Future of Learning Top Reads for week of August 21 2017

Photo by  Samuel Zeller  on  Unsplash

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

If you want to sketch the contours of the future of learning, it helps to read beyond traditional educational publications. Here are 3 short articles that can help you sense the shape of where learning will (or should) go next:


"Five biggest trends in college admissions," by Sara Harberson / @saraharberson, in The Huffington Post

"One of the biggest pressures on high school students is taking the most challenging curriculum available to them. If they don’t, their class rank may be impacted and they won’t be as competitive for elite colleges. This has led students to take as many Advanced Placement courses as they can fit into their schedule, sometimes leaving them with no lunch period and hours of homework each night. Growing research suggests that schools offering the AP curriculum are only teaching to the test, the AP exams at the end of the year. The Mastery Transcript Consortium is a group of high schools offering an alternative: a curriculum and assessment which promotes a deeper understanding and a 'mastery' of the subject area rather than teaching to the test."

Why does this matter for the future of learning? When someone who has recently held leadership admissions and enrollment positions at UPenn and Franklin & Marshall identifies an alternative to the AP, we should pay attention. Like all standardized tests in school, AP's are not authentic, not reliable, and not terribly valid assessments. On the other hand, mastery assessments provide each learner the opportunity to demonstrate an appropriate level of proficiency or mastery before moving on to the next thing. The Mastery Transcript Consortium isn't creating a silver bullet, but they are designing a philosophy, platform, and professional development for assessments that are truly meaningful. (Full disclosure: I was Head of School when Malvern Prep joined the MTC.) In the future, schools that thrive will ensure that they assess learners in a way that prepares them for a rapidly changing world, and not a standardized test that means nothing beyond the college admissions process.


“In the AI age, being ‘smart’ will mean something completely different,” by Ed Hess / @HessEdward, in Harvard Business Review, June 19 2017

“To date, many of us have achieved success by being 'smarter' than other people as measured by grades and test scores, beginning in our early days in school. The smart people were those that received the highest scores by making the fewest mistakes. AI will change that.”

Why does this matter for the future of learning? This isn’t just about figuring out how to collaborate with machines in order to be more productive. It’s also about figuring out how to develop what makes us uniquely human: as Hess puts it, “thinking, listening, relating, collaborating, and learning.” In the future, schools that thrive will develop, by design, their students' emotional intelligence and creative capacities.


"Staying ahead of the robots: what grads should know and be able to do," by Tom Vander Ark / @TVanderark, in Getting Smart

"We try to avoid hyperbole when it comes to technology impacts–-both good and bad–-but when a group of really smart people paints a gloomy picture, it’s worth a look. A recent Pew report on the future of jobs concluded: Machines are eating humans’ job talents."

Why does this matter for the future of learning? When leading organizations as different as the Pew Center, PwC, and Gartner all point to mass penetration of things like virtual reality, machine learning, and the Internet of Things in the next 2-5 years, schools should pay attention. (See Gartner's 2017 Hype Cycle for a visualized forecast.) The good news is that there is also a "high level of agreement around the importance of self and social awareness, the ability to collaborate and navigate." At the risk of repeating myself... In the future, schools that thrive will form learners with high emotional intelligence and creative capacities.


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Christian Talbot