal highlighted data culled from the game play which showed that working learners are demanding a clearer understanding of the return on investment from ever-increasing education costs. She also pointed out sentiments of players expressing hope that debts incurred in the learning process could be reduced by passing knowledge on to others, and that making the value of both formal and informal skills more evident can open new opportunities for career progression. Players also cautioned that while technology can provide some workers with additional learning opportunities, it can itself exacerbate inequities between proficient users and those without access to technology or the skills to use it.

Jassal insisted that transformative approaches to working and learning are needed to close the growing equity gap, which can lead to reduced economic competitiveness and may ultimately presage the decline of powerful nations. One approach to addressing this gap is the web-based SEEK skills mapping tool, developed in partnership with Innovate + Educate. It is designed to be a “decoder of skills,” and has four access portals: working learners, employers, learning providers and researchers. The presentation culminated in a discussion of the future skills working learners will need to succeed: people skills, applied knowledge, resilience, virtual collaboration and workplace skills.

Though it’s difficult to predict the future, it will be largely driven by those who are preparing for it today, arming themselves with the fundamental competencies needed to cope and excel in a rapidly changing future.