Do we want maps or compasses?

Photo by  Andrew Neel  on  Unsplash

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Historically, maps have been critically important.

From the 15th through the 18th century, the "Age of Exploration," expeditionaries undertook voyages to what were the edges of the known world (for them)... and beyond.

Their journeys shaped the map of the modern world.

We are now facing a similar threshold, only now the edges of the known world are the virtual frontiers of exponential technologies.

This time, schools should think twice about spending time drawing new maps.

In a chapter titled "Compasses over Maps" in Whiplash, Joi Ito (MIT Media Lab) and Jeff Howe (Northeastern University) tell us,

"[A] map implies a detailed knowledge of the terrain, and the existence of an optimum route; the compass is a far more flexible tool and requires the user to employ creativity and autonomy in discovering his or her own path. The decision to forfeit the map in favor of the compass recognizes that in an incredibly unpredictable world moving ever more quickly, a detailed map may lead you deep into the woods at an unnecessarily high cost. A good compass, though, will always take you where you need to go."

In this Age of Exponential Exploration, now is the time to explore this uncharted territory, before we start the climb the steep part of the j-curve of adoption, even though we don't have maps to guide us.

Most schools are conservative institutions, so they are taking a “wait and see” approach to virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and other exponential technologies. A few innovative schools have purchased some Oculus Rifts, or maybe offer an elective in artificial intelligence, but they don't really have a plan for investigating how learning might evolve.

In this Age of Exponential Change & Discovery, two things are certain:

  1. Your schools will need to innovate in mission-driven ways if you want it to survive and thrive. Sooner or later those innovations will have to address exponential technologies.
  2. No one is going to hand you a map.

Does your school have a compass for the journey?


If you are in the Philadelphia area on November 15th, please consider joining this ADVIS workshop, "How Might Exponential Technologies Impact Teaching and Learning?"


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Christian Talbot